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Concentrated land ownership is bad for Scottish communities, says report

Words: Roger Milne
Scotland debates the planning bill / iStock-146908761

The issue of concentrated land ownership is having significant impacts on communities across rural Scotland, according to a report just published by the Scottish Land Commission.

Investigation into the Issues Associated with Large Scale and Concentrated Land Ownership in Scotland stressed 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 commission concluded that in some parts of Scotland, concentrated ownership hampers economic development and causes serious and long-term harm to the communities affected.

The report highlighted that the issues were not just about ownership; crucially, a lack of effective participation in land use change decisions was also involved.

Hamish Trench, the commission’s chief executive officer, said: “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.”

The commission has recommended the introduction of a public interest test and approval mechanism at the point of significant land transfer, an obligation for larger land holdings to engage on and publish a management plan, and a review mechanism to address adverse impacts on communities where normal responsible management approaches are not effective.

Some of these measures will require legislation.

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