Blog | Who Owns Scotland?

Large-scale land ownership and its effects on communities and local economic opportunities

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Tarbert, Harris

The introduction of the Land Reform Bill marks an important moment for land reform in Scotland. Introduced to Scottish Parliament recently, the bill looks to address one of the biggest issues in Scotland relating to land; the challenge of concentrated land ownership.

Sustainable Development Lecturer Dr Eilidh MacPhail commented, “This large-scale land ownership can have significant effects on communities and local economic opportunities. New proposals in the bill include the potential dividing up of large areas of land prior to sale and a requirement to notify communities of an intended sale.

It is also looking to require landowners of land greater than 3000 hectares to have land management plans which involve engagement with communities. These measures could be really important to help support more sustainable development and the involvement of communities in decisions about land which affect them directly.”

Rural Community Development student Jane Griffiths has been studying land reform as part of her studies at UHI North, West and Hebrides and has been waiting on the bill as the next step in land reform momentum.

As part of her ‘Introduction to Land Reform and Community Land Ownership’ module, Jane recently completed a study considering the effectiveness of current and proposed Scottish Land Reform legislation. Her work addressed the need to ensure that “the benefit of land is shared by all” as envisaged by the chair of the  Scottish Land Commission in 2022. Jane’s excellent work made a powerful case for land as shared natural capital, the need for public interest tests and noted that ‘the regulation of monopoly ownership, land owning thresholds and accountability are all issues for reform’.

Jane commented: “This course attracted me as I am part (a voluntary Director) of the Mull and Iona Community Trust (MICT). I hoped to increase my understanding of the theory and practice of community empowerment, and more specifically some of the issues around land ownership and reform.  The last module I am doing is Community Energy, also most timely and pertinent.

The course has exceeded my expectations in bringing together in a very accessible, supported way the wealth of current knowledge and resources in this field. It has given me the vocabulary and confidence to participate in the local and national discussion of land reform.  Knowledge of history and context enables change to be envisioned and the status quo questioned.”

Dr Macphail added, “The development of our Sustainable Development CPD awards are increasingly relevant as land reform and the moves towards net zero and a Just Transition progress. It is essential that students are able to address the changing legislative landscape and be part of current discussions.”

Find out more about studying Sustainable Development with UHI NWH

Find out more about our Rural Community Development CPD award