Research on interventions to manage land markets and limit the concentration of land ownership

The Scottish Land Commission has just published a Report which it commissioned on interventions to manage land markets and limit the concentration of land ownership in places other than Scotland. It can be accessed here (PDF here). It draws insights from suitable comparators that should, we hope, be meaningful for Scotland.

I say “we hope” because I was lucky enough to be part of the team that won the tender from the Scottish Land Commission for this contract, working with researchers at the University of the Highlands and Islands and a colleague at the University of Aberdeen. (I trailed this in an earlier blog post.)

For fear of paraphrasing our work inexpertly, I will refer you directly to the (open access) report. That begins with an Executive Summary, for those pressed for time.

One thing I will add here though is another “thank you” for all the country experts who assisted with the Report, who helped to make this is as current as feasibly possible. Our helpers from all sorts of airts and pairts are listed in an Annex to the Report.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Land Commission has also launched a discussion paper (as part of its Land Lines series) on concentration of land ownership (available here, PDF here), with an accompanying blog post here. No doubt that will attract some interest and associated responses. Meanwhile, I am part of another workstream for the Scottish Land Commission which will be looking at the experience Scottish communities have had with existing rights to buy, and I am looking forward to pressing on with that project as well.

Back in 2003, the then MSP Alasdair Morrison noted the following in the Scottish Parliament, as the (first) Land Reform (Scotland) Bill was passed into law.

Tha latha an uachdarain seachad, agus an-diugh tha achd Pàrlamaid ùr againn: Achd Ath-leasachaidh an Fhearainn (Alba) 2003. Tha e crìochnaichte.

We can allow the occasional flourish from a politician, but chan eil e crìochnaichte fhàthast. More followed in 2016. And it seems there is more to come. Stay tuned for the next edition of land reform in Scotland.

SLC Report

The report should be cited as: Glass, J., Bryce, R., Combe, M., Hutchison, N. E., Price, M. F., Schulz, L. and Valero, D. 2018. Research on interventions to manage land markets and limit the concentration of land ownership elsewhere in the world. Scottish Land Commission, Commissioned Report No 001
Posted in Land Reform, Property, Scottish Land Commission | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Inheritance in Scots law, the interaction of prior rights on intestacy and legal rights, and legislative reform

DISCLAIMER: what follows is a technical blog post on an aspect of the Scots law of succession (inheritance). The law of succession comprises the body of rules that apply in any legal system that provides for the flow of property from the dead (who no longer have much use for property) to the living. Specifically, this post is about the law that applies in a situation of intestacy, where a late Scot has not made any plans for that flow of property post mortem; that is to say, where the deceased left no will or other testamentary writing.

In Scots law, the rules of intestacy allow (where relevant) certain people to make certain claims of a deceased person’s estate, those people being: a spouse or civil partner; a cohabitant; and/or a child (or children, or indeed any descendants of a child or children, who are able to “represent” a deceased parent). (For ease I will generally to children from now on, but note that the legalese of “issue” is sometimes used for offspring. I will also say “spouse” rather than “spouse/civil partner”.)

For better or for worse, these claims are called “legal rights”. As to how much relevant people can claim, I have noted below* how legal rights would be calculated where the deceased is survived by 1) a spouse 2) issue or 3) both. I am not going to explain the policy rationale behind legal rights here as this post is long enough (sorry) but I have blogged on this topic before. Legal rights are only payable from the moveable estate of the deceased (say a car, a bank account, a painting): no legal rights claims can be made in relation to land.

After any and all of these claims are satisfied, the remainder of the estate will then go to a relative (normally a child or children, if there are any). (Where there are no living, eligible relatives, the estate will go to the state.) The ranking here is determined by section 2 of the Succession (Scotland) Act 1964.

Legal rights are not the full story though. Where there is not a will, some other rights come into play. The Succession (Scotland) Act 1964 also deals with “prior rights on intestacy”, in addition to the legal rights which can be claimed from a deceased person’s moveable estate. When it was enacted, the 1964 Act was framed in a way that ensured that these legal rights of the spouse and any children fall to be calculated after the “prior rights” of the spouse partner have been satisfied. These prior rights give the spouse first dibs on 1) a dwelling house, 2) furniture, and 3) a sum of money, within financial limits set by legislation.

