The Scottish Land Reform Bill – how will it affect you?

Davidson & Robertson The Scottish Land Reform Bill – how will it affect you

The draft Land Reform (Scotland) Bill was introduced on the 13th of March 2024. It has yet to go through the full parliamentary process at Holyrood and is expected to be enacted later this year. It is likely to come into effect in phases. The Bill is a significant piece of legislation and will affect Scottish landowners and occupiers in a number of ways be it property sales, property management, small landholders and agricultural tenants. The key aspects are:

Property sales

  • for registration for a community right to buy for single or composite holdings of more than 1,000 ha
  • requiring consideration of lotting the land with fallback provisions for ministers to make decision on lotting with advice available from the Land and Communities Commissioner
  • a mechanism for an owner to claim compensation for some losses

This will all become very onerous, and owners should consider whether action might be taken now ahead of the legislation coming into force.

Property Management

“Large landholdings” are to be defined as either:

  • a single or composite holding of more than 3,000 ha, or
  • for an inhabited island, more than 1000, ha and more than 25 per cent of the island’s land area

There are many family farming units in excess of this threshold, and so should be aware of the obligations which will be placed on them. There will be controls and ministerial approval regarding transfer of ownership with

  • either sale of part, even very small plots, or the acquisition of land which will take the total over the threshold.
  • powers to regulate for community engagement in the process
  • the need for a publicly available land management plan
  • potential obligations for a community to request a lease with provisions enforceable by reference to a new Land and Communities Commissioner

Environmental Lease

Scottish ministers are to produce a model lease for an environmental tenancy, applicable to

  • regenerative and sustainable agriculture
  • uses contributing to achieving the net zero target
  • adaptation to climate change and sustaining or increasing biodiversity

The detail of this is to be worked out and is likely to be one of the later items to be implemented.

Agricultural Tenancies

  • Revision and consolidation of the Small Landholders regime which is brought within the Tenant Farming Commissioner’s remit and generally aligning it with Ag Holdings legislation.
  • Resumption from a tenancy and enhanced compensation for it, with recourse the Tenant Farming Commissioner and new valuation provisions appearing similar to those for relinquishment, in addition to payment for disturbance.
  • Tenants Improvements – a revised Schedule 5 setting out compensatable improvements, which moves towards a more principles-based approach and including a new section for improvements which facilitate or enhance sustainable or regenerative agricultural production.
  • Extending the regime for tenant’s diversification to cover environmental benefits
  • Extending the provision for compensation for game damage
  • A standard procedure for waygo claims with provision for interest due on outstanding payments
  • Rent reviews for agricultural tenancies with reference to
    • the productive capacity of the holding
    • the open market rent of any fixed equipment provided by the landlord for a purpose that is not an agricultural purpose
    • the open market rent of any land forming part of the holding that is used for a purpose that is not an agricultural purpose
    • the rent payable on similar holdings
    • the prevailing economic conditions in the sectors of agriculture relevant to the holding.
  • Revisions to the rules for good estate management and rules of good husbandry to include references to sustainable and regenerative practices.

When the Land Reform Bill is passed, the legislation is likely to come into effect in phases, but there may be elements you can prepare for now.

If you have any questions contact Martin Hall or Niall Milner on 0131 449 6212.


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