As a debate on further land reform gets underway, following the announcement of a land reform review group having been established,Community LandScotlandChairman, David Cameron, has released the text of a recent speech calling for a radical re-balancing toward community land rights, over private rights.
In a speech to a human rights audience he made clear,
“I want to see more community owners, many thousands more acres, indeed millions of acres, come under local community control.”
Setting out his reasoning he said,
“If one charts the history of land ownership in my part of the world – theHighlandsandIslands– is it just a co-incidence, or is it that the 200+ years of decline co-incided with the intensification of the private ownership of vast estates.
“Can it ultimately be socially just in looking toScotland’s future, that in 10, or 20, or 50 years, that we will still largely have the land ownership pattern we currently have, and have had for many generations?
“Should access to our natural resources and economic opportunity not be shared more widely, shouldn’t our land assets be more equitably managed and controlled, more of it owned by local communities and accountable to those communities?
“From my perspective one is inevitably drawn to the conclusion that there needs to be a further re-balancing of the rights of the individual and the rights of communities.
“It (land reform) is unfinished business thatScotlandneeds to address if we are to live in a more socially just and collectively prosperousScotland.”
In a direct reference to recent statements from private landed interests, he said,
“This is not about fighting battles of the past, land reform remains a cause of present and the future.
“For those who argue we should move on from such ideas, that somehow Scotland has done land reform, we did it in the Land Reform Act shortly after the new Scottish Parliament was formed and there is nothing more that should be done – they must be wrong. “
While pointing to some 500,000 acres of land now being in community control, principally within theHighlandsandIslands, he made clear it represents a very small fraction ofScotland’s land.
He said, “Despite the very welcome and exciting progress toward change that has been made by the new generation of community owners, it still remains modest by any standards.”
He pointed out the positive benefits that accrue from community ownership, saying,
“Through community land ownership I am witnessing the most remarkable change for the better. Communities held back, significantly because of past land ownership, have developed new confidence, are taking responsibility, and are providing the leadership and initiative to develop – surely more of this can only be good for the futureScotland.”
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