The fact that legal rights come after prior rights can be seen in section 10 “Abolition of terce and courtesy, and calculation of legal rights”. The relevant subsection provides as follows:

(2) The amount of any claim to [legal rights]** out of an estate shall be calculated by reference to so much of the net moveable estate as remains after the satisfaction of any claims thereon under the two last foregoing sections.

I will come back to the emphasised text.

Section 8 and section 9 deal with the “Prior rights of surviving spouse, on intestacy, in dwelling house and furniture” and the “Prior right of surviving spouse to financial provision on intestacy”. As originally enacted, prior rights were paid first, then legal rights calculations would follow. That is to say, they were “the two last foregoing sections” referred to in section 10.

The trouble is, there is now a section 9A. This was inserted by later legislation

The prior two sections to section 10 are section 9 and section 9A. As such, the emphasised text now sends you to one incorrect and one correct section, rather than the two correct sections.

Accordingly, on a literal reading, there seems to be no need to take account of section 8 when calculating the net moveable estate. That means up to £29,000 of (moveable) plenishings will not be excluded from the calculation in relation to legal rights, £29,000 being the current value of furniture and plenishings a spouse is entitled to. If this is to be the case, the legal rights calculation would be made using an over-inflated amount. Performing the calculation on that basis would then deplete the amount that would be left to any surviving family after the payment of legal rights. (Mathematically, this would seem to me to be to the surviving spouse’s benefit in many circumstances, as the remainder of the estate after dealing with legal rights – the “free estate” – would normally go to a relation or relations higher up the hierarchy established by the aforementioned section 2 rather than the spouse.)

I have spoken to a few (academic) lawyers about this. None have told me I am barking up a non-existent tree. It is fair to say we all agree the drafting is not up to best practice, for the very reason that it has been either obscured or defeated by the interposal of a new section 9A.

What would happen were someone to try to argue this point? (I wonder if someone already has?)

One argument would be that “prior rights” naturally come before everything else: the clue is in the name. Fair enough, but statutes should be clear in their substantive terms, and those terms do not mention the word “prior”. Further, a canon of statutory interpretation is that recourse to headings etc. is generally to be avoided, and “prior right” or “prior rights” only appear in the headings.

There might be other arguments***. Of these, there might be a strong appeal to common sense and to the clear legislative intention were this to ever come before a court.

Be that as it may, the legislation should be fixed. There is a recurring debate that the law of succession in Scotland requires some attention. Consider this another contribution to that debate.

*Where the deceased is survived by a spouse but not children, the spouse can claim 1/2 (50%) of the [net] moveable estate. Where the deceased is survived by issue (i.e. a child or children) but no spouse, the issue can claim 1/2. Where the deceased is survived by both a spouse and issue, they can claim 1/3 each. Legal rights cannot be claimed in relation to immoveable property (i.e. land).

** When it was passed, the 1964 Act originally referred to “jus relicti, jus relictae or legitim”. This was amended to “legal rights” to take account of the introduction of (same-sex) civil partnerships by the Civil Partnership Act 2004.

***One other argument that I discussed with an expert in succession law is that reference could be made to section 9(6)(a), where the definition of “net intestate estate” for the purposes of the financial provision element of prior rights is clarified as being post-distribution of s 8 rights. A subsequent section might logically follow a similar approach.

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An environmental court for Scotland?

This is a short (sign)post to this article in The National today, where I get a quote.

The proposal itself has been raised by Donald Cameron MSP of the Scottish Conservatives. Cameron is also an advocate who knows a thing or two about litigation – I dare say he has more experience of the cut and thrust of court processes than I do.

The Conservatives’ own story about it is here. (Strangely I can only find it on the West Lothian branch page, as opposed to the main page.)

My own quote in The National is short. Alas, an additional comment I made ended up on the cutting room floor. This is what I planned to say (in full, with the text that was lost emboldened and underlined).

Anything that improves access to justice in general, and access to environmental justice specifically, is to be encouraged and as such these are very interesting proposals. This is especially the case as the Scottish legal framework has occasionally been found wanting in terms of the Aarhus Convention*, which seeks to ensure that those hoping to challenge decisions that affect the natural environment can do so without being priced or otherwise locked out of doing so, although whether such a development actually needs to be tied to Brexit or could happen anyway is another discussion.

