15 organisations have joined together to urge the Scottish Government to ensure that Scotland's land plays a central role in driving a Wellbeing Economy, enabling communities to thrive.
This spring, the Land Reform Bill is due to be introduced to the Scottish Parliament. Ahead of this, a group of organisations have joined together to write an open letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Neil Gray, and Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands, Mairi Gougeon, expressing their concerns and calling for bold action.
Currently, the proposed Bill will only cover estates over 3,000 hectares - the equivalent of approximately 30,000 olympic swimming pools or the entire island of Eigg. This definition will only cover a handful of estates and fails to address the scale and concentration of monopoly land ownership as identified by the Scottish Land Commission.
The letter, led by the Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland (WEAll Scotland) and Community Land Scotland, calls for urgent reform of the way we own, use and manage our land in Scotland. A wide range of organisations from across Scotland have supported the call for more radical land reform including: the Community Woodlands Association, Scottish Rural Action, Social Enterprise Scotland and Community Energy Scotland.
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. 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." The letter proposes that Scotland's land is managed in a way that prioritises Wellbeing Economy principles:
Dignity: affordable land is available for providing housing, growing healthy food, and providing materials needed to meet basic needs of all people in Scotland.
Nature: our land is home to nature with its diverse habitats and ecosystems that can support our collective wellbeing.
Fairness: the ownership of land and the wealth created from it are distributed fairly.
Purpose: the laws and institutions that govern land are designed to ensure that land is used to serve the common good.
Participation: decisions on how land in Scotland is used are made with meaningful participation of those affected by the decisions, especially those living on the land.
Dr Josh Doble, Policy Manager at Community Land Scotland, said: "Scotland has a huge opportunity in 2024 to deliver meaningful land reform which builds upon the proud tradition of community land ownership in Scotland. 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."
Bunse continues: "The upcoming Land Reform Bill presents us with an important opportunity to deliver on key government policy goals such as tackling poverty, delivering a just transition to net zero and building community wealth. In its current form, the Bill is not ambitious enough to make Scottish land a key driver of establishing a Wellbeing Economy in Scotland. We invite both Cabinet Secretaries to work with us to ensure that this Bill delivers all it can for the people of Scotland."
Download the letter to the Cabinet Secretaries along with list of signatories below.
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