Community Land Ownership

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 30th September 2021.

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Photo of Màiri McAllan Màiri McAllan Scottish National Party

Yes, I agree that human rights need to pertain to both the individual and the collective. They also have to be realisable, because people need not only to have those rights but to have them acted on. I agree with Rhoda Grant in that regard.

Private investment will be essential to our net zero ambitions and can play a positive role when it is done in a responsible way that has regard to the rights of communities.

It is encouraging that the motion for the debate notes

“the Scottish Government’s commitment to community wealth building”,

which, of course, is led by my colleague the Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth. We should all take a moment to note that the elevation of that issue to the ministerial level is a reflection of the Government’s commitment to it.

Community wealth building has its roots in the post-industrial cities of North America, but interest in it is growing rapidly in Scotland. That comprehensive, place-based economic development model focuses on five key pillars, one of which pertains to land and property, and that is of the greatest relevance to today’s discussion. My colleague Tom Arthur is working with five pilot areas and will take forward plans that have been developed by local authorities. In our recent programme for government, Mr Arthur committed to introducing a community wealth building bill.

Nature-based solutions are critical to meeting our net zero objectives. A just transition to net zero can provide real opportunities for rural and island communities, including green jobs in tree planting, peatland restoration and renewables, as well as in the means by which we tackle fuel poverty. We will need a blend of private and public investment to realise those benefits, because, frankly, the public sector cannot do that alone. We must seize those opportunities and mitigate the risks at the same time.

There is an immediate window of opportunity for taking action to ensure that increasing levels of natural capital value are harnessed in a way that benefits communities. I am pleased to say that the Scottish Land Commission, which I sponsor and which our last land reform act set up to advise the Government, is taking forward a package of work in that area as a matter of priority. That work will help us to find a pathway that balances the need for private sector investment—which has been discussed—with community rights and with the legal requirement for a just transition, to which the Government is committed.

Scotland’s continuing journey of land reform will take another substantial step forward during this parliamentary session. The upcoming land reform bill will help us to tackle some of the challenges that we have talked about in the debate. I am committed to full and widespread consultation on its proposals, which I hope will be developed in collaboration with members from across the Parliament.