In terms of me actually offering something substantive on the story, it is a tad unfortunate that this text was lost. I think that remains my main question about all of this. What links this environmental court idea to Brexit? The example given of the litigation involving the John Muir Trust happened whilst the UK was in the EU. If something can or should be done in relation to this, why wait for Brexit? Sure, an event like Brexit is bound to make people take stock, but is it actually a necessary precondition on us taking action?

Feel free to comment below, or write to The National, or indeed write to your MSP with your thoughts on that.

*On Scotland’s compliance (or otherwise) with the Aarhus Convention, see this piece by Dr Ben Christman for the Human Rights Consortium Scotland. After writing that note, Ben joined the Access to Justice Committee of the Law Society of Scotland. I am also on that Committee. The views in this blog post and in The National should not be taken as the views of that Committee, although we may come to consider the topic at a future meeting.

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Access to land and access to justice: the Scottish University Land Unit

On 25 January 2018, with limited fanfare, the Development Trusts Association Scotland made a page on its website live.

You may not have heard of the Development Trusts Association Scotland (DTAS), and even if you have you may not have noticed the new page. Reading this blog post will remedy either issue.

The page in question, which can be found here, marks the launch of a new arrangement called the Scottish University Land Unit (SULU). Pippa Robertson (a qualified solicitor who works part-time with DTAS, you can find her details on the website) and I started discussions about a potential collaboration last year. It has now been brought to life after some toing and froing to try to work out a model that might work a) across all Scottish universities that have law students (and supervising staff) who are keen to bring their skill and enthusiasm to bear to help… b) Scottish communities seeking access to land who are unable to unlock or afford existing advice and assistance channels, in a manner that… c) works for DTAS (and its insurers) and… d) does not ostracise anyone else.

There are a few things to consider here. In a moment, this blog post will become less of an advert for the service, and more of nuanced analysis of why I think this initiative can be useful and should be welcomed by all players. For the moment though I will stay in publicity mode.

How will SULU work?

As with all “law clinic”-type initiatives (more on law clinics below), this arrangement can only work with willing and able law students. Accordingly, the first step is for students to register an interest, which they can do by emailing Pippa.

For the arrangement to have a purpose, the students will need something to do. And this is where the alignment with DTAS and its Community Ownership Support Service (COSS) comes to the fore. The plan is for communities to liaise with DTAS/COSS like they would be doing anyway, then for students to assist where DTAS/COSS advisers are looking for an explanation of what the law says. Queries will then be referred to SULU students for them to get their teeth into. Sure, some communities may be in a place (literally and metaphorically) where they can obtain legal advice. Others might not be, or might not be quite at the stage where tailored advice is needed. These are the communities SULU could be able to help. SULU can help by tackling suitable questions that are addressed to it (perhaps setting out incorporation options for communities at an early stage, outlining certain aspects of a land transaction, or offering views on specific queries about a site) with appropriate supervision and feed that back to DTAS/COSS, who will then take matters forward with the community. At this initial “pilot” phase, the supervision will be by me and the students will be in Aberdeen.

The process for this is detailed in a “Heads of Terms” document on the DTAS website, which is also available here (PDF).

In due course, we can analyse how best to get the message out there (will a web page and this blog post be enough, he wrote optimistically?) and whether the system and role allocation we have devised works. For the moment though, we are very much in the market-testing phase. This is one reason why we have restricted the pilot to (the city of) Aberdeen. If there really is a demand, I will call upon contacts in the Scottish University Law Clinic Network to roll it out across the Scottish law schools. (My uni contacts have already been warned to expect this.) I should stress, communities seeking assistance from DTAS/COSS do not need to be in the north east of Scotland, the Aberdeen pilot is more to allow the implementation team to gauge demand rather than artificially restrict land reform to the north east of Scotland.

Why is this happening, and should it be welcomed?

This is when I get more into the scholarship behind the initiative.

