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Compulsory Purchase Reform

​About Compulsory Purchase

Compulsory purchase powers enable certain organisations to acquire land and property without the consent of their owner. Clearly, taking an individual’s or a business’s property is a significant step which interferes with the rights of those affected. The use of compulsory purchase powers therefore requires careful consideration and clear justification to demonstrate that there is a strong enough case in the public interest.

But used properly, compulsory purchase can support the delivery of a wide range of projects – both large and small – that would not otherwise come forward. This can range from bringing empty properties back into use through to the delivery of major infrastructure and town centre redevelopment schemes.

In doing so, compulsory purchase can help promote social, economic and environmental transformation. That is why Scottish Government policy – set out in Circular 6/2011 – encourages a positive and proactive approach to the use of compulsory purchase.

The Scottish Government has prepared guidance for acquiring authorities (organisations with compulsory purchase powers) and claimants (owners and occupiers affected by a compulsory purchase). This can be found on our compulsory purchase homepage.

The Need for Reform

By helping to unlock projects in the public interest, the use of compulsory purchase can contribute to many of the Scottish Government’s wider plans, policies and strategies – such as the National Planning Framework 4, the National Transport Strategy and the Infrastructure Investment Plan. It can thereby help contribute to our National Outcomes. If it is to play this role, however, Scotland needs a system that is fit for purpose.

The underpinning legislation governing the use of compulsory purchase is widely regarded as in need of reform. The Scottish Law Commission’s 2014-2016 review of compulsory purchase concluded that: “the legislation is old, difficult to understand and does not work effectively in a modern context” – and that those who the Commission consulted with “took the view that the system, both procedurally and in relation to the award of compensation, does not operate fairly”.

Accordingly, the Scottish Government has committed to reform and modernise compulsory purchase in Scotland in order to make the system more streamlined, more effective and fairer for all. This commitment was reiterated in the 2023-24 Programme for Government.

This a substantial undertaking: the project will be delivered over several years and involve engagement with a variety of stakeholders. We anticipate carrying out a public consultation on proposals for reform in 2025. Substantive reforms would need to be taken forward through a Compulsory Purchase Bill.

Practitioner Advisory Group

Compulsory purchase is a specialist area which brings together several technical disciplines, including lawyers, surveyors and planners. As the Law Commission’s work highlighted, the legislation governing compulsory purchase is fragmented and complex. There is also extensive case law dating back to the 19th Century.

In this context, being able to draw on the practical knowledge and insights of those with first-hand experience of working with compulsory purchase procedures and compensation will be highly beneficial. To this end – and in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government 2023-24 – we have established a Practitioner Advisory Group to help support the reform process. As set out in its Terms of Reference, the Group is intended to act as a sounding board for emerging reform proposals and as a source of practical expertise and information on compulsory purchase. In doing so it will support the development of a reform package that is robust and evidence based.

It should be noted that establishing and co-chairing the Advisory Group is only one of the ways in which Scottish Government will be engaging with those with an interest in compulsory purchase reform. Ahead of publishing a public consultation, we will consult with a wide range of stakeholders and are keen to hear from those with insights on the current system and how it might be improved. If you would like to get in touch, please contact CPO.Reform@gov.scot.

27 March 2024 – Advisory Group Meeting 1
Agenda and Papers

 

Last Updated: 09 Apr 2024