Today, Scottish Labour published “Together We Can” – a document outlining its vision for the future of Scotland. This follows the publication of its Devolution Commission (2.1Mb pdf) proposals on Wednesday – see my blog on that in relation to the proposals on the Crown Estate which I still don’t understand.

Anyway, today’s document has some interesting things to say about how Scottish Labour sees the land reform agenda in the years to come and I reproduce the relevant extract here in full from page 44. It includes a statement on the Crown Estate.

“Alongside promoting safe and secure communities, we want people to have more ownership of them. Under the last Labour-led Scottish Government, we began the process of giving our communities their land back.

Community ownership of assets is a powerful vehicle not just to tackle social injustice and inequality, but also to deliver economic growth. It gives power to the people and allows them to transform their communities.

The Isle of Gigha is a fantastic example of how community ownership can transform an area’s future. The people who live there are building new homes, developing renewable energy schemes and reversing population decline. Together, they are breathing new life into their community.

The 2003 Land Reform Act, which gave rural communities the right to buy land in their neighbourhood, has allowed remarkable progress to be made, with almost half a million acres now in community ownership.

Despite that, Scotland’s land ownership patterns are significantly out of line with what is the norm in most of Europe. It is shocking that just 16 owners possess 10% of Scotland’s land, and get tax breaks for the privilege. If we want to have any real hope of changing the current pattern of land ownership in Scotland then we have to be bold and radical.

Scottish Labour will commit to extend rights for the community to buy land across Scotland. If it is in the public interest for communities to own their land, then they should have the right to buy it, even when the landowner is not a willing seller – that is a power worth having.

Just as community-owned renewable energy schemes work in rural areas, the same principle can work in urban communities. We believe in a community’s right to own land and assets, and they also have the right to enjoy them. Scotland’s stunning landscape and fascinating wildlife are some of our country’s best assets, and the success of our two National parks, in the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs show that they can bring economic benefits as well as environmental ones. We will explore how best to build on this success in those parts of Scotland where national parks could work.

In addition, we are convinced of the strong case that has been made to devolve the administration and revenue of the Crown property and rights and interests in Scotland, which are currently managed as part of the Crown Estate. This would ensure that the Crown Estates expertise and capital would assist local communities to manage and develop the seabed and foreshore.”


  1. If Labour is convinced of the strong case for devolving the administration and revenue of Crown property, rights and interests in Scotland, why should the Crown Estate be accorded any continuing role in Scotland?

    • Graeme, the answer to your question is in Labour’s Devolution Commission proposals Andy quoted in his previous blog:-

      “Thus, we propose to use the Crown Estate’s expertise and capital as necessary, but allowing local councils and local communities to manage the seabed in other respects, in order to achieve real devolution to very local areas while preserving the benefits of the wider Crown Estate resource.”

      I don’t think there’s any inconsistency in Labour’s approach. There are two stages involved. First, devolution of the Scottish Crown Estate to the jurisdiction of the Scottish Parliament (i.e. the CE in Scotland ceases to be a reserved matter). The SAC and Labour are both in agreement on this phase. The second phase is further devolution down from “Crown Estate Scotland” (to use the analogy of the Forestry Commission) to local authorities. The SAC talked of “decentralisation to the maximum extent possible … to local authority and local community levels”. Labour are not going quite that far and want to retain a role for “CES” in partnership with local authorities for the reasons quoted above. Whether that’s workable or not in practice, I’ve no idea, but it is a reasonable and coherent suggestion.

      The Labour Party is not bound by the SAC even if the latter is dominated by the former.

  2. Its been eleven years since the land reform act in Scotland and only this week we are having an interim report on who owns what, with assurances from Westminster that they are ‘minded’ to end the favourable tax regimes. I don’t want to sound trite, but at this rate its like watching paint dry. Until such time that our British Establishment are ‘minded’ to create a properly accountable democracy, notions of devolved power to Scotland will like its devolution commission paper, will be little more than a fig leaf of progress.

  3. Surely expertise and capital can be found elsewhere, Neil? That seems a curious justification for retention for the Labour Party to deploy, though I can see that the Crown Estate might be keen to advance it.

  4. Crown Estates Commissioners and their jollies need abolishing. Transfer the lot to Scottish Govt and come up with a sensible plan for local democratic control. That won’t be our oversized local authorities. Not convinced it would actually happen.

    • Which is precisely what the SAC recommended and Scottish Labour appear to support by hoping that the UK Government act on their recommendations. But then they go on to make a completely different proposal were Labour to be in government!

      • With the benefit of hindsight it’s not brilliantly worded but, read in context, paragraph 603 of the Devolution Commission proposals in which Labour expresses the hope that the government will implement the SAC’s proposals is clearly referring only to devolution of the CE from London to Edinburgh. It is not referring to *all* of the SAC’s recommendations. In para 604, they go on to make their alternative suggestion regards further devolution down from Edinburgh. There is no inconsistency in Labour’s position on this.

  5. What is the point of the whole document when the Labour Party in Scotland is controlled from London. The Labour Party in Scotland can’t really do or say anything that goes against the Labour Manifesto, the same applies to the Conservative and Unionist Party and probably to the Liberal Democrats, although they are very much a dying breed in Scotland. That is why the people of Scotland must vote YES at the Referendum. That is the only way we can hold our destiny in our hands.

  6. If it were Scotland’s Labour Party I might believe them, but experience shows that if London says no, Scottish Labour obey. They only come out with this sort of promise when there is a referendum or election on the go. It is only because of pressure that we get concessions, and so I believe it is best to keep up that pressure. The Monarchy (and the feudal system) are based on the concept that one person is born better than another, and that is something I think is wrong. That fiction should be dismantled wherever possible.

    Balmoral should be a time share for the benefit of the Scottish people, and the Royal family gets 3 weeks in August, but they should pay the going rate!

    • Slurry Stirrer

      Lindsay, well said. True Scottish Labour will be born when we achieve independence, until then Labour is just too Similar to the tory party.

  7. Oh that independence would bring about ‘radical’ change. Please put Land Ownership, Housing, The Legal System and Education at the top of the list, If Labour feel outraged at this great inequality why didn’t they act when they were in power?
    I do welcome Labour’s Crown Estates plan but it’s hardly radical. Radical is allowing Her Majesty to have the title of “Friend of Scotland”. Allowing her to keep Balmoral while all other Crown land is handed over to the Scottish people. The Queen would enjoy our hospitality and our security while in Scotland, but we certainly would not need to ask her agents permission to use our own land, nor would we contribute financially towards keeping her family on benefits. Now that, I suggest is nudging towards radical.