Clinical legal education (CLE) now plays a recognised and important part in education, scholarship and providing access to the legal system in many jurisdictions (consider Professor Jeff Giddings, Promoting Justice Through Clinical Legal Education (2013) and the dedicated UK journal the International Journal of Clinical Legal Education). Student law clinics form a recognisable part of the architecture of many law schools. (I will now proceed on the basis that SULU can be properly called a law clinic, by using the term “law clinic” to refer to any student pro bono publico (for the public good) scheme.)

Clicking the “law clinic” tag on my blog will take you to various blog posts by me on the topic, but in brief they seek to provide practical support to those who need that but cannot otherwise obtain it (owing to legal aid eligibility coupled with a lack of funds) using the skill and enthusiasm of law students. The support that is provided is broadly of two types: “just in case“; and “just in time“. This is nicely explained in this blog post by Pete Smith. “Just in time” advice is normally a distress purchase (by someone who can afford a lawyer) or a distress request (by someone who cannot). “Just in case” advice gives people useful information that they may need at some point in the future without any pressing time implications. SULU is more towards the “just in case” end of the spectrum, albeit communities may be subject to (and may benefit from) legal effects depending on what courses of action they take after receiving information from SULU.

That explains what law clinics are and what they do, but what are they for? This is a classic question, and at this point we often meet the [false] dichotomy of whether they are for social justice or student development. Are they to improve law students by making them a more polished processor of information, or are they to improve society by deploying students into the provision of access to justice? (If the latter, wait, why? Isn’t that the state’s job, rather than one for students? I’ll come back to this.) Hopefully law clinics can be for both. That is to say, they can find the sweet spot of improving both students and society, not to mention having a longer term benefit of inculcating notions of access to justice early in a legal career in a way that can be carried forward (which Professor Donald Nicolson has recognised the importance of: see “Calling, Character and Clinical Legal Education: A Cradle to Grave Approach to Inculcating a Love for Justice” (2013) 16 Legal Ethics 36).

Clinics might have a directed or formal educational focus or they might not (see my article “Selling intra-curricular clinical legal education” (2014) 48(3) The Law Teacher 281, also blogged here and open access version here). The debate around that is not relevant here, but I do note it could be possible to bring SULU into a formal educational framework once we know what sort of demand there is for it and perhaps assess students based on reflective diaries or a suitably anonymised portfolio of work. That is for another day.

Similarly, clinics may focus on specific aspects of the law or they might not. Either way, the underlying activity will have to be aimed at something. To what extent should clinicians seek to use their own research interests to direct pro bono and CLE activities? This is a question I have asked myself and I may yet write a paper on this, so watch this space, but it does seem relatively uncontroversial that an academic specialising in employment law or landlord and tenant law might, for example, feel more comfortable advising students in relation to those specialist topics.

And what of SULU’s focus? This needs to be set in context by detailing another (and non-pedagogical) strand of the author’s research, namely land reform. It also must be set in the context of Scotland’s ongoing land reform journey, which offers various rights to communities when interacting with land owned by public entities and private individuals (see, for example, my article, “The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016: another answer to the Scottish land question” 2016 Juridical Review 291, open access version here). Communities have a degree of support to access these rights, from agencies like DTAS and the Scottish Land Fund (with a current annual budget of £10 million), but there is a perception of a lack of support for some communities or local projects; this can be anecdotally confirmed by the enthusiastic reaction to the tweet sent by the author announcing the launch of the initiative. Don’t just take Twitter’s word for it though: this is what Dr Annie McKee and Professor Deb Roberts said on the matter in their 2016 report for the Scottish Government, “Good practice in overcoming barriers to community land-based activities” (at page 44, or paragraph 7.2 (vi)):

Whilst there is a need for the appropriate professionals to progress transactional/legal processes…, an opportunity is recognised for a specific support role between community bodies and lawyers in particular, which may be more economical.


SULU might be able to play a role here. Plus, this reassures me this whole initiative is not (just) about me foisting my research interests on a bunch of students, which addresses one concern I touched on earlier.

It also serves to introduce another point: is SULU going to annoy lawyers by taking instructions away from them? From the above it would seem not – these are instructions that are not happening at present, and SULU students will not be expected to (for example) report on a title to land, or determine the existence or scope of a servitude right of access, for which professional advice would be more appropriate. (These and other carve outs are detailed in the SULU Heads of Terms.)

