The parable of Portobello: lessons and questions from the first urban acquisition under the Scottish community right-to-buy regime

John A. Lovett, Malcolm M. Combe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Towards the end of its first term, the newly constituted Scottish Parliament, brought into being by the United Kingdom's Scotland Act 1998, passed the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 by a convincing margin of 101 votes for to 19 against. On March 16, 2016, the Scottish Parliament voted through what is now the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 by an even more convincing 108 votes to 14. The short titles of those two statutes, not to mention the cross-political party support for the contents of both acts, demonstrate that land reform is a vital policy interest in contemporary Scotland. Both statutes contain provisions that aim to facilitate or, in some cases, compel transfer of land from an existing landowner to a community body. Another new statute, the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, expands the community right to buy introduced by the 2003 legislation from purely rural application to the whole of Scotland, while also introducing new rights of community acquisition for land left underused or in a detrimental state. All of this legislative activity has been accompanied by a cultural shift favoring community ownership of land and continued financial support for community land acquisition schemes. This essay considers the drive toward community land ownership in Scotland with reference to a recent community acquisition in Portobello, a community on the outskirts of the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. It draws a number of lessons from this first urban acquisition under the Scottish community right to buy regime and raises questions about such acquistions as well.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-228
Number of pages18
JournalMontana Law Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • right-to-buy
  • Scotland
  • land reform

Cite this