Section 41 — Duration and renewal of registration

Land Reform (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:30 am on 23rd January 2003.

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Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

At present, registration of an interest in land has effect for five years and thereafter lapses if the community does not reapply to register its interests by the same procedure as obtained for the original application. Amendment 203 would simplify the procedure by which reregistration may be made.

Where a community body has registered an interest in land, that interest must be renewed every five years. Given that much land in rural Scotland rarely comes up for sale, it will frequently be necessary for a community body to reregister a number of times.

It is in the nature of rural communities that community bodies will be fragile entities that are dependent on the hard work of perhaps one or two individuals for their continuing operation. If just one or two people die, take on other commitments, move on or lose enthusiasm, that could cause the community body to cease effective operation. If that happens, the community interest could be allowed to lapse after five years. The reregistration process should therefore be made as simple as possible in order to relieve the burden of administration on volunteers.

In the bill as it stands now, a community body will have to complete and submit a full application form every five years, including a full specification of the land on which it is registering an interest. It will also have to advertise in local newspapers if the landowner cannot be found, respond to comments made to it and carry out a further test of community opinion. That is very onerous for a community body and could deter the necessary renewal of the registration from taking place.

A stage 2 amendment sought to simplify registration procedure by requiring reregistration by ministers if they received notification that circumstances had not materially changed. The amendment was rejected on the ground that the community body must show serious intent in seeking to purchase the land.

Amendment 203 seeks at least to lighten the load, in the following ways. First, the community body would not be required to specify the land to which its interest related when that had already been specified in a previous application for registration of an interest. Secondly, the community would not be required to advertise for an owner who could not be found the first time the community interest had been registered, unless ministers had received a representation that the owner could be found.

Thirdly, if ministers were satisfied at the first application that members of the community had sufficient connection with the land, they would not need to have that confirmed every five years, unless they had received an indication that members of the community did not have sufficient connection with the land. Finally, if ministers were satisfied at the first application that there was sufficient support in the community for registration of an interest, they would not need to have that confirmed every five years, unless they had received an indication that there was not sufficient support for registration of an interest.

The amendment seeks to reduce the continual and cyclical burden that the bill would place on community bodies, which will consist almost entirely of volunteers. It seeks to simplify the procedure for reregistration, to make things easier and, in the longer term, perhaps, to ensure that the land-ownership pattern that we are trying to shift through the bill is in fact shifted.

I move amendment 203.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative 11:45 am, 23rd January 2003

We are not attracted by amendment 203, but at the same time we do not wish to do anything that would add to the administrative burden on volunteers who are active in their community.

There is a great inconsistency in the argument that Roseanna Cunningham set out. She defined some community bodies as fragile entities and correctly noted that there are frequent changes in the personnel, attitudes and enthusiasm of such bodies. If, as Roseanna Cunningham wishes—and as we wish—many of the organisations are successful, enthusiasm and commitment must be present. I made the same point in respect of a previous SNP amendment.

Bearing in mind the frequent changes that may arise in bodies, as Roseanna Cunningham described, we do not think that it is unreasonable that the reregistration process should be amended—

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

I do not know whether Mr Aitken intends to say that he supports the amendment, but I urge him to recollect that the Conservative party is allegedly opposed to bureaucracy and red tape. Surely amendment 203 is seeking to reduce that.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

I prefaced my remarks by stating clearly that we do not want to add to the administrative burden on voluntary organisations. However, we cannot support the amendment—for the reasons that Roseanna Cunningham articulated. Inevitably, the nature of community bodies changes frequently. There is a turnover of personnel in such organisations and some of the new personnel will have different views from those of the people who supported the project originally.

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

The requirement that there should be support for registration of an interest is not intended to add to bureaucracy. I was taken by George Lyon's remarks about the serious need for people to indicate the nature of their interest. He provided a practical example of the importance of doing so—that of Gigha.

Roseanna Cunningham alluded to the fact that various people may have moved on in various ways. If a community buyout is to be successful, it is important that a deep level of interest in that option should be demonstrable at the point when it becomes available. The danger of amendment 203 is that its supporters assume that they are removing a burden but fail to take cognisance of the fact that, in such an important process, it is proper every five years to ensure that there is absolute support for a buyout from the community that has registered an interest. I invite members to reject the amendment.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I have listened with interest to members' comments. We do not object to reregistration, which is essential for the reasons that we have outlined. However, are we saying that every five years community bodies must reinvent the wheel? That will be costly and time consuming. The process will act as a disincentive to reregistration. Instead, we should try to ensure that, once the original, detailed, costly work has been done, the work involved in reregistration is minimised. We are not saying that reregistration is unnecessary.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The question is, that amendment 203 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 30

For: Adam, Brian, Campbell, Colin, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Ewing, Fergus, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Grahame, Christine, Hamilton, Mr Duncan, Harper, Robin, Hyslop, Fiona, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, MacDonald, Ms Margo, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McGugan, Irene, McLeod, Fiona, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Mr Gil, Sheridan, Tommy, Stevenson, Stewart, Ullrich, Kay, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra, Wilson, Andrew
Against: Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Craigie, Cathie, Davidson, Mr David, Deacon, Susan, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Fergusson, Alex, Finnie, Ross, Fitzpatrick, Brian, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Gorrie, Donald, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Harding, Mr Keith, Henry, Hugh, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Johnstone, Alex, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, MacKay, Angus, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McIntosh, Mrs Lyndsay, McLeish, Henry, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Mundell, David, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, John, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan, Young, John

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The result of the division is: For 27, Against 78, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 203 disagreed to.

Amendment 141 moved—[Ross Finnie].

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The question is, that amendment 141 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 31

For: Adam, Brian, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Campbell, Colin, Canavan, Dennis, Craigie, Cathie, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ewing, Fergus, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Fitzpatrick, Brian, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Gorrie, Donald, Grahame, Christine, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Hamilton, Mr Duncan, Henry, Hugh, Hughes, Janis, Hyslop, Fiona, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lochhead, Richard, Lyon, George, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Macdonald, Lewis, MacDonald, Ms Margo, MacKay, Angus, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McGugan, Irene, McLeish, Henry, McLeod, Fiona, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morgan, Alasdair, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Neil, Alex, Oldfather, Irene, Paterson, Mr Gil, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scott, Tavish, Sheridan, Tommy, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stevenson, Stewart, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Ullrich, Kay, Watson, Mike, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan, Wilson, Andrew
Against: Aitken, Bill, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Fergusson, Alex, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Harding, Mr Keith, Johnstone, Alex, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McIntosh, Mrs Lyndsay, Monteith, Mr Brian, Mundell, David, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, John, Young, John

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The result of the division is: For 89, Against 15, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 141 agreed to.