Dr Dafydd Mills Daniel discusses the ethics of land at the Scottish Land Commission


Dr Dafydd Daniel
Dr Dafydd Mills Daniel discusses the ethics of land at the Scottish Land Commission  


Dafydd Mills Daniel was invited to appear at the Scottish Land Commission Annual Conference Land Connection 2021, on the panel: Land governance – the time for new models? 

The recording of Dafydd’s appearance and the panel discussion is available to watch here

Dafydd outlines two different ways of talking about land: one ‘civic humanist’ or ‘neo-republican’ and one ‘Lockean’ or ‘politically liberal’. 

He discusses the history of these two discourses, and how they have underpinned different ways of conceiving of land as property, and so alternative models for land governance and ownership. 

At the same time, Dafydd suggests the Scottish Land Commission is attempting to draw together both neo-republicanism and political liberalism. 

For example, speaking with a civic humanist voice when it emphasises the unique moral and political status of land, distinct from other forms of property, and argues for diversity of land ownership in order to break apart power. 

While speaking in a Lockean voice when it emphasises the commercial use of land, and opposes ‘monopolies’ of land property holdings, to prevent land lying ‘fallow’. 

According to Dafydd, such an approach is justified, not only given historical connections (as well as oppositions) between these two discourses, but because it helps to prevent ethical and political debates about land ‘rights’ and ‘ownership’ being reduced to ‘capitalist’ verses ‘communist’ positions, themselves ‘narrowly’ understood. 

Both civic humanism and, what Dafydd calls, the politically liberal ‘corporate individual’ appreciate that while questions of ‘rights’ and ‘ownership’ are ‘fundamental’, they are nonetheless ‘secondary’ to the primary questions of ‘duty and responsibility’, ‘use and purpose’, which should ‘ground’ a proper understanding of rights and ownership in the first place. 

Dafydd was joined at the Scottish Land Commission Conference by James MacKessack-Leitch, Policy and Practice Lead, Scottish Land Commission; Willie McGhee, Independent Forestry Consultant; and, Clea Warner, General Manager, Highlands & Islands, National Trust for Scotland. The panel was chaired by Scottish Land Commissioner, Megan MacInnes. 

Dafydd will be developing some of the themes he discusses here when he speaks on The Enlightenment and the Value(s) of Landownership as part of the upcoming seminar series, Contestations in Land and Agriculture: Historical and Geopolitical Case-Studies, co-hosted by the University of Oxford’s McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics and Public Life and the Laudato Si’ Research Institute, in February 2022.