A MAJORITY of communities believe the Scottish Government should be more ambitious and progressive with land reform, according to a recent poll.

Independent polling research by Diffley Partnership, for Community Land Scotland and the REVIVE Coalition, have found a majority of Scots want land reform policies to go much further than the Land Reform Bill currently proposed by the Scottish Government.

The research suggests support for land reform and community ownership is higher than expected with little opposition and could be an "easy win" for the new First Minister, John Swinney, and his government. 

The poll found that almost three quarters of people agreed the Scottish Government should compel landowners to keep wealth and income in the local community and to meet climate and biodiversity targets.

READ MORE: Scottish land tax could raise £450 million a year, report finds

It also found that two-thirds of people polled believed the Scottish Government should introduce a total limit on the amount of land one person or business can own in Scotland.

Dr Josh Doble, policy manager for Community Land Scotland, says there is “very clear support” for tighter restrictions on who can buy land in Scotland as the current legislation is the most unequal in Europe.

He said: “These results show that being more ambitious on land reform would be an easy win for First Minister Swinney.

“There is very clear, very strong support for communities to have more control over land use decisions and for there to be much tighter restrictions on who can buy Scotland’s land.

The National: John Swinney with the Seals of Scotland as he is sworn in as First Minister (Andrew Milligan/PA)John Swinney being sworn in as the new First Minister of Scotland

“Scotland has the most unequal land ownership in Europe, and land ownership is being concentrated further by investment groups and big business dominating the land markets to invest in commercial forestry and speculative carbon markets.

“This is artificially inflating the price of land beyond the reach of ordinary people and communities.

“This research demonstrates an opportunity for ambitious and progressive political leadership to ensure the current Land Reform Bill goes further and delivers the widespread and transformational land reform that Scotland has needed for generations.”

The poll also showed that more than half of Scots agreed the Scottish Government should implement a land tax on estates to help with land reform and community buyouts.

The Scottish Government’s Land Reform Bill was introduced to parliament in March 2024 and proposed a range of changes to how land is owned and managed in rural and island communities.

The Bill was introduced amid campaigns for stricter legislation as currently, Scotland has some of the loosest land purchasing rules in Europe.

Max Wiszniewski, campaign manager for the REVIVE coalition, says Scotland can’t continue to be a playground for those who act against the interests of local communities.

READ MORE: Scottish land market showing signs of investment slowdown

He said: “As it stands, the Land Reform Bill can achieve some useful things when it comes to giving local people more of a say in land management – which this polling shows people support – but it’s clear the Scottish people back measures that will accelerate Scotland’s land reform journey faster and more effectively than is being currently offered.

“Scotland can’t continue to be a playground for the benefit of a few people who want to shoot animals for sport, to manage it intensively, or to act against the interests of local people.

“Taking meaningful action like introducing land taxes, capping the amount of land ownership, and compelling landowners to meet climate and biodiversity targets, will clearly be met with widespread public support and surprisingly little opposition.

“John Swinney will also be aware of the immense support within his own party for real land reform and so we hope the new Government will show some real ambition on this.”

Half of Scotland’s land is privately owned by 0.008% of the population – which is 433 people.

Mhairi McFarlane, research manager for Diffley Partnership, said local communities want to be a part of the decision-making of the land around them and it shouldn’t be the decision of the few.

She said: “Our research shows that four in five Scots (79%) want more of a say in what happens to local land and that three quarters (73%) support the idea that landowners should be forced to keep wealth and income in the local community.

“This serves as a reminder that, when it comes to issues of land ownership, most people want to be at the centre of decision-making in their area.

“Moreover, the full breadth of Scotland must be considered in any proposed reform given that three-quarters of Scots (75%) believe land reform should cover all of Scotland, not just rural areas.”