NEW land reform legislation aiming to change how land is owned and managed in rural and island communities has been launched by the Scottish Government.

The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill has been introduced to Parliament and includes  a raft of protections which crack down on large land ownership.

It includes measures that will apply to large landholdings of more than 1000 hectares and prohibits certain sales until ministers can consider the impact on local communities.

It could require owners to break up the sale into smaller parts to help communities thrive.

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It is also hoped it would help to empower communities with more opportunities to own land through introducing advance notice of certain sales from large landholdings.

Large landholdings of over 1000 hectares represent more than 50% of Scotland’s land, according to the Government.

The bill will also places legal responsibilities on the owners of the very largest landholdings to show how they use their land and how that use contributes to key public policy priorities, such as addressing climate change and protecting and restoring nature.

These owners will also have to engage with local communities about how they use the land.

The legislation has been welcomed by the Scottish Land Commission (SLC), which has described it as a “meaningful and important step forward”.;

Michael Russell, chair of the SLC, said: “We are pleased to welcome the publication of the Scottish Government’s new Land Reform Bill, which draws on our research and analysis.

“This landmark legislation is a meaningful and important step forward in addressing the over-concentration of land ownership, which continues to be a central issue in Scotland’s ongoing journey of land reform.

“Our research has consistently shown the pitfalls associated with such a concentration of land ownership, including the impacts that localised monopolies can have on local economic opportunities and communities.”

The bill includes a duty on Scottish Ministers to publish a model Land Management Tenancy which will support people to use and manage land in a way that meets their, and the nation’s, needs.

It also includes a number of measures to reform tenant farming and small landholding legislation, designed to provide more opportunities to improve land, to become more sustainable and productive and to ensure that tenants are fairly rewarded for their investment of time and resources in compensation at end of tenancy.

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Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba is also bidding to bring in a new law which would put a presumed limit of 500 hectares on how much land a person can own, sell or transfer without triggering a public interest test.

Ex-MSP Andy Wightman has also put forward ideas for land reform he believes go "far further" than existing proposals.

Scottish Greens MSP Ariane Burgess said on the Scottish Government’s bill: “It is a significant shift towards making sure that landowners are using their land in ways that benefit our communities, our nature and our environment.

“It’s so important that this bill includes powers to break up big estates that come up for sale into smaller plots. This will make community ownership a far more viable option for many communities.”

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon added: “We do not think it is right that ownership and control of much of Scotland’s land is still in the hands of relatively few people. We want Scotland to have a strong and dynamic relationship between its land and people. 

“We want to be a nation where rights and responsibilities in relation to land and its natural capital are fully recognised and fulfilled.  That was our aim in 2016, and it remains our aim today.

“This bill sets out ambitious proposals to allow the benefits and opportunities of Scotland’s land to be more widely shared.”