The Scottish Government's Land Reform (Scotland) Bill passed its final stage in the Scottish Parliament yesterday.
MSPs voted 102-14 in favour of the bill, with only the Conservatives opposing, principally on the argument that the agricultural tenancy provisions would restrict rather than increase the amount of land available to rent for farmiing – a point contested by landowners and tenant farmers.
Other parts of the complex bill create a Scottish Land Commission to review law and policy in relation to land use; provide for a public register of those with a controlling interest in land, to increase the transparency around land ownership; extend community rights to buy land and buildings; provide for the management of deer; end rating relief for sporting estates; and make provision in relation to common good land.
The bill falls short of the expectations of campaigners who wanted to restrict the amount of land that can be owned by one individual, and to prohibit ownership by companies based in foreign tax havens.
However Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead, winding up the debate, stated: "The bill is not the end point of Scotland’s land reform journey, but it is a vital part of a wider programme of reform across urban and rural Scotland. We cannot roll back hundreds of years of history overnight, nor can we change history, but we are introducing a range of important measures that will allow us to continue on the journey to a more equal and fairer society."