The Scottish Liberal Democrats hold their Autumn conference on Saturday 14 September as part of the UK federal conference. An interesting motion on land reform has been tabled by Hugh Andrew – Motion SC2 on page 10 of the Conference agenda. I reproduce it below.
09.40 Policy motion
Chair: Katy Gordon
Aide: Ross Stalker
SC2 Land Reform
Mover: Hugh Andrew
Summation: To be announced
Conference notes that Scotland has the most concentrated pattern of landownership in the developed world. Conference further notes that land values across urban and rural Scotland are the subject of speculative forces that render houses, farms and forests unaffordable for too many people.
a) Scotland needs a coherent policy on the ownership and use of land which incorporates human rights, the public interest and the rule of law to provide widespread opportunities for ownership of land to individuals, co-ops, businesses and community organisations to be administered by locally based democratic governance structures.
b) A fair and proportionate fiscal regime would be designed to end speculation and stabilise land prices.
c) A transparent and accessible land information system would provide universal information about landownership and use.
The Liberal Democrats are committed to a transparent, egalitarian, modern and flexible system of land tenure, ownership and land governance and commits to review its policy to achieve these ends.
Conference deplores the SNP’s actions on Raasay and commits itself to full consultation and wherepossible transfer of state land or land rights to local communities with suitable safeguards wherever feasible.
Conference calls on the party to make a new Land Reform Bill a major plank of our election manifesto. Areas that such a bill could consider, amongst others, would be:
1. A statement on the abolition of crown rights and bringing Scotland’s crown lands under the full control of Scottish local government (if the Westminster government has not already done so by repatriating the administration and revenues of Scottish crown lands). Conference thus reiterates the position of the Home Rule and Community Rule Commission on this matter.
2. Reviewing compulsory purchase powers to make them fit for purpose.
3. Simplifying the community right to buy legislation and extending its scope to urban land.
4. Reforming the law of succession to provide children with legal rights to inherit land.
5. Providing the communities within Scotland’s 196 burghs that lost their control over Common Good land in 1975 with the power to take back title to Common Good land at no cost.
6. Reviewing the laws of prescription, adverse possession and the system of land registration.
7. Reviewing the use of the legal system to allow landed estates to be held in charitable trust.
8. Calling on the UK government to remove the tax reliefs which allow land to be bought and sold merely as a tax vehicle without any regard for the communities thereon. Conference believes that breaking the concentration of ownership of land and the cycle of speculativepricing will be essential to creating a fairer Scottish society.