The Environmental Implications of Redistributive Land Reform

Malcolm M. Combe

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Ownership of land is important for a number of reasons. One reason is the agenda setting role the landowner has in terms of its use, which in turn has an impact on the environment. Environmental law plays a role in regulating the use of land, as do other devices such as planning law and private law controls including the law of nuisance, but absent such regulation the decisions of the owner are crucial. Land reform, by which it is meant the process that is geared towards the reallocation of property rights, either: changes who is invested with that crucial decision-making power; or influences the decision making of an existing owner, who might act in a way to negate any policy argument for reallocation of ownership. Both of these reactions can impact on the environment. How well are those impacts understood, and to what extent do they feature in the law-making process or the application of land reform measures? This paper will use the contemporary Scottish scene, particularly its two land reform statutes of 2003 and 2016, to scrutinise where the environment sits in the land reform debate there, which in turn will provide an opportunity to assess the environmental impact of specific land reform measures and where the environment has featured in a specific land reform process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-125
Number of pages22
JournalEnvironmental Law Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

Thank you to the two anonymous referees who commented on this piece.

Conflict of interest
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


  • land reform
  • environment
  • redistribution
  • community
  • localism
  • right to buy
  • Scotland


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