The introduction of the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament in June 2015 and the subsequent Parliamentary and public scrutiny of the Scottish Government's proposals generated a sustained and serious debate about the future of land reform in Scotland. The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill was developed and strengthened as it progressed through its Parliamentary stages, particularly in relation to the sections dealing with transparency of land ownership. This subject had attracted significant attention inside and outside Parliament and there was a consensus that more needed to be done to ensure greater transparency of who owns and controls Scotland's land. The Scottish Government brought forward amendments at Stage 3 of the Bill to give Scottish Ministers new powers to provide for the disclosure and publication of information about controlling interests in land owners and tenants across Scotland. The proposals were widely welcomed and the Scottish Parliament voted unanimously to support the amendments, which now form part of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 which received Royal Assent on 22 April 2016.
In introducing the amendments on transparency of ownership, Ministers undertook to issue a public consultation as part of the process of developing the necessary policy and practical arrangements to give effect to the will of Parliament in this area. This consultation is being published to seek public views on policy proposals for taking this work forward. The Scottish Government identified a number of issues that are being considered and need to be resolved in developing the regulations to deliver a register of controlling interests, these include:
- The definition of a "controlling interest" in relation to a controlling interest in a land owner or tenant;
- The scope of the regulations, the type of land they will apply to and the persons to whom the regulations will apply;
- Where the information about persons with controlling interests in land owners and tenants should be held;
- The information to be disclosed about persons with controlling interests in land owners and tenants;
- The duty to provide the information, and the associated sanctions and enforcement arrangements;
- The process for challenging the information that ultimately appears on the register, or any refusal to disclose information; and
- Any (limited) exemptions from disclosure that should be provided for under the regulations.
Each of these issues is covered within this consultation document and we would welcome your views on all or any of them and the questions we have posed to help us capture views. As this consultation is lengthy and technical in nature we have divided it into three separate workstreams of two chapters each.
- Workstream I provides full background and context for our proposals and transparency of land ownership issues by setting out an explanation of the information that is already available about land ownership in Scotland, and focuses on defining a controlling interest.
- Workstream II is concerned with the practical aspects of the regulations including the intended scope, where the information should be held, and what information should be publicly available.
- Workstream III seeks respondents' views on who should be required to provide information and in what circumstances, and whether, and to what extent, sanctions may be appropriate and proportionate in the case of non-compliance. It also includes questions as to the assessment of the impact of the proposals in relation to equality, business and regulation, privacy, and the environment.
Chapter 7 contains information on how to respond. Responses should be submitted by 5pm on 5 December 2016.
Email: Stephen Krzyzanowski, LandReform@gov.scot