Does anyone remember the time the SNP tried to beef up the community right to buy in the final throes of the (first) Land Reform (Scotland) Act?
To explain, Part 2 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 gave rural communities a right of first refusal over local assets, provided the community was properly incorporated and a registration process was followed.
When the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 was still a bill, some thought it should go further.
During Stage 3 of the legislative process at Holyrood, an amendment (amendment 214) was tabled to allow for a forced sale of land – i.e. a transfer that would not require a willing seller – if the land in question was subject to a registered community interest and that registered interest had not been converted into ownership within a 5 year period. That would have been the situation where: a) the landowner never marketed or otherwise sought to transfer the land; or b) the landowner marketed the land, but later decided not to go through with a sale.
This is what was said by the SNP MSP moving the amendment:
The effect of amendment 214 is to introduce a compulsory purchase power to the bill. If community bodies have an interest in land registered for at least five years and the right to buy has not arisen, they might hold a referendum under the terms of the bill and if successful, they might apply to the local authority to purchase the land in which they have registered an interest compulsorily on their behalf. That is what we want to happen.
That amendment did not make the final cut of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. (31 voted for, 81 voted against.)
This episode might have been lost to obscure Holyrood history, doomed to be of niche interest to people like me and other political geeks. One thing makes this particular amendment just a wee bit interesting.
It was moved by Roseanna Cunningham.
So there you go.
Post Scriptum. There are now rights on the statute books whereby communities do have certain rights to force a sale, as a result of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016, but those rights either require: a) the land in question to be neglected, abandoned or environmentally mismanaged; or b) the community to clear more stringent sustainable development related tests before the right can kick-in. Separately, the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 has been amended to widen the scope of the “pre-emptive” right to buy to urban as well as rural Scotland.