Examples of student work

Examples of student work

As part of their “Rural Policy in Practice” course, students write blogs about topical issues in land use and rural property management. This can include a range of policy and regulation on environmental issues, energy, transport, wildlife and game management, forestry and agriculture. Students are asked to write a sharp, discursive commentary on the issue, with a distinct, personal critique. They are required to include a range of material (including academic) to enhance their argument. In class, blogs are shared via an Edublogs website that also allows comments by students and tutors but these are not shared here.

Some blogs are published here as examples of students' work.


Who Will Pay the (Land Reform) Bill?

Picture of Cairngorms mountainsWho will be the real winners and losers of the Scottish Government’s latest land reform Bill proposed for late 2023?

The Bill will address the alleged issue of Scotland’s ‘highly concentrated pattern of land ownership’.

To achieve this, the Bill seeks to:

  • Introduce a ‘public interest test’ regarding transfer of large areas of land.
  • Ensure community bodies receive pre-emptive notice of any land sale.
  • Ensure land receiving land-based subsidies is recorded in the Land Register.


Scotland, the land of the free… 

The Scottish Government appears obsessed with contravening Article 1, Protocol 1 (A1P1) of the Human Rights Act 1998 relating to a person’s right to the peaceful possession of their possessions and property. This not a new obsession however, The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003’s introduction of the ‘right to roam’ may arguably affect both a landowners A1P1 rights, but also privacy rights. More recently, the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 makes provision for community bodies to compulsory purchase land where certain criteria are met. This has the hallmarks of a politically ‘justified’ land grab, a concept buried in the history of British colonialism which the Scottish Government wants to disassociate from. Ironic?

There is some, but limited, evidence that community ownership could alleviate housing issues, addressing the right to housing. However, the realistic scale of such projects is unlikely to impact the systemic housing crisis.

The proposed Bill appears no better than its rights-infringing predecessors; An attempt to slowly force the dismantlement of large private landholdings, carefully disguised in carefully worded proposals. What will be the boundaries of the ‘public interest’ test and who will decide? Will the independent judiciary be allowed to take the reins, and further clog up an already strained legal system, or will unquestionably biased Scottish Ministers relieve them of this strain?

Forcing landowners to inform community bodies of an intended sale is merely an add-on to the existing pre-emptive right to buy that community bodies have in certain circumstances. All these pre-emptive rights afforded to community bodies may eventually culminate into absolute rights to buy in a future bill, with a likely justification of combining legislation for administrative ease or increasing public understanding.


Ensuring that land receiving land-based subsidies is recorded on the land register will increase the transparency of public money spending at a time where public confidence in the allocation of public funds is low. Combined with the recently introduced ‘register of persons holding a controlled interest in land‘, the historic minefield of who actually owns land and what they gain from it may begin to clear.


It is clear who will pay

Despite positivity regarding the latter point, I foresee landowners unjustly having to ‘pay the bill’. Some local communities may benefit in specific circumstances, however many communities already thrive under current ownership structures and have done for generations. This seemingly tame bill appears as a covert operation to produce a springboard from which the Scottish Government can dive into the abolishment of private landownership, an age-old right and freedom.