Hamish Trench, CEO of the public body the Scottish Land Commission, urged people to respond to a public consultation led by the Scottish Government.

Sarah-Jane Laing, CEO of Scottish Land & Estates, which represents landowners and rural businesses, also encouraged people to make their views known. But she expressed concerns over political narrative surrounding the consultation, noting talk of new Highland Clearances by the SNP.

Scotland’s land reform minister Màiri McAllan said earlier that radical legislation to prevent such an outcome. “We risk international corporations and individuals buying up swathes of land for their benefit. That risks communities being left behind and would be tantamount to a second clearance,” she said in July.

Ms Laing said that significant work had been done on land reform areas such as transparency, and increased community engagement, and highlighted the key role that large scale landowners were performing in terms of addressing the climate and nature emergencies. 

Her organisation feels that a lack of certainty on future support for farming and land management, as well as interventionist policies on housing and potentially the land market, are detrimental to investment and long term planning.   “The land reform proposals increase uncertainty and could act as a real roadblock on our journey to net zero” she added.

Mr Trench said land reform is about changes to both land ownership and use, to ensure our system of land governance keeps pace with changing needs and expectations, particularly to achieve Net Zero. The SLC is a non-departmental public body tasked with finding ways to ensure rural and urban land is owned and used in ways that are sustainable, responsible and productive.

Investment in Scotland’s natural capital is a big opportunity but also carries risks, for land owners and for Scotland as a whole, said Mr. Trench, highlighting the leadership opportunity for all in the sector. How land is owned and used was central to the task and could contribute to a successful economy while supporting diverse communities.

There are long-standing concerns about concentrated land ownership in rural areas of Scotland and the monopoly of power this has created. Proposals in the consultation include a public interest test for the transfer of large holdings requiring owners to give prior notice to community bodies of any sale.

The talks prompted a lively debate among guests at the event in London, Are we on the road to Net Zero?, also sponsored by Turcan Connell and Saffery Champness.

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