The Land Settlement (Scotland) Act 1919 was an attempt to address specific concerns 100 years ago. The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill, which the Parliament passed last week, is a further step in this Government’s journey towards a more equal and socially just Scotland for the 21st century. The provisions in the bill, including a new right to buy and the establishment of a Scottish land commission, build on our wider programme of land reform and plans for future action in the next session of Parliament.
Although we will consider all suggestions, we think that our continuing work in the area is the best way to ensure that those who wish to acquire land in Scotland have a range of opportunities to do so.
I certainly recognise the value of the land reform legislation that we passed last week. Most of the Parliament united to support the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill, and even those of us who wished at times that it could have gone further agreed that it was the right direction of travel.
In moving the motion on the bill at stage 3, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment said:
“The bill is not the end point of Scotland’s land reform journey”.—[Official Report, 16 March 2015; c 219.]
We still have hugely concentrated patterns of land ownership in Scotland, and that needs to change. Does the First Minister agree that a modernised land settlement act would be a natural next step in Scotland’s land reform journey? Does she agree that such legislation could unlock the power of our land and enable many more people to access land for productive use, for food, for homes, and for regeneration at a human scale, ensuring that Scotland’s land is put to the use of Scotland’s people—all our people—to serve the common good instead of the private interests of a tiny, entitled few?
If we are re-elected in a few weeks’ time, I will be happy to consider whether a reformed land settlement act fits into our wider plans for further land reform.
I agree with the sentiment of Patrick Harvie’s question. We have made huge strides forward in this parliamentary session, but, as the minister said last week, this is not the end of the journey. There is still work to be done on land reform and I hope that this Parliament, when it is re-elected, whatever its shape, form or balance after the elections in May, will take forward the journey with the same ambition and spirit that was shown in this session of the Parliament.
The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill have increased opportunities for communities across Scotland to own land. The planning review is being undertaken by an independent panel, which will make recommendations in due course, and we will respond to the panel’s recommendations when we have them. I assure members that land reform and community empowerment will be key drivers in any further planning reform that we undertake.
The Scottish Government will continue to do all that we can to encourage and support responsible and diverse land ownership. We have a target of 1 million acres in community ownership by 2020.
It is appropriate that Rob Gibson’s final question in this Parliament was on land reform, which is an issue that he has championed for decades. Our new Land Reform (Scotland) Bill is, in large part, testament to his campaigning. I thank him for his work and I think that he will be a great loss to this Parliament. [Applause.]
Will the First Minister promote community and co-operative forms of ownership as part of the land reform agenda in the next session of the Scottish Parliament? We have seen many community renewables projects across the country, and, with the opportunities in the new Land Reform (Scotland) Bill, let us see opportunities open up to our urban communities, too, so that there is democratic accountability and so that value and community benefit are shared across our communities through the co-operative model.
I thank Sarah Boyack for her assumption that I will be in this seat when we return after the election. I certainly appreciate her vote of confidence in this Government. I, of course, take nothing for granted. I will be campaigning hard over the next few weeks to earn the right to be back here governing our country. If we persuade the people of Scotland that that is the right way forward, then yes, I will be keen to see us take forward land reform based on the kind of principles that Sarah Boyack has just outlined. I hope that many members, old and new, across the chamber will join us on the next phase of that journey.