‘Radical’ land reforms in Scotland are nothing of the sort

Land reform stories are totting up in Scotland. I added one today, with a piece in The Conversation, an open access resource that describes itself as “an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public.”

My most recent land reform story tries to cover as many points as it is possible to in a manner that: a) keeps the reader engaged; and b) appeals to the Conversation’s UK-wide audience. In the editing process, I was told to imagine I was speaking to an intelligent person from Surrey: i.e. they might be interested in my topic, but I should not blind anyone with science, plus a few comparisons to the law of England and Wales would not go amiss. It was a very useful editing process (if a bit cathartic at times) and I am happy with the result.

When I started writing the piece, I listed a few of the tropes that are trotted out from time to time and sought to answer them. Some of that was culled in the editing process, some remained. One point that I made was the recurring argument that use, not ownership  is what is important. Right on cue, up popped a short story in today’s Press and Journal, “Land reform must be about management not physical ownership, says Scottish Tory”.

This triggers a few immediate responses. Option 1: “He would say that, wouldn’t he?” Option 2: “If it is not about ownership, why are you campaigning so hard to keep ownership?” Such responses are attractive (the second being deployed by the activist Alistair McIntosh in a recent episode of Scotland 2015 on BBC2), but they only get you so far. The piece in the Conversation tries to get beyond the simplistic responses and engage with some of the policy issues, but there is a lot more to be said here. Hopefully all of this will prompt a bit more conversation.

Lastly, a o’erlang word on the headline. A few titles were bounced back and forward, including one or two that made reference to the current proposals not actually being the storming of the Bastille or anything like that (hence the Singleton painting), before the editor settled on the title of this blog. One reservation I had with this was in a previous note in the Edinburgh Law Review I had called the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 “radical”. The current proposals go somewhat beyond that legislation, and hence I might be opening myself up to an allegation of hypocrisy. I have just about got myself comfortable with my apparent conversion, as the 2003 Act was definitely radical in property law terms given what it did to a landowner’s autonomy, even if Part 2 of that Act has not had a radical effect on distribution of land in Scotland. I can also make an argument about what exactly “radical” means or in what sense it was being used, but I am conscious I am tying myself in knots, and indeed I could have probably got away with this if I had not mentioned my previous (obscure?) Edinburgh Law Review piece. I have also spent far too long writing this paragraph, and no doubt wasted your time by making you read this. (Sorry.) All of this might give you a further insight into the writing and editing process, which I hope is useful to someone!

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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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