Land Reform Review Group Adviser Appointment

The Scottish Parliament held a debate on land reform on 5 June 2013. Although there have been occasions where Holyrood has blethered about land reform recently (the tenth anniversary of the Isle of Gigha’s community buyout being one such time), this was the first actual debate on the wide-ranging subject of land reform in approximately ten years. I watched it live. I can’t imagine why you might have missed it, but if you did you can find footage and a short report here and the Official Report here.

This debate was instigated by Claire Baker MSP, who in turn was moved into action by the recent output of the Land Reform Review Group (the LRRG) in the form of its Interim Report. I submitted a response to the LRRG’s Call for Evidence (the most complete collection of responses is still at Andy Wightman’s blog but see also the Analysis of Responses at the LRRG’s site, together with the Interim Report). I blogged on the Interim Report, at length, here.

At the debate, much was said about the perennial Scottish land question. I shall cut through that by quoting an extract of the Official Report, being the words of Paul Wheelhouse MSP:

[The Land Reform Review Group’s] vital work will require further resource, and I can announce today that I have agreed with the chair of the group that it can be expanded from its original three members to five. We have already appointed Ian Cooke, a director with Development Trusts Association Scotland, as vice-chair to ensure that there is expertise on the community sector, and I can also announce that we have appointed John Watt as the second vice-chair. As a recent director of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Mr Watt has a wealth of experience on state aid and public sector support for communities, and he is already an adviser to the group.

Two additional appointments will be announced in due course to complete the expanded group, but I should inform the Parliament that Richard Heggie and Malcolm Combe have been appointed as additional group advisers and will provide invaluable advice in the next phase. Those moves will ensure that the group is fully resourced to carry out phase 2 of its review, and the additional expertise available will allow it to come up with clear, informed and workable proposals in its final report.

So, the core group itself is expanding, with additional advisory appointments for yours truly and one other. It goes without saying that I am delighted to be able to try and put some of my research interests into action, much as I did (to a lesser extent) at The Gathering event in February.

What does the role mean? I suppose I will only be able to answer that in time and you will (I hope) forgive me for not regularly blogging or live-tweeting as that role develops.

Which leads on to another point. I suspect my land reform blogging will be a little more circumspect until the LRRG’s work is finished. “Hooray!” I hear the less sympathetic amongst you cry, at this limitation of my keyboard tapping on one of my more prolific output areas. So be it, but I trust you will understand why this is a largely inevitable development. My lack of outward blogging, to be replaced with commentary within the LRRG mechanism, may also resonate with the words attributed to Lyndon B Johnson about tents and toilet arrangements, but that might be ascribing importance to my urine that has not heretofore been apparent.

Either way, what I have written before on these pages (and indeed elsewhere) stands and I do not plan to take any of my previous posts down. It may be that at some point I need to revisit and revise positions, but that is the whole point of a debate, after all. Hopefully I will be able to contribute something to the debate in turn. One thing you can be pretty sure of is that I will report on the legal effects of the next “Land Reform (Scotland) Act”, whatever that may be called and whenever that may be passed. Until then, I suppose I had better get on with advising.

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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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10 Responses to Land Reform Review Group Adviser Appointment

  1. Graham says:

    That’s great news man, congratulations.

    Also, and for what it’s worth, your writing is getting better and better on here. Keep it up.

    • basedrones says:

      Thanks, Graham. I would also be interested in your thoughts as to how it is my writing is improving (i.e. what it is that I am doing better). That is the kind of thing that is terribly difficult to quantify, I know, but I would still like to hear what you think.

      • Graham says:

        Difficult is right, but I suppose I’ve seen a natural maturity come to your writing the more you’ve been doing it. It’s only right and proper that the more you do a thing, the better you get at it.

        With something like this – a public outpouring of your own thoughts – it’s less about any measurable use of grammar, punctuation, and vocab, and more a case that you’re continuing to find your voice and are more comfortable using it.

        I’m afraid I can’t be more specific than to advise what I did before – keep it up. It’s the only way you’ll continue your steady improvement.

  2. Ewan Kennedy says:

    I wish you the best of luck Malcolm. I was pretty fed up after the Gathering event and the disillusionment has only got worse.

    I had a look for this John Watt on the HIE website and he doesn’t seem to merit a mention.

    • basedrones says:

      Thanks, Ewan. We will see how things progress; perhaps I can pick your brain in a wee while to see if that disillusionment has been, or will be, purged.

  3. Ewan Kennedy says:

    Perhaps the problem was the extremely broad definition of the remit, which must have raised false expectations all over the place, but the group seems to have found itself in a difficult place following Jim Hunter’s departure and some ill-advised and much publicised attendances at certain events.

    However maybe there’s still an opportunity to do something and I’ll help if I can. I have some experience as a former solicitor (40 years) law lecturer (13 years) and RAC chair (18 years).

    Like many others I greatly admire Andy Wightman’s work and agree with many of his views. Some of his suggestions seem self-evidently sensible, e.g. increasing our knowledge of who owns Scotland others a wee bit aspirational e.g. changing the habits of many lifetimes in how land passes down among the landed gentry.

    You should be looking at measures that are relatively neutral politically, given that the SNP won’t do anything to rock the boat right now.

    An incredibly simple measure and starting point is what I mentioned at the Gathering – requiring all landowners to register a notice of ownership declaring the true beneficial owner of every piece of land under sanction of that land being subject to a periodic taxation charge. I would challenge anyone supporting our present system, which is unique in Europe, to justify it other than on tax avoidance grounds. In the last few days we have astonishingly seen David Cameron almost supporting this sort of idea, despite Samantha’s connections with Jura, see here:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/budget/9164113/Budget-2012-Camerons-island-bolthole-exposed-to-Osbornes-tax.html.

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