New era for land reform as Scottish Land Commission is born 

New public agency launches to progress land reform agenda 

THE NEW COMMISSION DEDICATED to land politics in Scotland has officially launched a year after parliament passed key land reform legislation. 

The Scottish Land Commission, head quartered in Inverness, will provide a stronger foundation for land policy work at a time when the land reform movement is pressing for further changes in who owns and benefits from the land. 

The Land Reform Act 2016 was challenged by activists for not going far enough to tackle inequalities in land ownership, high rates of derelict land, tax haven ownership structures, and the lack of right to buy powers for tenant farmers - among other controversies. However, the legislation did pass measures including establishing the Commission which is hoped will provide the impetus for future changes.

The Scottish Parliament supported the selection of six commissioners to lead the new commission.

Read more - Will they deliver? The six commissioners proposed to advance land reform

Welcoming the launch, chair of the Commission Andrew Thin said: “The Commissioners and I have been in post for a few months and now the organisation is officially established we are really keen to get out and talk with everyone who has an interest in the work of the Commission.

“We have published our Interim Corporate Plan for 2017-18 which outlines the Commission’s priorities for the first year and how we will help to take the next step on the land reform journey.

“We are focused on driving land reform and working towards creating a fairer more inclusive Scotland, in which everyone has a shared interest in our land, and everyone looks out for the interests of others”

“The membership of the commission reflects the fact that land reform impacts on every single person in Scotland.” Roseanna Cunningham 

Cabinet Secretary for Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham added: “The establishment of the Scottish Land Commission is an important step forward in Scotland’s land reform journey and I would like to take this opportunity to wish all the Commissioners the best of luck with their important work. 

“The Commission will have a key role in reviewing policy and legislation, help to influence future developments relating to land ownership and help to ensure that communities in both rural and urban Scotland are enabled to make the most of their potential.

“The membership of the commission reflects the fact that land reform impacts on every single person in Scotland, with members from cities, towns, rural areas and a dedicated Tenant Farming Commissioner to deal with the specialised nature of this important area.

“We will, in short, have built the springboard that will be needed going forward.” Interim Plan  

“The work of the Scottish Land Commission will help us to deliver our vision of a fair, inclusive and productive system of land rights and responsibilities that delivers greater public benefits and promotes economic, social and cultural rights.”

The Commission’s website and interim corporate plan emphasises the organisation’s forces on “driving land reform”. 

The interim plan states: “The creation of the Commission has, for many people, been a landmark event. There are high expectations of the organisation, and there has already been considerable media attention. But for many Scots the organisation remains something of a blank page, and especially in urban areas there is limited, if any, awareness. This first year will therefore be one of raising awareness, building an open dialogue, and establishing realistic expectations.

“By the end of 2017-18 we will be a fully functioning public body, with all our core staff and administrative infrastructure in place. We will have published a Strategic Plan and a Programme of Work, and we will have established the fundamentals of an organisational culture that is evidence-based, innovative and challenging. We will be building strong outward facing links, nationally and internationally, and our profile (especially in urban Scotland) will be growing.

Read more - December 2015, Key moments in a movement: The path to the current #LandReformBill debate

“But above all we will have delivered the priorities set out in paras 26 and 27 above. By doing so we will have established firm foundations for a profound programme of land reform in Scotland for the collective benefit of all, and we will have breathed new life into the tenant farming sector that will result in improving landlord/tenant relations and rising levels of productivity on these farms. We will, in short, have built the springboard that will be needed going forward.”

Paragraphs 26 and 27 list a review of information on land, establishing longterm studies, promoting debate on land issues, publishing practical information, and following the statutory functions of the Tenant Farming Commissioner as some of the first priorities for the organisation. 

The Commission is also recruiting a chief executive, a communications officer, and policy staff.

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