Regulations For The Register Of Controlling Interests In Land

Scotland's land is some of the most beautiful anywhere in the world, so it's no surprise investors of all types want to acquire land and buildings in Scotland.

Scottish communities, not surprisingly, also have a keen interest in how the land within their community is used and managed.

Both these aspirations are laudable and to be encouraged, but sometimes there can be tension between them.

For usually perfectly legitimate and sensible reasons, the ownership of land and buildings can be held in a variety of structures, such as trusts or partnerships, and sometimes involve a complex tier of entities, which can make it extremely difficult to identify who is actually making the decisions about what happens to that land and those buildings.

This can be particularly relevant to (but not limited to) rural communities, whose neighbourhood may be directly affected by a landowner's proposals or operations, and who want to know with whom they should engage to make representations about decisions that are being made. The person who holds title (and whose identity can be discovered by checking the public property registers) may not, in some structures, be the person who has a say in those decisions: how can you find the right person to speak to?

Often landowners and the local community will engage constructively, and work collaboratively to mutual benefit. Sometimes there will be a factor, a manager, or a managing agent who can be contacted, and a satisfactory dialogue ensues, but that isn't always the case, and nor does it tackle the issue of lack of transparency about who controls decisions about land in Scotland.

These are the concerns that underpin the Scottish Government's proposals for a Register of Persons with a controlling interest in land - a key part of its land reform agenda.

While acknowledging that the devolved competence of Scottish Ministers does not extend to tax matters or anti-money laundering regulation, it is also recognised that greater transparency can also help to address tax fraud and evasion. The UK Government's concurrent proposal for a Register of Beneficial Owners of Overseas Entities is a key component of its anti-corruption strategy.

The draft Regulations, which will make the proposed Scottish Register a reality, have been published for consultation until 8 November 2018.

The Regulations will require owners, and certain types of tenants of land or buildings, to submit to a new Register to be set up for the purpose, details of other persons who exert control over that land, who make decisions, or control the decision-making process about that land.

These arrangements are not intended to impact on traditional owner-occupier situations where only one person is registered as legal owner of the property, such as the title to a house occupied by a married couple being in the name...

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