Disappointment at Ministerís Reply

21 December 2009

Peter Peacock MSP has expressed disappointment at the reply from Rural Affairs Minister, Richard Lochhead in which he appeared lukewarm on any early changes to the Land Reform Act
that would make future land purchases easier.

Peter Peacock asked the Minister whether he shared his view that it was time to examine the practical workings of the Land Reform Act and make whatever changes are necessary to encourage and ease future community land purchases.

Peter Peacock said, "I was disappointed that the Minister stressed the need for the Act to have more time to bed in and that there was no evidence of wholesale failure of the Act.

While there may not be wholesale failure in the workings of the Act there is certainly plenty of practical experience of where the Act is not working as envisaged and where there are practical obstacles.

"The recent conference in Harris highlighted some of these, and the people who have been trying to use the Act's provisions have very practical experience of where things could be improved.

"The Minister seemed unaware of this.

"The previous administration championed land reform and brought the historic Land Reform Bill before Parliament recognise that it is such an important potential vehicle to support more changes in land ownership that we should move quickly to improve the Act to ensure no further loss of momentum.

"It was our Act, but we are not precious about recognising that there may be changes needed to make it work better.

"That is a feature of just about all legislation, where practical effects or unintended consequences only become apparent in the period following its practical application.

"The reason I raised the question was to signal that we would support a review and give the opportunity for the government to signal they knew there were issues and they would work quickly to address any concerns.

" I will continue to encourage the Scottish government to move on this and take the concerns that have been expressed seriously.

"While his response to my question was disappointing, I will put it down to being badly briefed and seek a discussion with his colleague Roseanna Cunningham and encourage her to work with others to look at the issues.

"Any necessary revisions to the Act in the light of practical experience, together with the restored Land Fund we have called for would go a very long way to getting back the momentum in land reform that seems to have been lost in the last couple of years."



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