Will SULU annoy anyone else? At a stretch, I suppose landowners might be worried about being on the receiving end of SULU advice, such as it is. To offset those worries, I would stress that SULU students will not be adopting a partial position or wholesale adopting the views of any community, they will only be detailing the law in a comprehensible way. Further, it might be be hoped that providing communities with realistic and pragmatic options early in the process will help to manage expectations and avoid certain conflicts with landowners.

What about another point alluded to above: if there is a need for community support, is it for students to take up the slack here? This is always a tricky one for pro bono fans to contend with: are we actually letting people who really should be funding proper legal advice and support off the hook?

I suppose, in this case, we must find out if there is some kind of a demand before making that criticism. The existence of SULU – if it is indeed needed – might drive future innovative approaches to support for communities. Other than bemoaning a few lost hours writing this blog post and associated behind the scenes work to get SULU up and running, I would be absolutely fine with any new initiative that renders SULU otiose. And if there is no drive to provide alternative support services, a semi-related thought is many Scottish law students who are studying law as a first degree will be having their fees paid by the Scottish Government anyway, so a little bit of slack uptaking could be absolutely fine. I won’t say any more about that particular political hot potato here though.

Anything else? Probably. But that is speculation on my part, and this blog post is already a bit of a data dump. I will try to wrap things up.


In a previous life, my Twitter bio described me as being interested in access to a) land and b) justice. SULU gives me a chance to combine these two interests, with an added sprinkling of legal education. But it’s not about me (he protested a bit too loudly). I sincerely hope SULU can play a small part in Scotland’s land reform journey and also the educational journey of the law students who volunteer. I am in uncharted territory though. As such, I will conclude by noting I would be delighted to hear from you if you have any suggestions for improvements. (Might it be possible to get students from other disciplines involved, for example?) I would also be pleased to hear from you if you have any ideas about how best to publicise this to communities and/or an outlet to do so: bloggers like me can live in an internet bubble, so I am open to suggestions as to how to get SULU out there.

Finally, yes. SULU is a bit Star Trek-y, I know. This is a pure coincidence. Live long, prosper, and use the force.

Thanks very much to Pippa and her colleagues at DTAS for getting this rolling. (Special mention to Linda Gillespie and Stephen Boyle, whose names I know because I also corresponded with them. There may be others I am missing and my apologies if so.)


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Evidence on Common Good Property and Funds

This is a mini blog [sign]post about a niche area of Scots property law.

Last year I offered a short blog post on “Common Good Property and Funds”, which the Local Government and Communities Committee of the Scottish Parliament was looking at. In that, I noted I was piggy-backing on the relevant submission of the Law Society of Scotland rather than making my own submission on the topic.

Towards the end of last year, I was asked to give oral evidence to the Local Government and Communities Committee on this topic. Grateful as I was to be asked, I felt it was best I leave this particular topic to others more experienced in this topic, and the record of evidence given by Craig Veitch (of Aberdeen City Council), Andrew Ferguson (of Fife Council and the Society of Local Authority Lawyers and Administrators in Scotland), Dr Lindsay Neil (former chair of Selkirk and district community council) and Paul Nevin (who appeared on behalf of Alasdair McEachan and has some experience through working at Moray Council) can be found here (PDF).

In the email inviting me to attend I was given the chance to offer some additional thoughts on the specific questions consulted on. This I duly did. My submission, along with the submission of others, is now indexed here and can be accessed here (PDF).

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Proposed Regulation of Privately-Operated Car Parks (Scotland) Bill

Murdo Fraser MSP has brought forward a “proposal for a Bill to regulate the provision of, and charging for, privately-operated car parking in Scotland” to Holyrood.

I have blogged and written about this topic before. As such, I offered a few thoughts on his consultation, by way of the electronic survey tool provided. That consultation offers a series of questions and I put the bulk of my response in my answer to question 1. This asked: Do you think legislation is needed to govern the operation of privately-operated car parks in Scotland?

Here is what I said to that.


Whilst aspects of the law relating to parking a vehicle on another person’s land have been clarified by recent case law and related commentary, it does seem fair to raise a question about whether certain “fines” (that is to say, payments in respect of breaches of contract that have been properly entered into on appropriately advertised terms) can reach levels that would seem high to most members of the public but either:

  1. do not quite meet the threshold to be characterised as a penalty (and accordingly such sums could not be challenged in court); or
  2. more importantly, are set at a level that could in fact be a penalty, but challenging such sums in court will not seem like an attractive proposition.

