Jura says “Yes!”

Last month I blogged about the proposed buyout of Jura’s general store. In that blog, I noted that this was #notlandreformnews. Why? You will recall the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 offers non-crofting communities in rural Scotland a right of first refusal for local land. That is all well and good, but a pre-emption right is a safety-net that is not needed when your bid is the only show in town.

That is the situation Jura residents found themselves in. That notwithstanding, they still danced the land reform dance and had a vote about taking over the shop, which they decided to do by 107 v 31 votes. I wish them well, but this remains #notlandreformnews. The story is trotted out as land reform, and it may be the Scottish Government or any potential funders wanted to be clear that there was definite assent, but it was not exactly radical land reform in action.

Meanwhile, the Land Reform Review Group will soon garner views on a visit to the Hebrides and Lochaber. I wonder what land reform stakeholders will tell them?


About basedrones

Bachelor of Laws. Scots lawyer working at the University of Aberdeen. English law qualified. Took far too long to write this bio. Blogs on legal issues, with occasional veering into other purportedly intellectual stuff from time to time. Tweets about legal issues, education, law clinics, fitba, music, rogue cell division and not at all about politics at @MalcolmCombe.
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4 Responses to Jura says “Yes!”

  1. It may not be “radical land reform in action” but I think it’s still worth advertising. What is the ultimate goal of land reform? Is it more important that some ten thousand acre estate of heather-clad ground has the previous owner’s name replaced with “Jura Community Council” on a deed languishing somewhere in an Edinburgh solicitor’s filing cabinet, or that the locals have preserved an important local asset? It’s not the sexy overturning-centuries-of-absentee-landlord-ownership land reform, but I’d wager the ability to pop down to Craighouse for a pint of milk rather than ferrying it over to Islay will have a bigger impact on the residents’ lives.

    • basedrones says:

      Thanks, Alastair. As I am sure you will appreciate, but for the avoidance of any doubt, I have no issue at all with communities being afforded the opportunity to take over key local assets. My issue is with lazy reporting of this as a Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 story. It is not. This could have happened before the legislation just as it can happen now. Over at my other blog, #notlandreformnews, you might see my point that wee stories like this might just distract attention away from the bigger policy questions. Sure, the ability to be a pint of milk easily is one thing, but can you really say unlocking some (not necessarily all) of the productivity of an estate would not have a transformative effect? It’s perhaps not as easy to conceptualise as the handy pint of milk point, but I would wager in turn that there could indeed be a big impact for residents with redistribution beyond taking over a local shop.

      • I don’t disagree that it is not strictly a Land Reform issue and I didn’t think you would be opposed to the shop takeover, but I would posit that focussing so intently on delineating what’s a Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 story and what’s not also risks losing sight of the bigger policy questions. Surely, the point of Land Reform is to halt (and / or reverse) the decline of rural communities (unless its just redistribution for its own sake). I’d say an event which will have a direct and appreciable effect on the Duirachs lives is just as worthy of reporting as some abstract (and unquantifiable) potential future event. I can’t imagine that people will somehow forget about the potential of land reform because other rural community issues are also getting coverage.

      • basedrones says:

        I suspect this might be one of our classic splitting hairs/we are both essentially right yet we might still be perceived as arguing moments. Yes, coverage in and of itself is fine. But, holding things out as land reform “successes” when they are actually just normal transactions that always have been possible arguably skews attention and/or encourages misunderstanding. That is what my concern is.

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