Scotland’s landowners hit out over looming land reform

The new bill will empower MSPs to order selling off parts of  private estates. Picture: Robert Perry

The new bill will empower MSPs to order selling off parts of private estates. Picture: Robert Perry

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SCOTLAND’S landowners have hit out at the “politics of confrontation” they face from MSPs at Holyrood over radical plans for land reform.

MSPs are poised to pass new laws tomorrow which will see ministers handed new controls which could allow them to order sell-offs of major swathes of land in Scotland if they are judged to blocking economic development.

The Greens will tomorrow push for the Land Reform Bill to be strengthened to crack down on tax dodgers by restricting ownership by firms using British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies such as the Cayman Islands.

The Greens also want to see councils handed the ability to tax vacant or derelict land.

Andy Wightman, land reform spokesperson for the Scottish Greens and MSP candidate for Lothian, has today published statistics revealing that companies owned by the Buccleuch Estates use tax havens in the Cayman Islands.

• READ MORE: Scottish Government to make 50 changes to land reform bill

Mr Wightman said: “The SNP have been timid on this issue and I am proud that Green colleagues in parliament will continue to push to strengthen the Bill. Scottish land should not be owned by companies using tax havens.

“On derelict land, ministers, pressed by Greens, have admitted this can be brought into the valuation system now but by enshrining this point in legislation we can hold them to their word.”

But David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land and Estates, said landowners have tried to be “constructive” in the land reform debate over the past two years putting forward suggestions that would benefit “rural economies, communities and tenant farming.”

But he added: “The debate has become feverish and instead of the focus being solely on delivering what is best for rural Scotland, time and again we have seen raw anti-landowner sentiment come to the fore.

“This has led to increasing pressure on politicians to ramp up radicalism at a time when the Land Reform Bill was already going to produce legislation that would have far reaching and detrimental consequences for land-based businesses.”

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