Situation 1) involves a judgement call about the specific situation being consulted on, and introducing a specific level for parking transgressions or perhaps introducing a cap in relation to prevent (repeat) penalties being ratcheted up over time. Whilst I recognise landowners and anyone appointed by owners to manage parking have interests that can and should be recognised, I welcome this opportunity to have a discussion about this. For my part, I make no firm recommendation as to what any level or cap might be and I recognise any figure might be viewed as arbitrary; others with industry involvement and users of such services will be able to make representations about specific figures better than I can. That being said, I would highlight the clear benefit of having *any* limit could play a role in preventing the sort of abuse that I describe in situation 2).

Moving to that situation 2) specifically, this could arise where the prospect, cost and time implications of litigation are such so as to make a fully informed recipient of such a fine not wish to litigate. Alternatively, situation 2) could arise where someone does not realise there might be a prospect of successful challenge, perhaps owing to the professional appearance of any demand or owing to a correspondent confidently asserting the enforceability of penalty charges on the basis of recent case law. A clear, publicised regime backed by statute could remove such concerns.

I have no statistical evidence about how often these situations arise, but I do note that this concern was raised in Which? magazine: Adam French, “Private parking fines fair says Supreme Court ruling: Decision could open door for more financial penalties” 4 November 2015.

For my part, I wrote about this in a recent article in the Journal of the Law Society of Scotland: ‘Fine to Park Here?’ (2017) 62(6) JLSS 26.


There were some other questions, which I duly responded to (such as about a role for “keeper liability” and on matters relating to signage and parking charge notices). I will link to my full response when it becomes publicly available.

The consultation is open until 2 March 2018.

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My 2017 in review

Another year, yet another reflective blog post.

2017 was definitely a year, in which stuff happened. A snap UK election. Brexit machinations. Tonnes to write about. Which I won’t do here. Rather, I will do my usual and crunch the stats on my blog to give a rundown of my most popular posts and reflect on what I have been up to.

I will also acknowledge that 2017 was (like 2016 and 2015) suitably boring for me in terms of oncology news. For this I am thankful. In fact, it has almost got to the stage where I don’t think I need to offer this almost traditional (non-) update. Then again, there are some people who still earnestly ask after my health, which I suppose is no particular surprise given I publicly blogged about a health scare approximately four years ago. As such, I don’t mind people asking me questions about this; in turn, I hope potential question askers do not mind me attempting to stave off some questions.

My health and my research leave combined to allow me to go on three overseas trips in 2017. This academic tourism took me to law schools in South Africa (mainly Stellenbosch, but also the University of Cape Town), the USA (Loyola University New Orleans) and Germany (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg). Thanks to all who assisted with those trips, including at those universities, my own University of Aberdeen, the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, and the various old and new friends who contributed along the way. I delivered presentations at all of these schools (the one in Halle was recorded, although the sound is dodgy towards the end) and made some great contacts. Two of those contacts then came across to Aberdeen to present on matters of interest to me and I hope others too: Stephan van der Merwe (a clinician at Stellenbosch Legal Aid Clinic) presented on the difference law clinics can make (Twitter thread here); and Richard Cramer (a PhD candidate at UCT) spoke about abandonment of land (Twitter thread here). When I visited Stellenbosch, Stephan was kind enough to show me round his clinic (as digested in this post) and discuss his work developing an academic course linked to pro bono law clinic-ing (and a forthcoming article on that topic). Richard has just published a paper in the South African Law Journal on abandonment of land in South African and Swiss law and I look forward to hearing more about his PhD research (which, as a by-product of my trip, is now going to take in Scots law). Richard and I also owe a thanks to Professor John Lovett from Loyola, who suggested that I contact UCT when I was in the area. Separately, I was delighted to also welcome John to Aberdeen. He gave a presentation on land reform from a property theory perspective (Twitter thread here).

