I shall be publishing a White Paper setting out our proposals for land reform legislation on community ownership and on access next week.
The proposed legislation on community ownership will give community bodies the right to buy the land where they live and/or work when it comes to be sold. The owner will have to give notice of the forthcoming sale, and there will be time for the community body to consider whether to go ahead with community purchase. The purchase price will be assessed by a Government-appointed Valuer. Before the purchase goes ahead, the community will be balloted to establish that the purchase has local support. The community body will then have time to come up with the necessary funding. Finally, there will be a new power of compulsory purchase in the public interest which is intended as a deterrent to evasion.
The proposed legislation on access will introduce a statutory right for the public to enter upon land or water, for recreation and passage, provided that they exercise this right responsibly. There will be some restrictions to respect privacy, and where access would either be dangerous or damaging for the land use. But the intention is that any such constraints will be the minimum necessary. Guidance on responsible behaviour will be set out in a new Scottish Countryside Access Code. New duties will be placed on public agencies to provide new facilities to encourage access; and to remove restrictions that discourage people from exercising the right of access responsibly. At least one local access forum will be created in each local authority area to review implementation in their areas, and deal with any disputes.
Our proposals have already received an enthusiastic reception. I believe that the details will be equally well received.