The Political Theology of Modern Scottish Land Reform

Henneman R.J. and A. McIntosh (2009), ‘The Political Theology of Modern Scottish Land Reform‘, in Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 3/3, 340-375.


This paper gathers evidence that modern Scottish land reform was influenced by applied liberation theology from both grassroot community activists and institutional churches. Scotland’s land tenure was feudal until the late twentieth century. Plutocratic ownership impacted the economics and psychology of community well-being. The 1990s produced a land reform movement culminating in the new Scottish Parliament’s Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 and the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. These created a conditional ‘community right to buy’ and affirmed the freedom of ‘right to roam’. Two percent of Scottish land is now in community ownership. Our research interviewed fifteen movers and shakers—both national theologians and local activists from the vanguard land trusts of Eigg, Assynt, and Gigha. We conclude that spirituality and religion can be subtle drivers of community empowerment. By inspiring, informing, and legitimising socio-political transformation, a ‘Remnant’ theology was factored into Scottish legislation of international significance.

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