Category Archives: Land

Common Wealth advocates new ownership models for a more sustainable future economy

 

A new think-tank, Common Wealth, was launched this week. It is to focus on “transforming and democratising” the ownership of business, finance, data and digital technologies, the environment and land. It advocates new “ownership models” for a more sustainable future economy, involving the nationalisation of utility companies including water, power distribution and the Royal Mail, greater use of co-operatives and more public involvement in ownership models.

https://common-wealth.co.uk/about.html video

The home page of its website holds a number of interesting articles and one in Tribune describes Common Wealth’s mission in detail.

Mathew Lawrence, founder of Common Wealth (below right) is a former senior research fellow on the IPPR’s Commission on Economic Justice, which last year issued an influential report by figures from business, trade unions, academics and Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, calling for higher wages, greater government investment and workers on boards.

Forthcoming publications by Common Wealth include a report into inequalities in land ownership, a plan for reshaping ownership of digital infrastructure and a plan for democratising corporate ownership. Mr Lawrence said the question of who owned and controlled the wealth of society was a fundamental question in 2019.

“Just as nationalisation underpinned the postwar consensus and privatisation drove Thatcherism, new pluralistic and democratic models of ownership will be vital to moving beyond neoliberalism,” he said.

Jim Pickard in the Financial Times writes that the organisation hopes ‘to provide the intellectual framework for a UK version of the “Green New Deal” backed in the US by leftwing Democrats, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’.

That would be reinventing the wheel: Common Wealth and Mr Pickard are directed to the site of Britain’s well-established Green New Deal Group which has core members of different political persuasions.

 

 

 

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Land: Scots legislate for the common good

scotland

In marked contrast to the Highland clearances in the 18th and 19th centuries, which followed enclosure of agricultural land in England, last March the Scottish parliament passed sweeping land reform legislation intended to increase transparency, boost community ownership, end a twenty-year-old exemption from business rates granted to shooting and deerstalking estates and strengthen the rights of tenant farmers. The bill was passed by a majority of 102 to 14.

Regulation and implementation guidelines will be decided after parliamentary elections in May. Lawyers warn that more clarity is needed on provisions that give community groups the right to purchase privately held land if the government agrees that doing so will promote “sustainable development”.

A strengthening of the rights of tenant farmers, including the creation of a new form of limited duration lease, has been one of the law’s contested elements. Tenants will be able to assign or bequeath their leases to a wider range of people, a change that will encourage transfers to a new generation of farmers.

Some hope for further advances, addressing the over-concentrated pattern of ownership, where it is estimated that 432 owners account for 50% of the nation’s privately held land. A list of the top 20 Scots and foreign landowners was placed on the Highland Clearances website – now shut down. Another list has been found in the Sunday Post. 

However, landowners have warned that the changes could be subject to expensive legal challenge, citing the experience of a previous round of Scottish land reform pushed by Scottish Labour. In 2013 the Supreme Court ruled that the 2003 law strengthening the position of tenant farmers violated a landowner’s right to protection of his property under the European Convention on Human Rights.

comm-land-scotOn 16 March 2016, following a final debate, the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill was passed but will not become an Act of the Scottish Parliament until it can be submitted for Royal Assent by the Presiding Officer. This means that the bill could receive the Royal Assent in mid-April, at the earliest. 

The law aims to increase transparency of land ownership and control through a public register and was described as a major step towards a fairer and more open model of land ownership by Megan MacInnes – Community Land Scotland.