Land reform and community engagement have been key policies for the Scottish Parliament since its inception, with significant early reform being introduced by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. The most recent incarnations of these policies, the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 and the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 have continued the land reform agenda regarding land ownership and further empowerment of communities. These include proposals for regulations to create a Register of Controlling Interests in Land, and extending the community right to buy to include a right to purchase abandoned, neglected or detrimental land.
Register of Controlling Interest in Land
There is to be a public register of persons who have controlling interests in ownership or tenants of land. The Register, intended to improve transparency in ownership, and provide individuals and community groups with a better understanding of who makes decisions about the land, was introduced by the 2016 Act, but the detail of who will be affected, and what information must appear in the Register is to be set out in Regulations. These are now expected to be put before Parliament in Spring 2018.
Community right to buy abandoned, neglected or detrimental land
The existing right to buy, introduced under the 2003 Act, and extended to the whole of Scotland by the 2015 Act allows communities to register an interest in land giving them the opportunity to purchase that land if it comes up for sale within five years of registration. Both the 2015 Act and the 2016 Act introduce new community rights to buy: for acquiring abandoned, neglected or detrimental land, and land to further sustainable development respectively. Under the regulations relating to abandoned, neglected or detrimental land, the owner of that land can be compelled to sell, if the community body can demonstrate that they have already tried and failed to purchase that land, but the community also need to demonstrate that their proposals for the land are in the public interest, and compatible with furthering the achievement of sustainable development.
The Scottish Government intends to present the regulations required to establish this new right to the Parliament before the end of the parliamentary year in Spring 2018. However, there is not yet any concrete timescale for the proposed regulations to come into force.
Proposals for establishing the right to buy land to further sustainable development are not expected to come into force until this new community right to buy has settled in.
As the Scottish Government progress with the implementation of the 2015 and 2016 Acts, we will keep you updated. Should you have any queries in relation to the Register of Controlling Interests in Land or the Community Right to Buy please contact Ann Stewart or Emma De Sailly in our rural team.
Article contributor: Emma De Sailly, Solicitor, Shepherd and Wedderburn