John’s Question on the Land Reform Review Group

Below is a transcript of John’s question during the Rural Affairs and Environment Questions slot. (05/06/2013)

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Ind): To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the work of the land reform review group.

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Paul Wheelhouse): The land reform review group’s interim report was given to ministers on 10 May and published on 20 May, which concluded phase 1 of the group’s work. A phase 2 planning meeting was held on 28 May, which identified a range of workstreams to take forward in phase 2. The review group is due to make its final report to ministers in April 2014, at the end of phase 3. The chair of the review group, Alison Elliot, will speak to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee on 26 June.

John Finnie: The day after the publication of the land reform review group’s interim report, the group’s chair, Dr Alison Elliot, addressed the annual general meeting of Scottish Land & Estates—the lairds. Professor Jim Hunter says that Scotland retains the “most concentrated, most inequitable, most unreformed and most undemocratic land ownership system in the entire developed world”, while Scottish Land & Estates tells us that it remains “disappointed at the persisting view that the pattern of land ownership in Scotland is unfair and unjust”. When tenant farmers still have no right to buy their farms and are reluctant to speak out for fear of repercussions from the very lairds to whom I referred, what can the Scottish Government do quickly to show the country that it has not abandoned its historical campaigning zeal on another important issue?

Paul Wheelhouse: I assure the member that, in the course of today’s debate, I will set out more clearly our intentions regarding the on-going work of the land reform review group and our continued ambition for bold and radical land reform.

The land reform review group has made a number of recommendations that aim to rectify some of the difficulties that we face in terms of existing community right-to-buy provisions, which, as I am sure that the member is aware, do not operate fully satisfactorily in many cases. Indeed, through the community empowerment and renewal bill, we will seek to extend the provisions in respect of urban right to buy.

I will, hopefully, provide the member with more detail later today.