(48)  Land Reform

The Government’s Policy Group published its Recommendations for Action on 6 January 1999. The Group was set up in October 1997 to identify and assess proposals for land reform in rural Scotland. Amongst its recommendations were support for abolition of feudal tenure, the reform of leasehold casualties and real burdens (all work being carried out by the Scottish Law Commission – see No 50 above), as well as legislation (1) to allow time to assess the public interest when major properties change hands; (2) to give duly constituted community bodies a community right to buy land in areas of special importance in rural Scotland as and when it changes hands; (3) to give Scottish Ministers a new compulsory purchase power exercisable where it appears to them to be in the public interest; (4) a power for the Secretary of State to investigate the beneficial ownership of land where a clear need for such information exists in the public interest; and (5) creation of a publicly accessible but non-authoritative database on rural landholdings by disclosure of data held by relevant public bodies and public utilities. The Group also recommended that a right of responsible access to land for informal recreation and passage on enclosed as well as open and hill ground should be enshrined in law, possibly as part of the main land reform legislation outlined above. (7 January 1999)