Sturgeon land reform continues trend

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I fail to see why First Minister Nicola Sturgeon should be accused of starting a “class war against landowners” for her commitment to further land reform legislation (Donald Lewis, Letters, 5 January).

Surely she is simply giving further impetus to a land ­reform programme initiated by the Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians who formed the first coalition government in Scotland on the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

Indeed, the constructive way in which Labour, Lib Dem and SNP politicians worked together to deliver the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 was a credit to our new democratic process.

The securing of world-class statutory public rights of ­access to most of our land and water, along with community and crofter right to buy provisions, could never have been achieved while the unreformed House of Lords had legislative power in Scotland on these matters.

Mr Lewis suggests that jobs will be lost as a result of land reform. Not so, if you ­examine Scotland’s experience so far.

Last August the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, met with Ramblers Scotland near Kinross to see how our right to roam legislation worked in practice. He saw how this legislation had stimulated the establishment of the new Loch Leven Heritage Trail.

The ten-year development programme for this multi-use trail involved new ­employment opportunities in trail construction along with the opening of four new cafes close by its 14-mile ­circular route.

The Westminster Government clearly learnt from this Scottish example of land ­reform – towards the end of 2014 it announced a speeding up of the programme for the completion of the England coastal path, with increased funding.

So we should all welcome the First Minister’s intentions to engage with the land ­reform process.

It makes good economic and environmental sense and will underpin efforts to make Scotland a healthier nation.

Ms Sturgeon should not be diverted by the rantings and ravings of those who think that the ownership of land and water in Scotland allows them to behave as though they live on a different ­planet to the rest of us.

Dave Morris

Kinnesswood

I agree entirely with Donald Lewis about the Scottish Government’s plans to break up the estates of our major landowners.

Here in Dalkeith we have access at minimum cost to the Dalkeith Country Park, only five miles from Edinburgh. The park extends to approximately 1,000 acres and offers exceptional amenity to the community.

It is currently being developed to improve the facilities for visitors with a new adventure woodland for children, and restoration of the stables including a café, a butcher and a bakery.

The redevelopment will provide 35 jobs and will be completed this year.

The park includes extensive woodlands with an oak wood which is more than 700 years old.

If the Scottish Government’s proposals to break up the large estates were to be implemented we could end up with a combination of small, privately owned farms and parks owned by the local authorities at the local taxpayers’ expense.

The local authorities have enough to cope with including their existing parks.

Dalkeith Country Park is owned by the Duke of Buccleuch who also owns Drumlanrig in Dumfriesshire and Bowhill near ­Selkirk.

All three are open to the public and much enjoyed by the community. Let’s be clear: there are better ways of earning an income than running a large country estate.

There are also, I understand, proposals to change the Scots law of succession in order to break up land ­ownership.

Do we really want to follow the example of France which has resulted in farms becoming so small that they are no longer viable to provide an adequate source of income?

Hence the Common ­Agriculture Policy has been adopted whereby we all have to subsidise the French farming industry. No thanks.

John Kelly

High Street

Dalkeith