New land tax plan
Some might see the education secretary, Michael Russell, recently putting in his application to join the Mount Stuart Trust of Bute (your report, 1 October) as a positive step in achieving land reform in Scotland and it is indeed heartening to see that degree of commitment and well meaning in a politician.
However, we should be long past this stage by now and on to the implementation of strategic land reform instigated by the SNP at Holyrood.
Instead, we have seen stasis and prevarication from the party since it accepted the report of its own Scottish Land Commission in 1997.
There has been no substantive movement and indeed Alex Salmond has once more shoved reform into the long grass of politics by announcing yet another investigation under a Land Review Group. In the meantime, the SNP has just gone along with the insipid and ineffectual Labour reforms originating in 2003. Land tenure, and therefore to a large extent land use, in Scotland still remains bedevilled by the fact that we have the greatest concentration of land in the fewest number of private hands anywhere in Europe, if not the Western world.
Even our so-called national parks are not, unlike those in most of Europe and the Americas, actually owned by the state, the very quality that makes them national parks. And no, I am not advocating wholesale general nationalisation.
The Fennoscandian social democracies, so admired by the SNP, have an extensive private land tenure pattern involving tens, indeed hundreds of thousands, of individual/family owners.
That is far more conducive to a property-owning pluralist democracy than the current quasi-feudal Victorian-Edwardian nightmare world of rural Scotland and indeed the kibbutzist-communal-tribalist alternative that seems to be in vogue in some quarters at the moment. We need neither of these.
There is another way forward and one that does not need expensive and totalitarian nationalisation. It comes with a simplicity of the enormity and an enormity of the simplicity problem: the 100 per cent collection of societally generated Land Rental Value to replace taxation as the basis of public revenue.
Are Mr Russell and the SNP up to the task that Labour failed in?
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