Section 45 — Procedure following receipt of notice under section 44

Land Reform (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:45 am on 23rd January 2003.

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Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

We have considered further the effects of the assignation provision included in the stage 2 amendment 214, which should have been accompanied by amendment 215, providing a workable mechanism for assignation to take place. However, the Justice 2 Committee voted against amendment 215, which is almost identical to Roseanna Cunningham's amendment 204, and that made amendment 214 ineffective. Executive amendment 142 is therefore provided to resolve the anomaly by removing the assignation provision. However, that is not the only reason for our lodging it.

At stage 2, Stewart Stevenson used as a reason for lodging amendments 214 and 215 the example that the amendments would allow a process by which two bodies in adjacent areas with a common interest could merge and assign to a successor body the right to buy. He also confirmed that assignation under amendment 214 would require the body to which the land was being assigned to be a community body—the body would be required to be a community body as defined in part 2 of the bill.

In the first case, the two bodies could simply merge and act as one body without requiring assignation. In the second case, the community body would need to have gone through the necessary preceding steps, such as setting up a limited company and registration. The same effect can be achieved by the new body's registering an interest before the existing body revokes its registration. For assignation to take place in that way, we have the scenario of there being two bodies at the right-to-buy stage, a situation that is already accommodated in section 51.

In simple terms, amendment 204 provides the supporting mechanisms for assignation to work. Given that we believe that assignation is unnecessary, it follows that we believe that amendment 204 is unnecessary.

I move amendment 142.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

On the contrary, assignation ought to be permissible. Amendment 204 would allow the assignation of the right to buy land by one community body to another community body at the time when the right to buy was triggered. The amendment envisages a situation where a community body registers an interest in a larger area of land and, when the right to buy is triggered, assigns its right to a community body dealing with a smaller area of land. I point out that Highland Council supports amendment 204.

The process of setting up a community body and registering an interest in land is cumbersome. The community body has to reregister its interest in each landholding by the same cumbersome procedure every five years, as we have just confirmed. Changes in land ownership in rural Scotland, in particular in the Highlands, are often piggybacked on an existing body, which is often a statutory body. For example, a local authority or a community council might wish to establish and oversee a community body for its entire area or a large part of it. When the right to buy is triggered, it may not be appropriate for a community body that covers a large area to pursue the purchase—the body may wish to assign the right to a more specific community body that covers a smaller, more defined area.

Amendment 204 complements previous amendments to allow community councils to act as community bodies. We are trying to widen the scope, not narrow it. Those previous amendments were not agreed to, but amendment 204 is still important.

At stage 2, Allan Wilson said, with regard to assignation, that he could not

"think of circumstances in which two community bodies would be close enough to each other to have a registered interest in the same piece of land."—[Official Report, Justice 2 Committee, 30 October 2002; c 2016.]

However, two community groups were involved in a bid to purchase Glencoe—Ballachulish and Glencoe community council and Friends of Glencoe. The Strathcona Glencoe estate was finally bought by a third party, which has established another community body—the Glencoe Heritage Trust Ltd. Assignation of any registered interest from one community body to another might conceivably have been useful in that situation. That is a concrete example of the kind of thing that can happen.

At stage 2, the Justice 2 Committee passed one of the necessary amendments on assignation of the right to buy, but did not pass the other. The minister is now seeking, through amendment 142, to remove the amendment that was passed. As a result, we will oppose amendment 142 and press amendment 204.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

It occurs to me that there is a strange juxtaposition on this issue, as far as the SNP is concerned. The SNP has scathing views on landowners, as evidenced by amendment 213, and is cautious about the transfer of shares, yet with amendment 204 it has no hesitation in advancing the view that communities that are seeking to purchase land should be able to assign that right. The argument is inconsistent.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Does the member recall that Roman jurist of 2,000 years ago, Cicero, who said that the greatest power of the law is power to the people?

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

Mr Stevenson should not bandy Latin statements with me. The fact is that there is no justification for any assignation rights. For once, the minister has got that right with amendment 142, which we shall support.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

I always knew that my Latin O-level would come in useful at some point in my life—quod erat demonstrandum.

Roseanna Cunningham's amendment 204 would have some merit if we had passed the provisions relating to community councils but, as she admitted, we did not. In the Glencoe example to which she referred, the two bodies could simply have merged and acted as one body without requiring assignation. In that instance, the same effect could have been achieved by the merged body registering its interest in the land prior to the revocation by the initial body of its interest. There is no requirement for assignation. I ask members to support amendment 142 and to reject amendment 204.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 12:00 pm, 23rd January 2003

The question is, that amendment 142 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 32

For: 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, 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, 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, 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, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan, Young, John
Against: Adam, Brian, Campbell, Colin, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Ewing, Fergus, Gallie, Phil, 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, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Mr Gil, Sheridan, Tommy, Stevenson, Stewart, Ullrich, Kay, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra, Wilson, Andrew

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The result of the division is: For 76, Against 29, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 142 agreed to.

Amendment 204 not moved.