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Scotland’s Land Reform Futures


Land reform in Scotland has been driven by key periods of land access claims and dispossession, and discussions of the 'land question' remain sensitive. The Scottish Government has been pursuing land reform over the past 20 years to modernize property law, fiscal systems, and increase diversity of landownership types and scale, improve accountability and transparency, and rebalance rights of private landownership with responsibility.

Land reform in Scotland addresses the adverse effects of concentrated private landownership, promote a wider variety of landownership types with larger scale landholdings, enhance accountability and transparency in landownership, and restore balance between the rights of private landownership and corresponding responsibilities.

With the aim of becoming a net-zero society by 2045, there is a growing need for significant changes in land use and management practices, including woodland expansion and restoration of peatlands as carbon sinks. Consequently, there has been a recent increase in interest from companies and individuals seeking to purchase land in Scotland to benefit from its 'offsetting' potential.


  • What are the impacts of the various schemes designed to diversify land ownership?
  • What data is required to understand the impacts of land-based financial support on land reform, land values, diversification, and other relevant outcomes?
  • What are the drivers of changing public understanding and engagement with land reform?


This project supports Scottish Government policy development regarding community land ownership and engagement in land use decision-making, as well as increasing understanding of the role of land ownership and land reform in achieving net zero emissions and reversing biodiversity decline in Scotland.


Transparent land data for community empowerment

Increasing transparency of land is critical to the democratization of Scotland’s land assets. This activity seeks to develop new processes and capacity for accessing and engaging with the data required to maximise the potential of the Scottish land reform legislation. We aim to strengthen community-led land-based activities, supporting effective landownership diversification, and empowering communities in land use decision-making. It supports new understandings and indicators of community empowerment, and how access to and capacity to engage with landownership data can mobilise community land action. Furthermore, we monitor how land ownership is changing over time, to improve understanding of the impacts of community right-to-buy schemes and support for negotiated transfers of land. 

The outcomes of this work are supporting communities to maximise the benefits of the land reform legislation, which goes beyond facilitating more diversity of land ownership to empower communities to optimise their use of the land’s assets. Communities and existing owners will be able to more fully understand the types of value that land, and other assets, may produce, and more tightly align their business and land use objectives to match.


Land management outcomes from land reform

Scottish Government objectives for shifting land use to address the overlapping challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and sustainable food production, must be aligned with land governance objectives to succeed. We are assessing the connections between existing, novel, and potential land ownership/tenure models and land management outcomes, linking to other topics, such as food security, natural capital enhancement, agriculture, forestry, upland sustainability, and sustainable rural development.

This activity facilitates new understandings of how best to use existing land reform policies to achieve more equitable and effective land use changes, as well as identifying where future adjustments to land reform processes can better align with the Scottish Government’s land use vision. We consider the potential for progressive property rights; how property ownership may be enacted to provide social good in Scotland. These findings give insights as to how policy and societal levers can encourage and influence a progressive property rights approach to land management in Scotland. This is critical to the successful implementation of the Scottish Government’s Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement.


Scotland as a global leader in new land imaginaries

We are developing a transdisciplinary, deliberative, knowledge exchange process to determine a new ‘land imaginary’, that aligns with Scottish Government policy objectives. We also aim to build consensus and facilitate social learning between and within Scotland’s landownership and land use sector, and to integrate knowledge types to support future land reform policy development. This is being undertaken through the recruitment and facilitation of a stakeholder advisory group. This activity seeks to improve access to social and knowledge networks regarding land ownership and use in Scotland, as well as adhere to an open science approach, involving non-scientists throughout the research process.

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