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Addressing Scotland’s pattern of land ownership can unlock economic and community opportunities

Wednesday March 20th, 2019

A new report published finds that concentrated land ownership is having significant impacts on communities across rural Scotland.Government Opportunities

The Scottish Land Commission report, titled Investigation into the issues associated with Large Scale and Concentrated Land Ownership in Scotland. It is published alongside a set of Recommendations to Scottish Government Ministers, who asked the Commission to examine these issues.

Representing the most substantial investigation conducted into the impacts of this issue, the report is based on robust evidence about rural land ownership that shows how the concentration of social, economic and decision-making power significantly impacts communities across rural Scotland.

The report follows a call for evidence by the Commission last year, for anyone with experience of living or working in parts of Scotland where most of the land is owned by a small number of people, to share their experiences.

More than 407 people, from landowners and land managers to community representatives and individuals, submitted evidence. The main findings in today’s evidence report are that:

  • Most of the disadvantages associated with Scotland’s current pattern of land ownership relate to a concentration of social, economic and decision-making power, not simply the size of landholdings
  • The advantages identified relate mainly to potential economies of scale
  • In some parts of Scotland, concentrated ownership hampers economic development and causes serious and long-term harm to the communities affected
  • The problems are not associated exclusively with any particular type of landowner – the Commission found a consistent pattern of evidence relating to land owned across the private, public, NGO and community sectors
  • There are issues to address beyond ownership, specifically a lack of effective participation in land use change decisions
  • The pattern of market and social power in concentrated land ownership, has parallels with monopoly power in other sectors of the economy
  • There is – currently – little or no method of redress for communities or individuals, where there are adverse economic or social impacts.

Speaking about the report, Hamish Trench, CEO of The Scottish Land Commission said,

“Concern about the impacts of concentrated land ownership in Scotland has long been central to the land reform debate. This evidence report allows us to move on from debating whether ownership is an issue, to understanding what the issues are and how they can be addressed.

“The evidence we have collected shows clearly that it is the concentration of power associated with land ownership, rather than necessarily the scale of landholding, that has a significant impact on the public interest, for example in relation to economic opportunities, housing and community development.

“Good management can of course reduce the risks associated with the concentration of power and decision making, but the evidence shows that adverse impacts are causing significant detriment to the communities affected. This points to the need for systemic change beyond simply a focus on good management.”

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