As regards other output from those trips, for the moment I can refer you to this self-published blog post offering my Scottish views on South African land reform. Other output is in the pipeline. Otherwise, you will just need to take my word for it that it was interesting. (For example, I learned about a novel approach to blighted/abandoned land in New Orleans, and there might soon be a South African Land Commission, all of which might just feed into future writing.)

In terms of what academic stuff I was up to in 2017, I have cheated with this year’s reflective blog and published four individual posts on specific matters that I think merited standalone attention. I was also involved with my semi-traditional mixture of law/land reform/law clinic type events, including this event at the University of Aberdeen’s May Festival, the Agricultural Law Association’s conference (see this half-baked Twitter thread), and the Scottish University Law Clinic Network’s annual conference at Glasgow Caledonian University (archived Storify here). With my public engagement hat on, in addition to that May Festival event I also had cameos on BBC1 Scotland and Radio Scotland (speaking about land reform) and BBC Radio 4 (comparing access regimes in Scotland and England and Wales, after George Monbiot bemoaned the situation down south).

Publications-wise, I had an article in the Juridical Review on the regulation of short-term letting (see below) and shorter notes on land law matters such as: the legal implications of the indycamp; the rights of the (former) general partners of farming limited partnerships; private parking in Scotland; and access rights under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. In last year’s reflective blog post I noted that I had finalised two chapters in edited collections, but that neither was quite out yet. Alas, this remains true, but I have navigated peer review and editor comments and I hope they will be out soon. I will flag them on this blog as soon as they are.

For anyone who is interested in what else I am up to, in addition to the roles flagged in separate blog posts I have also taken up a directorship of Aberdeen Community Energy. Meanwhile, in a quest for balance I have stepped back from a few roles. I will soon demit office from the Stair Society after my five-year term on the board expires. Separately, my directorship with the company La Banda Europa has come to an end after just over five years. (Details of my most recent involvement with it, at this event in Glasgow, can be found here.) I wish all involved with those initiatives well.


*My* top five base drones of 2017 (excluding the blog’s churning home page) follow, but, eh, um…

“My” top post was not written by me. In fact, it was written by the excellent Lucy Reed. She provided a blog post aimed at law students or junior lawyers offering pro bono advice to people, on times when it might be appropriate to ask for help. I am delighted to let her steal my thunder as the author of the top ranking post.

In 2nd place, a post on Brexit and indyref2. This was written before the snap election was on the cards, and thus before the SNP tsunami had receded somewhat to leave them with 35 rather than 56 Westminster MPs and accordingly a rather more circumspect approach to whether there should be another Scottish independence referendum while the Brexit process is unfolding/unravelling [delete according to preference]. Much more could be written about this, but I will not do so here.

In 3rd place, a post about Gaelic I wish I had not had to write, but I was moved to after The Scotsman newspaper gave a platform to someone who (I will be charitable) was somewhat ignorant about the regulation of minority languages.

In 4th place, a post about souvenir plots and one particular vendor.

In a creditable 5th place, given it was only published in December, a post about using title conditions to regulate short-term letting of houses in residential areas.

Two older posts (relating to Scottish Gaelic and souvenir plots) ranked in my top 5 posts for traffic this year, but I have restricted this analysis to 2017 posts only.

Reference might also be made to this post which I published on the School of Law blog, being a popular post about access flashpoints at Elderslie and Kinrara. An honourable mention should also go to the blog posts there about wildlife crime and the law of evidence, which really got debate flowing. I posted something on this blog about the access implications of gathering evidence with a static camera, and my colleague Dr Phil Glover developed the wider debate into an academic note on the admissibility of covertly gathered video evidence in criminal proceedings.

What next?

I noted last year I was about to go on research leave and that I might try to mitigate my social media usage and blogging while on that. It’s fair to say my social media usage was not really mitigated, actually. My blogging had some fallow periods, but at some point I cleared 50,000 views on the blog. Maybe I am doing something right after all.

Thanks for reading. All the best for 2018.

This is the fifth and final of my reflective blog posts on 2017. The first was on my involvement with the Juridical Review (available here), the second related to some research projects to do with Scottish smallholdings and interventions in land markets (available here), the third related was about my external adviser role with the Deer Working Group (available here), and the fourth was about access to justice and my appointment to a Law Society of Scotland Committee on that topic (available here).


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