Levelling Glasgow

“It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; its the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time.” – David Allan Coe

(This blog post previously appeared in Common Weal’s weekly newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter here.)

In May 2019, Glasgow City Council declared a climate emergency. In November 2021, the city hosted COP26 and made a substantial effort in front of an international audience to show off its climate credentials. Over the next couple of years, it will be betraying all of that by continuing its long and apparently proud tradition of levelling and replacing every building it can get away with regardless of the financial, social or climate cost.


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Whose Land?

The land so much needed by men was tilled by these people, who were on the verge of starvation, so that the corn might be sold abroad and the owners of the land might buy themselves hats and canes, and carriages and bronzes, etc.” – Leo Tolstoy

(This blog post previously appeared in Common Weal’s weekly newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter here.)


If you read the Scottish press last week, you might have seen some headlines promoting the spectacular success of transfers of land to community ownership over the devolution era. The amount of land now in community ownership in Scotland has “skyrocketed” in the past twenty-odd years. If you heard the Scottish Government’s own statements on the news, you’d be forgiven in thinking that the last round of land reform in 2016 was a huge success.

If you read the actual report, your enthusiasm might be more muted. The actual rate at which hectares of land have transferred to community ownership in Scotland has completely flatlined since the last round of land reform legislation in 2016 with over 99% of all community owned land being transferred before that act came into effect.

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Land Reform Requires Democracy

“As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce.” – Adam Smith

(This blog post previously appeared in Common Weal’s weekly newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter here.)

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on a new Land Reform Bill. The consultation closes next week so while there’s still time for you to submit your own response there isn’t much and you should get it in as soon as possible. We’ll be publishing our own response next week. In brief, the Scottish Government’s proposals are that Scotland should better regulate large-scale landholdings by forcing them to comply with the already existing but voluntary Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement that recommends actions to better care for land. The proposals suggest that a breach of the statement could lead to fines or cutting off access to Scottish Government subsidies.

The proposals also suggest that large-scale landowners regularly submit a Land Management Plan laying out, amongst other things, how the owner(s) will use the land, how that land use will contribute to “Net Zero” and how they will engage with the local community on reaching the goals and objectives they lay out for the land.


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Our Land – Your Voice

“The people had to escape for their lives, some of them losing all their clothes except what they had on their backs. The people were told they could go where they liked, provided they did not encumber the land that was by rights their own. The people were driven away like dogs who deserved no better”. – Betsy Mackay (quoted by John Prebble in “The Highland Clearances”)

(This blog post previously appeared in Common Weal’s weekly newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter here.)

Last week, I took part in the Scottish Government’s virtual public meeting on their Land Reform for a Net Zero Scotland Consultation. This was the only virtual meeting of the series, with the remainder being held in various rural locations across Scotland. About 120 people were in attendance to hear Andrew Thin from the Scottish Land Commission, Janet Mountford-Smith, one of the Scottish Government civil servants charged with coordinating this consultation and the Land Reform Bill as well as Government Ministers Màiri McAllan and Lorna Slater whose remits lie within this Bill. After presentations by all four, the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions. Unfortunately, they chose not to record this virtual meeting though we were assured that the Scottish Government took notes throughout.

Our hosts said repeatedly throughout the evening that the Scottish Government was “entirely open” to suggestions on how to enact Land Reform – and repeatedly encouraged folk to respond to the Consultation – it’s clear that they’re not working from an entirely blank slate here. Several proposals are being made and some of them, we clearly must object to.


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