Landowners call for ‘rural concord’ over land reform plans

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham. Picture: Greg Macvean
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham. Picture: Greg Macvean
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Estate owners are calling for a “rural concord” with Holyrood ministers after two years in the “firing line” as MSPs debated controversial land reform legislation.

New laws aimed at making land ownership more transparent and giving communities a right to buy land for sustainable development were approved by the Scottish Parliament earlier this year.

Other changes will see an end to business rates exemptions for shooting and deerstalking estates.

At the time Scottish Land and Estates, which represents landowners across the country, had argued the legislation would be damaging to the rural economy hitting out at the “politics of confrontation” they faced from MSPs at Holyrood.

But after an “intensive period of debate”, it said there could be “significant” benefits from politicians and owners working together.

The organisation believes a “rural concordat” could bring increased prosperity and opportunities to rural communities, including social, economic and environmental benefits.

Chairman David Johnstone said: “Although many feel they have been portrayed as being opponents of change, we now need to embrace this new era of landownership and do even more to demonstrate we have listened and understand arguments for change.

“We believe that now the dust is settling there is a very compelling case to be made for a rural concord - a fresh start in which government, community bodies and landowners work together in a spirit of renewed co-operation.”

Mr Johnstone, who was speaking at Scottish Land and Estates’ annual conference in Edinburgh, added: “Our members are willing to play their part in delivering greater prosperity for all in rural Scotland and we believe a renewed spirit of co-operation is something we should all be trying to achieve.”

Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Land reform is at the centre of this government’s ambitions for a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.

“Land reform can make a real difference to local communities by supporting and revitalising local areas and providing more opportunities for local people to have a say in decisions about land which affect them.

“I recognise the expertise and role of Scottish Land & Estates and all landowners in managing land. Many landowners make a huge contribution to our economy at both a local and national level.”