HORRID images of wildfires destroying large swaths of land across Europe and water scarcity issues being felt in Scotland and the UK underscore the urgent need for action to tackle the climate emergency .
How land is owned and used is critical to addressing the climate emergency and contributes to a thriving economy while supporting diverse communities.
Over the past five years the Scottish Land Commission has worked to provide a strong evidence base to support recommendations to improve land work in the public interest and to highlight the opportunities that land reform can bring. to Scotland and its people.
Now everyone in Scotland can make a meaningful contribution to the debate by taking part in the consultation on the next Land Reform Bill recently launched by the Scottish Government.
The Scottish Government’s Statement of Land Rights and Responsibilities (LRRS) sets out practical guidance on how landowners, land managers and communities can work together to make better and fairer decisions about land use .
One of the recommendations to consider for inclusion in the Land Reform Bill is to strengthen the LRRS and make it a legal requirement for large landowners to comply with associated codes and protocols.
There are long-standing concerns about the highly concentrated pattern of land ownership in rural Scotland and the monopoly of power this creates. Proposals from the consultation include introducing a public interest test for the transfer of large-scale land holdings and requiring landowners to give notice to community bodies if they intend to sell.
There would also be greater transparency over who owns Scottish land if a proposed measure is passed, which would require those who receive public funding and seek grants to register their land on the land register.
A small number of people own much of Scotland’s land, putting these people in potentially very powerful positions. When the owner of a large piece of land fails to behave in the public interest, it means they are not making the most of that land for the benefit of the people of Scotland – the consultation includes measures to deal with these situations.
The way we own, manage and use our lands can address today’s challenges around net zero, nature restoration and a just transition. The Scottish Land Commission has brought together all of the Commission’s research and evidence, proposals and quick guides to provide background information for the Scottish Government’s Land Reform Bill consultation and can be found on our website landcommission.gov.scot.
To find the right balance, it is important to take into account a wide range of points of view and I urge people to make their own contribution by visiting Land Reform in a Net Zero Nation (https://www.gov.scot/publications/land-reform-net-zero-nation-consultation-paper/) which remains open until September 25.
Andrew Thin is Chairman of the Scottish Land Commission