The expert group advising ministers on land reform is to pursue the idea of a Land Agency to mediate between landowners and communities mounting hostile buyouts.

The Land Reform Review Group (LRRG) has not yet decided if such a body would be equipped with compulsory purchase powers as originally proposed.

However, it is clear from the group's interim report published yesterday that the status quo of no further land reform, sought by 89% of Scotland's landowners is unlikely to be recommended.

An analysis of submissions showed a number of respondents felt the remit of the review group, announced a year ago, "was deliberately biased against landowners."

The tasks set by ministers for the group included recommending how to enable more people in rural and urban Scotland to have a stake in their land, and how to help with acquisition and management of land and assets by communities.

The idea of a Land Agency was proposed by Community Land Scotland (CLS), in its submission to the LRRG earlier this year. CLS is the umbrella body for the community owners of more than 500,000 acres acquired in buyouts such as those in Assynt, Eigg and Gigha.

It argued such an agency should have the powers of compulsory purchase to secure greater community ownership across Scotland.

However, it also argued voluntary agreements with landowners should be at the heart of the agency's work and that the greatest potential was not in hostile buyouts, but in negotiated land transfers, particularly where the community might not want to take over a whole estate and its "big house".

The agency could hold land for later transfer to communities or to create new agricultural holdings for lease or purchase.

In its interim report, LRRG makes clear it is interested in the concept: "We will also consider the creation of a Land Agency as a space for mediated negotiation of land purchases as well as other mutually-beneficial shared arrangements for management and governance of land," it said.

The LRRG says the review will now look at parts of rural Scotland that have not embraced community ownership as keenly the North West of the country, at urban Scotland, which is not covered by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, and at ways of giving people a stake in the land without going as far as ownership.