MORE than a dozen organisations have called on the Scottish Government to urgently strengthen its plans for land reform.

The Land Reform Bill is set to be introduced to the Scottish Parliament in the coming months in order to address the “impact of scale and concentration of land ownership in Scotland”.

Currently, the legislation is set to apply to “large-scale landholdings” which are defined as estates covering more than 3000 hectares.

As well as having to publish management plans detailing how they will meet the requirements of net zero and nature restoration goals, such estates may also be subject to a Public Interest Test if they are placed on the property market.

The land could then be split into smaller lots which could not be purchased by a single buyer and may even be offered to community bodies in the area.

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However, 15 organisations in Scotland have now signed an open letter to Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Neil Gray, and Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands, Mairi Gougeon, highlighting their concern that the bill does not go far enough.

Led by the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) and Community Land Scotland, the letter states that limiting the legislation to estates of more than 3000 hectares mean only a handful of will be subject to the new laws.

Just 386 of the 1.86 million titles in the Land Register had a total land area of over 3000 hectares, according to Registers of Scotland.

However, they are thought to cover around 20% of Scotland’s total land mass.

WEAll Scotland's policy and engagement lead, Dr Lukas Bunse, said: "We are deeply concerned that the current plans for the Land Reform Bill simply don't go far enough and will fail to deliver for the people of Scotland.

The National:

“It is essential that the way Scotland's land is managed enables people and communities to thrive.

"The Scottish Government has committed to establishing a Wellbeing Economy in Scotland.

“Changing the way that we own, use and manage land in Scotland is an essential step in achieving this goal.

“We must ensure that communities are part of decision making and benefit from the land around them.

“We know that when land is managed in a way that prioritises dignity, nature, fairness, purpose and participation communities are empowered to sustainably develop their local area in line with their needs."

Dr Josh Doble, policy manager at Community Land Scotland, added: "Scotland has a huge opportunity in 2024 to deliver meaningful land reform which builds upon the proud tradition of community land ownership in Scotland.

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“We are fortunate to have an established and proven model of community land ownership which delivers on Wellbeing Economy principles and is already leading sustainable development around Scotland.

"However, only 3% of Scotland's land is currently owned by the communities that live on that land. This has to change.

“We need land reform legislation which supports existing community landowners and empowers other communities to take ownership of land and assets to drive forward community wealth building, to lead the just response to the nature crises and create resilient, circular economies in their local areas."

The letter proposes that the “blunt” 3000 hectare limit should be replaced with a more detailed criteria for deciding which landholdings are subject to the new legislation.

It proposes that landholdings of more than 500 hectares, those which cover more than 25% of an inhabited island, and those which are deemed to be of “community significance” should all be covered by the new bill.