Land reform – significant reform, county-wide

As part of our platinum anniversary blog series, Adèle Nicol, Partner, Anderson Strathern and member of our Rural Affairs Sub-committee looks at how legislation introducing the right to roam and the right to buy brought about significant change.

Like the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1949, the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 brought in significant change with a country-wide impact. When enacted, the 2003 Act was split into three substantive parts.

The first, and most successful, part introduced statutory access rights over large parts of Scotland ('the right to roam'). This reform is generally working well, despite initial misgivings from some landowners. Although it has given rise to a steady stream of litigation, the overall size of that stream is relatively small when considered against the numbers of people who are exercising the statutory access rights. Access-takers and landowners are generally acting responsibly, in accordance with their obligations under the legislation.

One potential area of concern is paid guiding. Part 1 permits the taking of access by a person who is carrying out guiding for payment, effectively using some-one else’s property to make a profit.

Part 3 – the Crofting Community Right to Buy – has only formally been used once, in the Pairc Crofters case. But this is a deceptive statistic. The availability of the right to buy impacts on the nature of, and the balance of power in, negotiations between crofter and landowner.

The much-anticipated Part 2 brought in a general Community Right to Buy. This has certainly been used – there have been a number of high- and low-profile purchases – but when one compares the number of community rights to buy which have been registered as against the number of completed purchases the result is less impressive. However, perhaps its legacy is yet to be fully realised. The Part 2 Community Right to Buy has been, to a greater or lesser extent, the model for a number of other rights to buy, and so its ultimate influence is more than the sum of the times it has led to a purchase.

It will be interesting to see what the next 70 years bring.

If you would like to contribute a blog on the biggest change or the most significant piece of legislation you have seen during your career or your prediction for the future, please email your 300 word blog in a Word document to


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Deborah Dillon is Lead Auditor, Business & Platform Solution for Atos UK&I. She specialises in Information Governance, including the application and implementation of Data Protection processes and procedures across a wide range of organisational areas. Deborah is a member of our Privacy Committee.

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