2015-08-19   facebook twitter rss

Small Units of Land are at the Heart of ‘Common Good’

The Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) is in favour of land reform in Scotland according to their submission to the Scottish Parliament Rural Affairs committee call for evidence on the recently published Land Reform Bill, but say there needs to be better provision made for creation of crofts.

We will be pushing for the enactment of all the recommendations made by the Land Reform Review Group in their excellent report ‘The Land of Scotland and the Common Good’”, said Russell Smith, a Vice-chair of the SCF. But we need to see more people managing smaller units of land and greater parity and transparency in the way our land is administered, to achieve this vision.

Tractor

Mr Smith went on to say;
“There are welcome provisions within the bill to allow existing and newly-formed community bodies to buy land from private owners to put it to community use. But this assumes there is a community. There are vast tracts of rural land that no longer have a resident community, it having been cleared centuries ago. It seems that a very important part of the policy intention is being missed from the bill. For centuries the wealthy and the powerful have cleared communities off the land that supported them and it is time the land went back to supporting many families rather than the few. Scottish Crofters Federation therefore suggests consideration be given for Scottish Ministers (or their delegate) to be able to force the sale of privately-held land where the land is being neglected or misused, on behalf of the public in order to restore the land to community benefit. The necessary use of compulsory purchase is shameful for the large land-owning entities that have shown no interest in helping to bring communities back by re-creating crofts on the land that they control.

“The creation of small units to maximise community numbers and use would be highly recommended” Mr Smith continued. “We would, naturally, suggest that these units come under crofting legislation as this has evolved, and is evolving, as a framework of rights and responsibilities envied by many outwith Scotland.

“Crofters must disclose who owns or rents croft land, must live on or near the land and must put the land to purposeful use. They must be responsible custodians of the land. The contrast with the ‘landlord’ is stark: a crofter on 10ha is obliged to fulfil all these requirements, whilst a landlord of an estate of thousands of hectares is permitted to hide ownership, reside abroad and not put the land to purposeful use. Land reform in Scotland should be working towards it being mandatory that landlords and non-croft land-owners should also disclose ownership, live on or near their land and make good use the land. This is at the heart of ‘Common Good’.”

Mr Smith concluded, “The bill falls short of some of the Land Reform Review Group’s recommendations, such as there being a maximum amount of land one person or company can own, or that any entity wishing to own Scottish land should be registered in the EU. We hope that any further amendments of the bill will bring increased public benefit from Scotland’s land resource, more transparency of land ownership and use, and, vitally, the increase in diversity and number of people managing and occupying Scotland’s land through small units such as crofts, woodland crofts, small-holdings and allotments.”

SCF

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