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Opinion: "Yes or no, Scotland faces land reform"

Posted 17 September 2014

“Land reform is firmly on the political agenda, whatever the outcome of the referendum on independence."

It is the eve of the referendum on Scottish independence – and land reform is on the cards whatever the outcome, says Charles Cowap of Harper Adams University. 

Writing in this week’s Estates Gazette, Charles explains that the sale of the 28,300-acre Auch and Invermearan Estate in Argyll and Perthshire earlier this year for £11m, the second £10m-plus sale that Knight Frank had handled in a period of 18 months, might suggest that all is well with the rural land market in Scotland.

But the Kinpurnie Estate, on offer through Savills, offers another insight. The longstanding family owners had hoped the estate would sell as a whole. However, the good-quality land on the estate has sold readily to local farmers, reflecting, according to Charlie Paton of Savills, strong local farming interest in good land when it does rarely come to the market.

Charles says: “Paton is of the view that the head has become as important as the heart in larger-scale estate purchases both north and south of the border. Other commentators take the view that the dividing line comes between land that is predominantly in hand and land that is let.

“Land reform is firmly on the political agenda, whatever the outcome of the referendum on independence. The Land Reform Review Group has recently issued its report: Land Reform, Common Good and the Public Interest. 

“Overall the group recommends the creation of a Scottish Land and Property Commission, a single body responsible for the oversight of land ownership and management in Scotland, and charged with recommending changes in the public interest. 

“Other recommendations cover registration, ownerless land, compulsory purchase, Crown property rights, the national forest estate, “common good” lands, urban renewal, new housing, existing housing, rural land use, land taxation, tenant farms, public access, water, fish, and wild deer.

“In the words of one senior chartered surveyor in Scotland, the report’s recommendations will “affect every single chartered surveyor in Scotland”. The Community Empowerment Bill already contains proposals that will allow communities to purchase “abandoned” land. But how straightforward will this be for derelict sites in urban locations, let alone rural areas of huge natural heritage and ecosystem importance but little apparent management activity?

“Political views on land ownership are central to the land debate in Scotland, in a way not seen in England for decades…”

Read the full article on Estates Gazette.   

Charles Cowap is a rural practice chartered surveyor

 

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