The Scottish Government’s Land Reform Review Group was established in July 2012 and twelve advisers were appointed in October. It has issued a call for evidence to be submitted to it by 11 January 2013.
The remit of the Group is to identify how land reform will:
- Enable more people in rural and urban Scotland to have a stake in the ownership, governance, management and use of land, which will lead to a greater diversity of land ownership, and ownership types, in Scotland;
- Assist with the acquisition and management of land (and also land assets) by communities, to make stronger, more resilient, and independent communities which have an even greater stake in their development;
- Generate, support, promote, and deliver new relationships between land, people, economy and environment in Scotland.
The Group’s work has received next to no publicity. No press release was issued with the call for evidence and the only two public meetings, although advertised on the Group’s website, contain no details of venue or time though I understand that they will comprise a meeting of “invited persons” and a public element. According to sources, there are many more meetings. These include:
26 October – Visit to Atholl Estate (the General Manager of the estate is one of the group’s advisers).
7 November – Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Inverness.
12 November – Greenock. Site visits and round table with invited individuals.
20 November – Comrie.
30 November – Moray Estate.
11 December – Tarbert. Round table with invited individuals and public session in the evening.
12 December – Fort William. Round table with invited individuals and public session in the evening.
January – Dumfries. Round table with invited individuals and public session in the evening.
January – Buccleuch Estates.
February – The Gathering, SECC
June 2013 – Community Land Scotland AGM, Skye.
Meanwhile, the vested interests in this debate, those who own land and earn money from advising them have been busy. Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) has issued a call to its members to complete a survey which will be used to “display to the Scottish Government, MSPs and the public, the extent to which our members are playing a vital role in building a prosperous future for rural Scotland.”
SLE is already organising visits by MSPs to landed estates. One of of the Group’s advisers, Andrew Bruce-Wooton, recently hosted Murdo Fraser MSP and Willie Rennie MSP on tours of Atholl Estate (pictured above).
And Scotland’s lawyers, ever keen to provide advice and support have been active too. Turcan Connel has produced a Briefing Note entitled “Land Reform Review – Should Landowners be Alarmed?” (they conclude that “the answer is probably in the affirmative“). Anderson Strathern, in a similar briefing conclude that,
“We think it is most important that those with an interest in land reform, from whatever angle and especially, perhaps, those who have interests to protect, make submissions at Phase 1. There is no doubt that, in the past, The Scottish Government has been impressed by the force of the numbers of submissions for and against particular points and there is no reason to think that the LRRG will not take the same view.” (my emphasis).
It is clear that the Group will not be short of evidence from vested interests. Those with an interest in radical land reform, therefore, are advised to submit evidence by 11 January 2013.