Dave Thompson MSP

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Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Dave Thompson (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)

I have a quick follow-up point on that very interesting discussion. Later this morning we will consider the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill and the community right to buy. It strikes me that there is a possible conflict of interest, or at least a dichotomy, regarding secret sales and how they will impact on community empowerment and the community right to buy. If communities do not know that something is being sold, they will not be able to exercise their rights. Perhaps the minister needs to think through that connection a bit more.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Dave Thompson

Thank you, minister. I accept what you say—we will discuss the issue later, so I will not labour the point now—but it raises the question whether there should be a need to register in the first place. If there was no need to register, that would put a different complexion on the whole thing. However, I will raise that point later.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Dave Thompson

I want to pick up on two or three points. First, will the panel explain what the reasoning is behind the requirement to register in the first place? Would it not simplify things a great deal if communities did not have to register early and could just get involved when they became aware that land was available, which often happens quite late in the process? Why do we need a registration process at all?



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Dave Thompson

There is lots of land all over the place—hundreds and thousands of hectares of buildings and land—and communities will often think that a particular piece of land will never come on to the market because it has not done so for 500 years and there seems to be no likelihood of it coming on to the market in the next 500 years. There might be some obvious examples of a community being able to anticipate a bit of land or property coming on to the market, but there must be numerous situations in which communities would have no legal reason to believe that that would happen. Therefore, why would a community spend a great deal of time putting together a registration and planning what it would do with the land if, in 99 per cent of the cases, there is no real chance of that land coming on to the market?

You mentioned blocking. People could block with a pre-emptive registration just as easily as they could with a reactive, knee-jerk registration. That is not a strong argument. I want to tease out why we need early registration. Why not allow communities to register an interest once they see that land has come on to the market? That might spark in their minds the thought, “Oh my goodness, we never thought that that bit of land would be available but we could really do something with it now. Let’s get our application in.”



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Dave Thompson

That neatly moves us on. I hope that ministers and you will think about whether the bill could be simplified by taking out the need to register early but, if it is felt that there is good reason for it, it is needed and it should stay there, we can talk about that later on.

You mentioned the need for a community to show that it has done earlier work—that

“such relevant work as Ministers consider reasonable”

has been carried out—before it makes a late application. You propose to remove the good-reasons test, which is in the current legislation.

It strikes me that it might be awful onerous to show that you have carried out

“such relevant work as Ministers consider reasonable”.

How has the good-reasons test been used in the past, and why do you feel that we need to change things and move to what looks like a more onerous test that might prevent communities from being able to buy land?

12:00  

Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Dave Thompson

I do not know how the good-reasons test has been applied up to now, but surely one of those good reasons might be that the community just did not know and had no reason to expect that a particular property was going to come on the market. Having to show that you have actually done some work on something that you had never expected to happen will basically be impossible.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Dave Thompson

That would be helpful, but the general principle of the effect of such a move is important.

The section in question also refers to identifying the owner of the land in question. That, again, might be impossible in certain circumstances, because there could be all sorts of ways in which an owner might not be identifiable. It makes me wonder whether we need earlier registration at all, and it strikes me that, compared with, for example, the provisions that have been in place for some time now for crofting communities, things will be made more difficult for communities.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Dave Thompson

Finally on the issue of late applications, is the timescale for communities complying sufficient for them to be able to put together a coherent and reasonable bid for land if, up until then, they have done only the absolute minimum of the relevant work—whatever that means—that is required under the act?



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Dave Thompson

The Pairc decision is very interesting because the community was told initially that it was not complying with sustainable development requirements for the crofting right to buy, but eventually the minister said that it was doing so. There was a list of reasons why the minister agreed that that was the case, including that

“there was a credible sustainable plan ... new activities ... potential to diversify”

and

“power to negotiate”.

Following the Pairc case, therefore, there is a model of what constitutes sustainable development, which is a very good guide for us as we move forward.

Having mentioned the crofting right to buy, I want to pick up on the reasons why we need changes. With that right to buy, only two tests apply: it must further the achievement of sustainable development and it must be in the public interest. The bill states that another test is that the land must be

“wholly or mainly abandoned or neglected.”

Another test is added on as well. It has to be shown that,

“if the owner of the land were to remain as its owner, that ownership would be inconsistent with furthering the achievement of sustainable development in relation to the land.”

Therefore, not only must the land be “wholly or mainly abandoned”—and we have had all the discussion about that definition—communities have to show that the current owner would not improve the land. It strikes me that those additional tests, which do not apply to the crofting right to buy, are very onerous and might make it almost impossible for communities to buy.

My worry is that, if this bill goes through in its current form, it could affect the crofting right to buy. I am not a lawyer, but it would be reasonable for folk to say that, if in order to comply with the European convention on human rights we need to put in the bill two tests on top of those that are in the crofting right to buy legislation, maybe the crofting right to buy legislation is not sound in ECHR terms and those same tests need to be added to it. That is my worry if we go down this road. It seems to me to be way over the top.

Rachel Rayner mentioned the Pairc case. The Government won that case; it challenged the decision in court on the basis of the two simple tests that the purchase of the land must further the achievement of sustainable development and must be in the public interest. I fail to see why we have to make the hurdles so high and add in extra tests for the general community right to buy. I worry that, if we do that, it will be an acceptance that we did not really win the Pairc case and that we might need to revisit the crofting legislation. I have a number of concerns around that.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Dave Thompson

I am glad that we have that reassurance. However, will the panel comment on the ownership test, which it seems to me would be very difficult to apply in practice? Communities would have to prove that, if the owner of the land were to remain as its owner, that ownership would be inconsistent with the sustainable development of the land. How would they do that? It seems bizarre and almost unproveable.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
YesCarried

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

S4M-11567.2 Margaret Mitchell: Lowering the Drink Drive Limit—As an amendment to motion S4M-11567 in
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YesCarried

S4M-11507.1 Cameron Buchanan: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11507 Angela Constance: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—Th
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11494.3 Jackie Baillie: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11494.2 Alex Johnstone: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11494 Margaret Burgess: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—That the Parliament
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11484.1 Jackson Carlaw: Human Rights—As an amendment to motion S4M-11484 in the name of Roseanna
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Dave Thompson
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11004: Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 25/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10559: Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 08/07/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10123: Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10093: Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09259: Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09077: Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/02/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09012: Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/02/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09011: Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/02/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08836: Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 24/01/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-07209: Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, On Behalf of Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee, Date Lodged: 01/07/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Dave Thompson
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03665: Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 05/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03637: Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 27/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03591: Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03497: Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03433: Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/07/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03319: Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/05/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4F-02128: Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 26/05/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03161: Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 23/04/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-18780: Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/12/2013 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-16611: Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/08/2013 Show Full Question >>

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