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The executive is to produce a booklet of information sources on land ownership in Scotland, as recommended in the r...
The executive is to produce a booklet of information sources on land ownership in Scotland, as recommended in the research report Ownership of Land Holdings in Rural Scotland which is published today.

The report follows a study into the nature of demand for information about the ownership of rural land holdings and how best to meet that demand. The booklet will be aimed at community groups and other users to signpost the many existing sources of information and how they can be easily accessed.

Deputy first minister Jim Wallace said:

'The executive is committed to modernising the law on land ownership and has conducted a thorough consultation for the forthcoming Land Reform Bill which has attracted many strong views.

'In this Bill, which we hope to publish later this month, we will set out our proposals for responsible access, community right to buy and crofting community right to buy. The research published today shows that there is already a lot of information available about who owns land in Scotland, but it's held in a variety of places.

'The booklet we will produce will pull together those sources and provide a one-stop shop so that those searching for information will be able to find out where it is likely to be held and obtain it quickly and accurately.'

The research was commissioned from Environmental Resource Management (ERM) as one of the recommendations from the Land Reform Policy Group, set up in 1999, which as part of its work looked at the information available on land ownership.

Key findings of the research are:

there already exists a considerable number of sources providing information on rural land holdings, as well as a range of organisations who collect or hold land ownership data

the main authoritative providers are the non-map based Register of Sasines and the map-based Land Register of Scotland

users tend to range from the very regular users looking for specific information on land (for example conveyancing solicitors) to groups or individuals with an occasional need to know about land ownership

raising awareness of existing information provision would be more useful than developing a new system however a number of respondents saw the benefit of a new database of land holdings

the study found no clear rationale for the demand for information on beneficial ownership, with some respondents justifying it purely on a public right to know basis. Problems generally related to lack of point of contact for management of the land rather than lack of information on beneficial ownership

The research identifies four main user groups for information about land and clarifies what each group is looking for:

Solicitors and other professionals regularly require detailed legally authoritative information and are generally able to obtain it from the registers

Public utilities sometimes require information about small areas of land for things such as roads and pipelines. This can be difficult to obtain from existing sources because of boundary ambiguities

Community groups occasionally require information about land to which they wish to gain access or about whose management they are concerned. They find most difficulty in accessing existing sources of information.

Academics may require information for research purposes but are adept at finding it from the existing sources.

The report considers that in the longer term, completion of the Land Register which will involve detailed maps showing legal boundaries will provide the best source of information.

Mr Wallace said: 'All counties will be transferred to the Land Register by 2003. I agree that the completion of the Land Register provides the best solution in the longer term.'

The Land Register of Scotland has been established over the years since 1979 by entering new property transactions, but will take many years to achieve wide coverage in rural areas because of the slow rate at which property changes hands.

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