This essay was largely inspired by the working papers of Andy Wightman, Robin Callander, Graham Boyd and James Perman. James Perman is a Chartered Accountant from Largs. Andy Wightman, Robin Callander and Graham Boyd are independent authors and researchers who work together on occasion through the Caledonia Center for Social Development. The Center undertakes research and collaborative policy development in a number of fields both in Scotland and overseas. It has a particularly active program on land issues and common property rights.
Scotland was an independent country for many centuries, but entered a political union with England in 1707. The Union still exists today and Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom. In 1999, however, Scotland regained a substantial measure of self-government through the establishment of a Scottish Parliament. The existence of the Parliament, with its ability to reform Scots law, has facilitated a new debate over longstanding and widespread concerns about the way land is owned and managed in Scotland. Two pieces of land reform legislation have already been passed by the new Parliament in 2000 and 2003. One of these land reform Acts dealt with the abolition of feudal land tenure in Scotland.
[...] It enables crafting communities to buy these common grazings from the current owner by right, without having to wait for the owner to decide to sell and at a price that reflects the existing grazing and related rights of the crofters over the land: The Land Reform (Scotland) Act, which became law in May 2003, granted crofting communities the absolute right to buy the land on which they live. And it's the crofters on the Galson estate who've made legal history by submitting the first application to the Scottish Executive to apply this controversial law. [...]
[...] “Sources of Land Ownership Information in Scotland,” Scottish National Rural Partnership, Scottish Executive Feb.2006
[...] It is estimated that about half the land area of Scotland had still been common land in 1500, nearly all of it commonties. As for burghs, they “were established in Scotland from the 12th century onwards by both the Crown and local barons. Most burghs and particularly those established by Crown charters, received extensive territories and wide privileges for the use and support of their inhabitants. [ . ] Few burghs common survive in Scotland today.” So, by the early 19th century, virtually all this common land in Scotland had been divided out into the private property of neighboring land owners. [...]
[...] III/ Community Land Ownership In the history of Scotland's common land, relatively few of the areas were unrestricted common in the sense of being open for anyone to use. Common land was normally only common to the local community in that locality. a new pattern of local community land has started to emerge in rural Scotland. This phenomenon can trace its roots back to earlier efforts by socially active groups and movements who also sought to find ways of owning and managing land for common benefits.” During the last 10-15 years, an increasing number of rural communities, mostly in the Highlands and Islands, have become directly involved in the ownership and management of land within their locality through purchasing, leasing or some form of management arrangement. [...]
[...] Moreover, Scotland still has the most concentrated pattern of large scale private land ownership of any country in the world. Consequently, there are many issues related to land ownership which continue to have adverse impacts on sustainable development in Scotland. Furthermore, the rights of the proprietors are really well defined and carefully protected. The protection of their interests by the landed establishment in Scotland denied Scotland the kinds of reforms enjoyed by its Western European neighbors (like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, etc) and which, as one consequence, led directly to the loss of nearly all of Scotland's common lands into the private estates of its major land owners. [...]
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