Scotland urgently needs a land information system for the climate crisis, says report 4

Scotland urgently needs a land information system for the climate crisis, says report

Scotland urgently needs a land and building information system as the climate crisis intensifies, with details of who owns land and areas at risk of flood, claims a new report.

Produced by the David Hume Institute and Built Environment Forum Scotland, the report argues that a new information system is “vital” to help protect the environment and should be easily accessible to businesses, policymakers, academics and the public.

A Scottish Land Information Service (ScotsLIS 3), would also hold information on how much land is worth, building types, energy efficiency ratings and vegetation cover.

All of the information exists in some form, but much of it is not easily available and virtually none of it is made available in an integrated form, the report says.

It was written by former Green MSP, Andy Wightman, a land campaigner who claimed that two past attempts to establish a land information service for Scotland did not transpire due to “a failure of political leadership”.

In reply, the Scottish Government said it is “fully committed to tackling the adverse effects of scale and concentration of land ownership” by continuing to “improve transparency”.

A new, fully functioning version of Scotland’s land information system could be in place by 2025 if there was the political will to make it happen.

Andy Wightman, land reform campaigner and former MSP.

The report — to be launched tomorrow — is called ScotLIS 3: a critical tool for Scotland. It says the lack of a fully functioning land and building information system is “holding Scotland back” and that ScotLIS 3 would be an “important element of land governance and vital to the efficiency of business and professions”.

Wightman told The Ferret: “A new, fully functioning version of Scotland’s land information system could be in place by 2025 if there was the political will to make it happen. In the past, lack of political leadership failed to establish the governance framework necessary to deliver the ambition for Scotland so the land and building information system remains a vital missing link. ”

Susan Murray, director of the David Hume Institute, said the report “shines a light on the potential of a land and building information system”, arguing that this is “essential infrastructure” to support the modern economy and transition to NetZero. 

“The David Hume Institute is delighted to have worked with BEFS, Andy Wightman and others like Professor Stewart Brymer to produce the paper. The groundwork has already been done, it just needs everyone to roll up their sleeves and make it happen for everyone’s benefit.”

Ailsa Macfarlane, director of Built Environment Forum, said that obtaining information about buildings can be extremely time consuming and that by bringing together information from different sources, it will be “quicker for everyone” to access details.

She added: “We need a concerted effort to ensure Scotland does not get left behind internationally as other countries are already benefiting from advances in data processing and mapping technologies. As the impacts of climate change intensify, there is even greater need for more timely, more comprehensive and more accessible information about land and buildings in Scotland. A fully functioning ScotLIS will support progress towards achieving  Scotland’s net zero goals by 2045.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said the Register of Persons Holding a Controlled Interest in Land was introduced on 1 April 2022, a public register which provides “key information” about those who make decisions about the management or use of land, “even if they are not necessarily registered as the owner, including overseas entities and trusts”.

The spokesperson claimed the government is on track to introduce a new Land Reform Bill by the end of this year, which would “ensure the public interest is considered on transfers of particularly large scale land holdings”. Ministers also aim to introduce a “pre-emption in favour of community buy-out” where the public interest test applies. 

“Our public consultation for the Bill closed at the end of October and received approximately 540 responses which can now be viewed online. We are currently analysing the responses and the full consultation analysis will be published in the spring,” the spokesperson said.

“The ongoing climate emergency means that more flooding in the future is likely and so it is vital that we continue to improve community resilience throughout Scotland.”

Photograph thanks to iStock and BlackSalmon

1 comment
  1. Scotland desperately needs to sort out the land reform issues, ownership, use, taxation and availability for a huge waiting list of allotment groups and individuals.
    Councils are not engaged fully in the importance of this for climate resilience and wellbeing.

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