Vacant and Derelict Land and Buildings

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 21 February 2024.

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Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

4. To ask the Scottish Government what role the Scottish Land Commission will play in tackling the legacy of vacant and derelict land, including in relation to examining the issue of empty and derelict buildings within an urban setting. (S6O-03089)

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

The Scottish Land Commission convened the national task force on vacant and derelict land, which reported its findings and recommendations in 2020. Action on those recommendations is being progressed by many organisations. The Scottish Land Commission has published a range of analysis, guidance and advice. As set out in its 2023-25 programme of work, the SLC is currently reviewing progress against the recommendations in order to maintain that momentum and to understand where continued focus is required. Through its good practice programme, the SLC continues to provide advice and signposting to support action on vacant and derelict land.

Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

T he cabinet secretary will be acutely aware of the long-standing problem that we have of vacant and derelict land and buildings that blight the appearance of our countryside, cities, towns and villages. Such land and buildings are mostly owned by absentee private owners who, by their inaction, have shown that they could not care less about the impact that that has on our local communities.

Does the cabinet secretary agree that more needs to be done to tackle the problem? Does she also agree that councils need more than their rarely-used amenity powers, which are not effective in dealing with such important issues?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

The member raises a really important issue. I am sure that we can all empathise, as we see similar situations in our constituencies.

As the member outlined, planning authorities have the power to serve amenity notices, to require land and property owners to clean up land that, due to its state, is having a detrimental impact on the amenity of the area, and to require landowners to carry out work or repairs to improve their property where its appearance is having a negative impact on the street scene.

Local authorities also have direct action powers to make the necessary improvements themselves and then bill the owner for the work, but I know that there has been difficulty recouping some such costs in the past. Through the most recent planning act, we are introducing new powers to allow authorities to place charging orders on properties, to ensure that they at least get those costs back at some point.

Furthermore, we are about to launch a public consultation to explore the options and opportunities for improving the resources that are available to our planning authorities, to strengthen their capacity to take on that work.

Photo of Rhoda Grant Rhoda Grant Labour

If urban communities are not included in the promised land reform bill, they will have to wait a decade for change and they will continue to be held to ransom by the dead hand of land bankers. Will the minister be bold, deal with those vested interests and empower rural and urban communities in the bill?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

I am sure that the member appreciates that I cannot set out today the exact measures that will be introduced in the bill. However, I hark back to some of the really important measures that we consulted on, and highlight that the proposals and the recommendations that we put forward for consultation were based on recommendations from the Scottish Land Commission on some of the key issues that need to be addressed.

As I highlighted in my response to a previous question, this Government has a strong track record when it comes to land reform. We are committed to going further, which is why we are introducing the land reform bill. I look forward to doing that.