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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 August, 2003, 18:29 GMT 19:29 UK
New move over land reform
North Harris
The proposals have been welcomed
Plans to extend the community right to buy scheme have been announced by Scotland's first minister.

Only communities with less than 3,000 people can attempt to purchase their land under the present laws.

However, Jack McConnell is proposing to increase this to include communities of up to 10,000 in rural areas.

Landowners said they were "surprised" by the move, which has been welcomed by the Scottish Green Party.

Mr McConnell made the announcement on a visit to the Highland community of Assynt, where crofters bought their land 10 years ago.

The Scottish Executive will consult on the proposal to increase the population limit for a community's right to buy from 3,000 to 10,000.

'An inspiration'

If that was approved, nearly all of the Highlands and Islands outside Inverness could qualify for the right to buy their land as it comes on the market.

Mr McConnell said that what had happened in Assynt a decade ago was "an inspiration".

"Extending the range of communities which can apply is the right thing to do," he said.

We are somewhat surprised at the inclusion of much larger settlements in this process
John Don
Scottish Landowners' Federation
"It makes the whole policy more flexible and gives people the responsibility and opportunity to take control of their own area."

The proposals could be incorporated into the community right to buy, which is due to come into force in early next year.

Part of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act, this would give residents first refusal on buying land.

Green MSP Mark Ruskell, the party's environment and rural development spokesman, welcomed the announcement.

"Encouraging community control of land and buildings is a first step to rebuilding the social fabric that has rotted away in our rural and urban communities over the past 50 years," he said.

Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell made the announcement
"The executive can and should go a lot further, extending the concept of a community's right to buy to urban areas of higher populations."

John Don, convener of the Scottish Landowners' Federation, said it was important that the legislation was made to work.

"We are somewhat surprised at the inclusion of much larger settlements in this process," he said.

"Land reform was originally about providing opportunities for those who live on, work on, or depend upon the land.

"We will have to ensure that this principle has not been left and that the process as defined will best serve those whose lives do indeed revolve around the land in question."


SEE ALSO:
Disunity hits community bid
22 Jul 03  |  Scotland
Land reform bill wins support
23 Jan 03  |  Scotland
From Assynt to assent
23 Jan 03  |  Scotland
Highland estates buy-out hope
09 Jul 03  |  Scotland


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