The environmental implications of redistributive land reform

Combe, Malcolm M. (2016) The environmental implications of redistributive land reform. Environmental Law Review, 18 (2). pp. 104-125. ISSN 1461-4529 (

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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.


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