For some reason, the YouTube recording begins a few minutes into my talk. As a lawyer, this makes me sweat just a little: my disclaimer has been redacted! Allow me to add a blogged disclaimer here, with a few more comments.
Why did I speak at this event?
I was invited to participate at relatively short-notice. By chance, I was in the area for a long weekend. This meant my usual “Can I justify the time and cost of an event in the Central Belt?” question was not such a big factor to contend with.
Should I have spoken at this event?
I mean, RIC are pretty clear in what they want – there is a slight clue in the name. Might I be judged by the company I keep?
I reassured myself that earlier in the year I travelled to the Central Belt to talk about land to the Scottish Land & Estates Spring Conference (as detailed in this post). This gives me the quick response that I am happy to speak about land to lots of people, whether they represent existing landowners and land-based businesses or otherwise.
There is also the small matter of me being on record as having voted Yes in the 2014 indyref on Scottish independence, not to mention I know and campaigned with some of the people who were involved with RIC Aberdeen in 2014. I have previous.
Lastly, I don’t think speaking to an event like this one is much of a problem anyway. Public engagement and education, and all that. I could go on, but I will stop there, lest I fall into the trap of someone who doth protest too much.
What did I speak about?
The title and correspondence before the event steered me towards thinking about the areas of Scotland that land reform has recently rolled into, namely urban Scotland. As I have noted before, land reform is not rural and it is not Highland, a point made in this post about Mary Barbour and Kilbarchan. (For those who watch the video, you will see I am wearing a T-shirt with a map of Scotland, which I used as a prop to explain where I grew up, and a few other Scottish locations.) The community right of first-refusal over assets was expanded from rural Scotland to the whole of Scotland in April, leading to the first reported application for a community interest in (urban) land in Portobello.
The other thing I volunteered to do was set the scene a little for later speakers, to explain what land reform measures are in place at the moment.
How was it?
I enjoyed the other presentations. I particularly enjoyed hearing in detail what is happening with the proposed community acquisition at Wanlockhead, and how the Living Rent Campaign approached what is now the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016.
The panel discussion gave me the experience of finding myself somewhat to the right of the political spectrum in comparison with many people in the room, which contrasted with the audience at the aforementioned Scottish Land & Estates event: at that event I was considering legitimate challenges to landowners’ rights in a modern legal system, whereas at the RIC event I found myself reminding people landowners have rights and sticking up for the rule of law.
You can judge how it went for yourself by watching the video.
Any other reflections?
There are parts of Scottish society that are interested to learn more about land reform. There are also parts of Scottish society that are interested in more land reform. Whether or not this is actually a land revolution is for others to decide, but it is clear that land policy and regulation will be an important subject in the current term of the Scottish Parliament and beyond.