16 July 1999

Scots reforms in White Paper

GIVING Scottish communities the right to purchase land when it comes up for sale is one of the suggestions included in the Scottish Executives Land Reform White Paper.

Land Reform: Proposals for Legislation sets out plans for both community ownership and the creation of a public right of access across the whole of Scotland.

It proposes setting up a register of land for which there is a community interest, and giving community groups the right to buy ground, as and when it comes up for sale, at a price set by a government appointed valuer.

And it outlines plans to open up access to the public, giving walkers a statutory right to both open and enclosed land, so long as "they exercise this right responsibly".

The proposals would mean that owners of land included on the register would need to give notice of their intention to sell their land.

Community groups that wanted to buy would then have six months to raise the money. The government would pay compensation to the seller to cover costs incurred because of the delays involved.

The paper will form the basis of a draft Bill which go to parliament in the autumn.

The Scottish Crofters Association (SCU) has welcomed the paper describing the proposed measures as "timely and fair".

John MacKintosh, SCU president, said: "Now people will have the opportunity to know when a proprietor plans to sell or otherwise dispose of land, and most significantly, they will be able to express an interest in the community ownership of that land."

But he added that, in the current economic climate, it would be difficult for crofters to take up the opportunity to buy land.