How the new register of controlling interests in land in Scotland will work is the subject of a detailed new consultation by ministers.

Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Land Reform, yesterday launched what is described as a “lengthy and technical” document intended to flesh out the provisions in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 enabling the new register.

Part 3 of the Act aims to ensure the publication of information about who controls landowners and tenants of land in Scotland, including those from outside the UK. It was driven by concern over the potential for legal entities, such as companies, and arrangements such as the creation of trusts, to be used to obscure the identity of persons with controlling interests in those who formally own or lease land.

Ministers are required to make regulations on numerous matters to detail which owners and tenants the Act applies to, and in what circumstances information must be provided.

Issues now to be clarified include:

  • the definition of a “controlling interest” in relation to a landowner or tenant;
  • the scope of the regulations, the type of land they will apply to and the persons to whom the regulations will apply;
  • where the information about persons with controlling interests in landowners and tenants should be held;
  • the information to be disclosed about persons with controlling interests in landowners and tenants;
  • the duty to provide the information, and the associated sanctions and enforcement arrangements;
  • the process for challenging the information that ultimately appears on the register, or any refusal to disclose information; and
  • any (limited) exemptions from disclosure that should be provided for under the regulations.

The 55-page paper is divided into three “workstreams”, covering the definition of a controlling interest, the scope of the regulations and where information should be held and made available, and duties and sanctions in relation to the provision of information.

Ms Cunningham commented: “This consultation continues our work to implement the Land Reform Act and is the next step in taking forward these regulations and will help us deal with policy, practical and legal dimensions in this complex and technical area. We want the register to result in greater transparency in relation to the individuals who control landowners and tenants in Scotland, but we also want to ensure that the requirements that we develop are proportionate and not unduly onerous on those who transact with land in Scotland.

“We also want to ensure that our proposals can apply to parties from outside the United Kingdom in order to deliver the transparency about controlling interests in landowners and tenants that the Scottish Government, and indeed the whole of the Scottish Parliament, wants to see.

“This consultation will help us to shape the regulations we take forward and I encourage all interested parties to get involved to ensure that one of Scotland’s most important natural assets is sustainably owned, used and developed in the best possible way.”

Click here to access the consultation. The deadline for responses is 5 December 2016.