SNP cabinet agrees to fast-track land reform plans

The First Minister has described land reform as 'unfinished business' in Scotland. Picture: Getty
The First Minister has described land reform as 'unfinished business' in Scotland. Picture: Getty
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The Scottish Government is to forge ahead with a radical package of land reform measures after it was signed off by Nicola Sturgeon’s cabinet yesterday.

The Land Reform Act will now be introduced before the summer recess despite opposition from many of Scotland’s major landowning bodies.

“Our aspiration is for a fairer distribution of land in Scotland”

Aileen McLeod

The Scottish cabinet took the decision to press on with the plans yesterday after a recent ten-week consultation into the proposals came to and end.

A spokesman for the First Minister said yesterday: “There was a discussion around cabinet on the land reform proposals.

“The upshot was that cabinet confirmed it will bring forward the Land Reform Bill to be introduced before the summer recess.”

Ms Sturgeon has described land reform as “unfinished business” in Scotland after milestone laws were brought forward in the first Scottish Parliament enshrining the “right to roam” in law and opening up public access to Scotland’s countryside.

The new bill emerged when Ms Sturgeon unveiled her first programme for government after becoming First Minister in November.

It would see ministers getting new powers to “intervene” where the scale of land ownership or the conduct of a landlord is acting as “a barrier to sustainable development”. This could include enforced sell-offs.

It will also see an end to multi-million-pound tax breaks for sporting estates which were introduced by the Conservatives.

A land reform commission will be established, with measures to improve the “transparency and accountability” of land ownership and make information on its value and ownership more readily available.

One of the most contentious proposals is a change in the law which would open the door to massive family owned estates being broken up. Current succession law allows people to name in their will who they want to leave their house – classed as immovable property – and cash and investments – movables – to when they die. The Scottish Government is now proposing to consult on a law change to remove the distinction between moveable and immovable property.

Opponents have argued that this proposal could mean that the state has more say over who an individual leaves their house or land to when they pass away, as family members would be given more scope to challenge wills.

There have also been concerns that the impact of the changes could cost the taxpayer more than £600 million. Scottish Land and Estates told MSPs in Holyrood earlier this year that families whose land was broken up and reallocated against their will would have to be compensated by the Scottish Government.

But land reform minister Aileen McLeod said recently: “Our aspiration is for a fairer and more equitable distribution of land in Scotland.”


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