Concentrated land ownership is causing “significant and long-term” damage to communities in parts of Scotland and impeding economic development, an investigation has found.

The Scottish Land Commission (SLC) said the patterns of land ownership had “parallels with monopoly power in wider economic policy”.

It said there is an urgent need to protect fragile rural communities from the irresponsible exercise of power, whether through changes in ownership or management practice.

Its report received evidence from 407 people, from land owners and land managers to community representatives and individuals.

But critics insisted it did not “adequately reflect” the positive contribution made by rural businesses across Scotland.

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Sarah-Jane Laing, executive director of Scottish Land and Estates, which represents land owners, said the stereotypical views held by some “simply do not reflect current day reality”.

She said: “There are a number of findings in this new report which private landowners already put into practice as part of their progressive approach to owning and managing land.

“However, we are deeply concerned that the report still sees landownership rather than land use as the prime route to dealing with issues being faced by communities.

"Nor does the report adequately reflect the positive and substantial contribution made by rural businesses.”

She added: “We welcome the fact that the report has found there is no direct link between large scale landownership and poor rural development – something the Scottish Government’s own research has confirmed.

“Much of the report deals with issues around how land is used – something we believe is of paramount importance. Regrettably, its main conclusions still focus on ownership as being the primary issue.

“It is clear that work still needs to be done to help communities make better use of the many frameworks and opportunities to influence land use that already exist through planning, forestry strategies, local government plans to name just a few.

“We also want to see more detailed and compelling examples to support the report’s claim that concentrated landownership is damaging fragile communities.”

The SLC found most of the disadvantages identified with Scotland’s current pattern of land ownership relate to the concentration of social, economic and decision-making power, not simply the scale of landholdings.

It said the problems are not associated exclusively with any particular type of land owner, with the evidence revealing issues involving private owners, public bodies, NGOs and communities.

Meanwhile, there is currently little or no method of redress for communities or individuals affected by harmful land ownership.

Recommendations in the paper – entitled Investigation Into The Issues Associated With Large Scale And Concentrated Land Ownership In Scotland – include introducing a public interest test for significant land transfers or acquisitions.

A new review process should also be brought in where there is evidence of adverse impact, officials said.

Hamish Trench, chief executive of the SLC, said: "Concern about the impacts of concentrated land ownership in Scotland has long been central to the land reform debate. This evidence report allows us to move on from debating whether ownership is an issue, to understanding what the issues are and how they can be addressed.

"The evidence we have collected shows clearly that it is the concentration of power associated with land ownership, rather than necessarily the scale of land holding, that has a significant impact on the public interest, for example in relation to economic opportunities, housing and community development.

"Good management can of course reduce the risks associated with the concentration of power and decision-making, but the evidence shows that adverse impacts are causing significant detriment to the communities affected.

"This points to the need for systemic change beyond simply a focus on good management."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We welcome the Scottish Land Commission's report and will be working closely with the Commission and stakeholders to consider the recommendations in the coming months.

"We expect that the report will inform how we address long-standing issues caused by the concentration of land power in rural Scotland, to the benefit of local communities."