Residential property
30 Oct 2017 News

Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement

  • Future direction of land reform set out

  • A balance to be struck between public and private interests

  • Human rights based approach to be followed

Not particularly eye catching, not likely to make great headlines but the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement published by the Scottish Government on 28th September shouldn’t be underestimated. In many ways it’s a fundamental plank in the overall Land Reform process.

Why?

  • because it is in effect a compass which sets a direction of travel for future Land Reform decisions
  • because it provides a stated base line against which Scottish Government will address the balance between the public and the private interest in future decisions affecting private property rights

According to Roseanna Cunningham MSP Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform the Statement “will help shape the thinking on land issues in Scotland over the coming years” and goes on to refer to “properly balancing public and private interests”.

The Statement is wide ranging. It applies to all urban and rural land, buildings and other infrastructure in Scotland, and is stated to be equally relevant to all the people and communities of Scotland, whether land owner, land manager, tenant or land user.

In essence the Statement comprises a vision and six principles built around a “human rights based approach”.

What does this mean?

The vision looks to “a Scotland with a strong and dynamic relationship between its land and people, where all land contributes to a modern and successful country, and where rights and responsibilities in relation to land are fully recognised and fulfilled”.

The Statement includes six “principles”, these are:

  1. The overall framework of land rights, responsibilities and public policies should promote, fulfil and respect relevant human rights in relation to land, contribute to public interest and wellbeing, and balance public and private interests. The framework should support sustainable economic development, protect and enhance the environment, help achieve social justice and build a fairer society.

  2. There should be a more diverse pattern of land ownership and tenure, with more opportunities for citizens to own, lease and have access to land.

  3. More local communities should have the opportunity to own, lease or use buildings and land which can contribute to their community’s wellbeing and future development.

  4. The holders of land rights should exercise these rights in ways that take account of their responsibilities to meet high standards of land ownership, management and use. Acting as the stewards of Scotland’s land resource for future generations they contribute to sustainable growth and a modern, successful country.

  5. There should be improved transparency of information about the ownership, use and management of land, and this should be publicly available, clear and contain relevant detail.

  6. There should be greater collaboration and community engagement in decisions about land.

The human rights based approach seeks to recognise that land use and ownership contribute to the fulfilment of many human rights.  Most readers will have heard of the European Convention on Human Rights, but how many have heard of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights?  The point of course is that the right to enjoy private property, for example, has to be exercised in a way which is compatible with other human rights, such as the right to health, which the Scottish Government consider that land use can result in a “high quality environment”, which will impact directly on individual’s physical and mental health. 

At one level the Statement is a woolly collection of aspirational statements.  At another level it’s an enshrined backdrop for the policies of the future.  What isn’t in doubt is that this represents a clear indication of the drivers and motivations behind the Land Reform movement and is a clear statement of the Scottish Government’s intent, although we shall have to wait and see how future legislation is shaped by the Statement.

The full Statement can be found at http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0052/00525166.pdf 

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