Countryside campaigners have launched an attack on the SNP’s land reform plans, claiming it is “lunacy” to break up Highland sporting estates.
A series of prominent individuals have made their views known in the Scottish Sporting Gazette, which also contains an editorial condemning urban MSPs for failing to recognise the economic benefits of country sport.
Among those who have contributed are Niall Rowantree, who runs a deer-stalking business in Ardnamurchan; Mark Osborne, a grouse moor manager in Scotland and the north of England and landowner Sir Michael Wigan.
The Scottish Government has put plans to redistribute land ownership at the heart of its agenda, claiming it is unfair that half the wild land in Scotland is owned by around 400 people.
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But its proposals to give communities greater powers to buy out lairds were criticised by those who believe MSPs from the Central Belt fail to understand how the countryside works and argue that responsible landownership brings environmental and economic gain. Among the government’s proposals are ending tax relief for shooting estates and plans to force the sale of land if owners are blocking economic development.In its editorial, the magazine said: “Such is the weakness of their argument, they spectacularly fail to recognise the far-reaching benefits delivered by those who run both high and low ground shoots to wildlife, rural economies, communities, small village schools, tradesmen, garages, hotels – the list goes on. At no cost to the taxpayer.”
Mr Rowantree said: “To link land reform to a scale of landownership is dangerous as it depends on the type of land being discussed. For example, if an estate includes massive areas of blanket peat bog, which has a huge role to play in carbon sequestration in Europe, then to divide that up in the hope that people can make a living on it is bordering on lunacy.”
Dr Aileen Mcleod, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform said: “We welcome all voices to the debate on land reform.”