Community Ownership Through Land Reform? | Scotland | Land Reform

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This paper focuses on the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, which gave communities legal powers to take land into collective ownership. It explains the two different rights to buy and reports communities’ experiences with these two different mechanisms. The author concludes that though it is unclear whether the Act will be reformed by the new Scottish government or not, there is a lobby pressuring the government to simplify the Act and make it more practically useful. This paper is part of a series of papers which have resulted from the Whose Economy? seminar series, held in Scotland in 2010 – 2011, whose purpose was to provide a space for researchers, representative organisations, policy-makers and people with experience of poverty to come together and explore the causes of poverty and inequality in today’s Scotland.
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    Oxfam Discussion Papers Community ownership through land reform? A review of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003  A Whose Economy   Seminar Paper Tim Braunholtz-Speight June 2011   www.oxfam.org.uk  Community ownership through land reform?  A Whose Economy   Seminar Paper, June 2011 2 About the author Tim Braunholtz-Speight is a researcher at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Centre for Remote and Rural Studies, working on community assets, poverty and rural development issues. He is also studying for a PhD on community land reform with the UHI.   Email: tim.braunholtz-speight@inverness.uhi.ac.uk   Whose Economy Seminar Papers  are a follow up to the series of seminars held in Scotland between November 2010 and March 2011. They are written to contribute to public debate and to invite feedback on development and policy issues. These papers are ‘ work in progress’ documents, and do not necessarily constitute final publications or reflect Oxfam policy positions. The views and recommendations expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Oxfam. For more information, or to comment on this paper, email ktrebeck@oxfam.org.uk  Community ownership through land reform?  A Whose Economy   Seminar Paper, June 2011 3 Contents Executive summary ................................................................................. 4   Introduction .............................................................................................. 5   1.   Community Right to Buy ................................................................... 6   How the Community Right to Buy works .............................................. 6   Use of the Community Right to Buy ..................................................... 7   Why hasn’t it been used more?  ........................................................... 8   Suggestions for change from community groups ............................... 10   2.   Crofting Community Right to Buy .................................................. 11   Conclusion .............................................................................................. 12   Notes ....................................................................................................... 13    Acknowledgements ............................................................................ 13   References ........................................................................................ 13    Community ownership through land reform?  A Whose Economy   Seminar Paper, June 2011 4 Executive summary The passing of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 (‘the Act’) is one of the most celebrated achievements of the Scottish Parliament. The 1990s had seen the development of a community land reform movement in Scotland, born of frustration with the high concentration of Scottish land in the hands of relatively few landowners. It also arose from the belief that neglect by landowners treating their properties only as ‘glorified holiday cottages’ (McKee and Warren) was contributing to economic stagnation, poverty and population decline in rural areas, particularly the more remote parts of the Highlands and Islands. The Act gave communities legal powers to take land into collective ownership. Five years after the Act came into force, the Parliament commissioned research into how the Act was working. This chapter focuses on community groups’ experiences of Parts Two and Three of the Act, the Community Right to Buy, and Crofting Community Right to Buy. Communities across Scotland have used the Community Right to Buy to register interest in pieces of land. However, compared to the wave of land reform activity outwith the Act, there have been few registrations and even fewer purchases of land. The ‘willing seller’ nature of the Right to Buy, where nothing happens unless a landowner decides to sell, is one reason for this. Communities also reported that the complexity of using the legislation, and the confrontational nature of the process, were obstacles to using the Act. In contrast, the Crofting Community Right to Buy can be used to force a sale, but has seen even less uptake. It was seen as particularly complex and costly to use by community groups. No community group has yet purchased land through the Crofting Community Right to Buy. One group used an application to use the Act as a bargaining tool; another is trying to use the Act at present. Nevertheless, community groups were glad that the Act existed. They had plenty of suggestions for changing it, from sorting out minor inconsistencies to fundamental changes. The latter included removing the need to register interest in advance –  seeing the Act mainly as an emergency tool –  or prioritising funding and support for community land reform. There has recently been some political support for reform of the Act, as well as campaigning from community organisations. But what the new Scottish Government will do with the Act remains unclear.
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