Tha Murray MacLeòid ag ràdh gu bheil margaidh an fhearainn a-mach à rian

Tha atharrachadh bunaiteach, cha mhòr gun fhios, a’ tachairt air feadh sgìrean dùthchail na h-Alba a tha, a bharrachd air càil eile, a’ daingneachadh an ana-cheartais a tha aig cridhe siostam an fhearainn.

Tha luchd an airgid airson brath a ghabhail air an taic a tha ri faighinn ann an Alba airson a dhol 'uaine'
Tha luchd an airgid airson brath a ghabhail air an taic a tha ri faighinn ann an Alba airson a dhol 'uaine'

[English-language version below]

Tha oighreachdan is tuathanasan gan reic airson suimean gun chiall, glè thric ann an dìomhaireachd air falbh bho shùilean an t-sluaigh, agus luchd an airgid airson brath a ghabhail air an taic a tha ri faighinn ann an Alba airson a dhol “uaine”. Tha luach anns na craobhan, a bhalaichibh.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Tha fhios nach e seo a bha san amharc, ach tha a’ mhargaidh a tha seo a’ ciallachadh nach eil, aon uair eile, cothrom na Fèinne aig na coimhearsnachdan. Sin mar a bha agus mar a tha.

Thug Coimisein Fearann na h-Alba a-mach aithisg a bha a’ mìneachadh mar a tha a’ mhargaidh air a dhol cho trang ri linn “iarrtas àrd airson coilltean agus fearann far an gabh craobhan a chur”.

Ann an 2021 thàinig àrdachadh de 31% air talamh àiteachais aig àm nuair a bha teachd a-steach sa ghnìomhachas a’ sìor chrìonadh. Tha sin dìreach a’ sealltainn nach ann airson obair àiteachais a bhathar gan ceannach.

“Tha an luach ann an calpachas nàdarra agus carbon a’ toirt barrachd buaidh, ach tha rudan eile ann cuideachd a tha cudromach, mar luach àrd an fhiodha agus coilltean,” thuirt Seumas Trench, àrd oifigear Coimisein Fearann na h-Alba.

“Tha an aithisg a’ sealltainn ged a tha na tha de fhearann air a’ mhargaidh air fuireach an aon rud thairis na beagan bhliadhnachan a dh’fhalbh, tha na prìsean air èirigh gu mòr ri linn an diofar luchd-ceannach a tha a’ sealltainn ùidh ann.”

Le companaidhean mar Shell a’ coimhead ri fearann na h-Alba, tha fios iad gur e co-dhùnadh corporra a tha air a chùlaibh, iad a’ faicinn luach a thaobh airgid no cliù. Gu deimhinne, chan mu dheidhinn an àite fhèin a bhios e.

Tha làn chead aca a dhèanamh, bhon a tha e na chleachdadh ann an Alba dha fearann a bhith air a reic ris an duine as beàrtaiche agus airson adhbhar a choireigin, chan eil an luchd-poileataigs airson a dhol mìle faisg air.

Tha seo air an fhearg a chur air gu leòr airson ùine fhada bhon ann an suidheachadh dùthchail, chan eil càil nas cudromaiche na cothrom air fearann. Ach chan eil e sa mhòr-chuid ach ann an làmhan corra dhuine beartach – agus a-nis, companaidhean mòra eadar-nàiseanta bho air feadh an t-saoghail. Tha Alba air a’ mhargaidh, dh’fhaodadh tu ràdh. Chan e seo idir a bha còir a thighinn leis an dùsgadh air an àrainneachd.

Tha a’ bhuidheann Fearann Coimhearsnachd na h-Alba a-measg na tha ag iarraidh lagh ùr a thoirt a-staigh sa bhad airson dèiligeadh ri seo.

Thuirt stiùiriche a' phoileasaidh aca, an t-Ollamh Calum MacLeòid: “Aig àm nuair a tha cosgaisean a’ sìor dol an àirde dha teaghlaichean agus a’ cur ri bochdainn anns na sgìrean dùthchail, tha rudeigin fada ceàrr, smaoinicheadh tu gu bheil raointean mòra de dh’Alba gan reic gu dìomhar ri companaidhean airson dèiligeadh ri truailleadh carbon no mar dhòigh air an tuilleadh airgid a dhèanamh.

“Feumaidh Riaghaltas na h-Alba laghan air ath-leasachadh an fhearainn a thoirt a-staigh sa bhad airson dèiligeadh ri bhith a' reic oighreachdan gu dìomhair, gus deànamh cinnteach gu bheileas a’ beachdachadh air buannachd dhan phoball nuair a tha, agus ga dheànamh nas fhasa dha coimhearsnachdan an ceannach. Mura dèan iad sin, tha cunnart ann gun tig coimhearsnachdan fhàgail air dheireadh agus gun tig a’ mhargaidh mhòr luachmhor a tha seo a-mach à rian buileach agus a-mach à sealladh.”

Away from prying eyes and the glare of public attention, Scotland’s countryside is undergoing a major shake-up, with farms and estates changing hands for astronomical sums.

It’s not so much a Gold Rush, more a Tree Bonanza, as international investors clamber to cash in on the ‘green’ incentives available in Scotland.

It may be a prime example of the law of unintended consequences, but this new market in land – described by one observer as “super-charged” – means that once again local communities, those who live and work in the countryside, are being side-lined. ’Twas ever thus.

Scotland’s Rural Market Insights Report by the Scottish Land Commission, published last week, describes a heated market driven by “high levels of recent demand for forestry and plantable land”.

In 2021, farmland values in Scotland soared by over 31 per cent at a time when farming incomes were being squeezed. So, in other words, it was not being bought for agricultural purposes.

“Emerging carbon and natural capital value is an increasing influence, but other drivers, particularly high timber prices and forestry values remain significant,” said Hamish Trench, chief executive of the Scottish Land Commission.

“The report emphasises that while the amount of land coming to the market has remained largely the same over recent years, demand from different types of buyer has increased significantly, raising prices.”

At its heart it’s about, to coin a phrase, “green-washing”. With even companies like Shell eyeing up Scotland’s land, you know it’s not with any great philanthropic intention; it’s purely a corporate decision, whether on the basis of sound financial investment or for PR purposes, or both.

That they are able to do so is because Scotland has a “rich” tradition of land speculation and, for reasons that are not entirely clear, politicians are clearly loath to go anywhere near.

It’s long been a cause of frustration as in a rural context access to land underpins everything, but it’s largely the preserve of the privileged few – and increasingly now corporate investors from across the globe.

Scotland is, uncomfortable as it may be, up for grabs to the highest bidder. This was not supposed to be what the green revolution was all about.

Community Land Scotland is among those who have called for emergency legislation in the Scottish Parliament to try to rectify the market failures that are now becoming all-too clear.

Its policy director Dr Calum MacLeod said: “At a time when the escalating cost-of-living crisis is exacerbating rural poverty, there is something fundamentally wrong with the idea that great swathes of rural Scotland can be secretly traded as a luxury lifestyle choice, a credit on a corporation’s carbon ledger or a speculative hedge fund investment.

“The Scottish Government needs to urgently accelerate introduction of land reform legislation regulating secret ‘off-market’ land sales, applying public interest tests on significant land transfers and current landholdings, and making it easier to use existing community rights to buy, or risk our rural communities being left behind as an increasingly supercharged and exclusionary rural land market fast disappears over the horizon.”

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.