Scots land reform consultation begins

Gigha, the Inner Hebridean island, was the subject of a community buy-out. Picture: Donald Macleod

Gigha, the Inner Hebridean island, was the subject of a community buy-out. Picture: Donald Macleod

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THE Scottish Government is seeking views on a series of “radical” land reforms.

It plans to legislate on a number of measures aimed at achieving “a fairer and more equitable distribution of land in Scotland”.

The Government proposes that the Land Reform Bill should include the creation of a Scottish Land Reform Commission, the ability to take action against landowners who pose a “barrier” to development, and measures to make information on who owns land and its value more readily available.

The legislation would also limit the companies, trusts and partnerships that can own land in Scotland to within the EU.

This will not affect individuals from all over the world who want to buy land in Scotland but will make it easier to contact the landowner or hold them to account if necessary, the Government said.

Business rates exemptions for shooting and deerstalking estates, brought in by the Conservatives in 1994, would also be ended.

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The money will be used to help fund community buyouts, with a target of having one million acres of land in community ownership by 2020.

The Bill was announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as part of her programme for government, and will be led by Environment and Land Reform Minister Aileen McLeod.

Unveiling her programme last week, Ms Sturgeon promised a ‘’radical programme’’ of reform so that Scotland’s land can be ‘’an asset that benefits the many, not the few’’.

Launching the consultation, Ms McLeod said: “The Scottish Government’s vision is for a strong relationship between the people of Scotland and the land of Scotland, where ownership and use of the land delivers greater public benefits through a democratically accountable and transparent system of land rights that promotes fairness and social justice, environmental sustainability and economic prosperity.

“I am keen to see a fairer and more equitable distribution of land in Scotland where communities and individuals can own and use land to realise their potential. Scotland’s land must be an asset that benefits the many, not the few.

“At present, information on who owns land is held by many different bodies including Registers of Scotland, Sepa, local authorities as well as the Scottish Government. This consultation will look at finding ways to bring this information together, which will not only inform debate and public decision making but also help private decision making and drive opportunity.

“This consultation is part of a public debate about land and the public interest, and how land in Scotland works for the people of Scotland. This is not simply for those with strong existing interests in land but a process in which I hope everyone will engage.”

The body which represents landowners has already criticised some of the proposals.

David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land and Estates, said: ‘’The announcement that business rates exemption is to be scrapped for sporting estates does not take in account the current voluntary payments made for river and deer management. The perception that sporting estates do not pay their dues is not accurate.”

SEE ALSO

Nicola Sturgeon to crack down on major landowners

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