The Political Theology of Modern Scottish Land Reform


  • Rutger Henneman Researcher and Activist
  • Alastair McIntosh Visiting Professor of Human Ecology, University of Strathclyde



land reform, theology, spirituality, religion, empowerment, community, social movements, counter-urbanization, Scotland, Highland Clearances, Enclosures, feudalism, crofting, crofters, identity, belonging, values, Christianity, Jubilee, return from exile,


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 to the late twentieth century. Plutocratic ownership impacted the economics and psychology of community wellbeing. 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 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 factored into Scottish legislation of international significance.

Author Biographies

Rutger Henneman, Researcher and Activist

Researcher and Activist

Alastair McIntosh, Visiting Professor of Human Ecology, University of Strathclyde

Visiting Professor of Human Ecology Centre for Human Ecology Department of Geography & Sociology University of Strathclyde


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How to Cite

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