Land Reform (Scotland) Bill 2024: What changes are coming for the management of large landholdings?

The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill 2024 introduced the need for large landowners to produce Land Management Plans, as part of their proposals to increase transparency in the rural land management sphere. This means there are new rules and requirements coming into force.

22 April 2024

Rural estate

The Scottish Government has brought forward some key measures affecting the ongoing management of large landholdings as a part of the proposed changes within the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill.

These include the requirement for landowners to produce Land Management Plans (LMP), with an emphasis on promoting engagement within local communities.

What will landowners have to do?

The Bill sets out a regulation to oblige landowners to produce an LMP. Communities are to be engaged in the development of and any subsequent significant changes to the LMP, which should be made publicly available. 

Landowners will be required to keep LMPs up to date, with reviews to take place every five years from the publication date of each version of the plan. This provides an opportunity for revisions to be implemented where appropriate. 

There are a number of requirements set out in the Bill relating to the content of the LMP. Transparency as to the extent and ownership of the land is required, alongside the owner’s objectives and long-term plans relating to the use and management of the land, including any potential for future sale. 

The landowner must also state how they comply or intend to comply with any obligations arising from the Bill itself, and their plans for compliance with an additional two codes of practice:

  1. the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, as set out in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003; and 
  2. the Code of Practice on Deer Management, contained within the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996.

There are also ties to the Scottish Government’s net-zero emissions target, with the LMP to include details as to how the landowner intends to manage the land to contribute towards net-zero, adapt to climate change, and increase and sustain biodiversity.

What are the penalties for failing to comply?

If a landowner breaches any arrangements within the LMP, a report of the breach can be made to the Land and Communities Commissioner – who is provided with powers to investigate and impose sanctions for breaches made. 

Fines of up to £1,000 can be issued for failure to provide information during the investigation of a breach, and fines of up to £5,000 can be awarded for each instance of a breach, with a right to appeal these decisions written into the Bill.

Who will be affected?

The proposed regulations do not specifically indicate which categories of holdings these obligations will apply to. 

The reforms in the Bill are widely aimed at landowners with single or composite holdings of over 3,000 hectares, and inhabited islands where the holding either exceeds 1,000 hectares or constitutes more than 25% of the land forming the island. 

It does however suggest not all holdings affected by the Bill will be required to produce LMPs. It appears these obligations, in respect of the preparation of plans, are aimed towards the larger-scale holdings.

These amendments are designed to award local communities and the general public with more transparency in relation to how large landholdings are to be used and maintained. 

With almost 40% of land in Scotland constituted by landholdings of larger than 3,000 hectares, the impact of these obligations will be significant. 


If you want to find out more about Land Management Plans or the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill 2024, our market-leading rural property team would be happy to answer any questions you may have.


Co-authored by Trainee Madeleine Gill