Jobs fears over Land Reform Review Group proposals

Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse
Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse

Reaction has been mixed to the final report of the Scottish Government’s independent Land Reform Review Group, published last week.

The group was set up in 2012 to suggest ways more people and communities could have a stake in owning and managing land and ideas to promote new relationships between the land, people, economy and environment.

Berwickshire-based environment minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “I am pleased to read the recommendations on improving the availability of land, both rural and urban, and the need to increase access to rural housing. These are issues that will have a direct impact on many people’s lives. The group has also highlighted the need to address transparency of land ownership in Scotland which I believe is crucial to taking forward this agenda.

“I also welcome that the benefits of community ownership have been highlighted.”

And he said he would set up a working group to progress its target of getting 1,000,000 acres into community ownership by 2020.

But Peeblesshire gamekeeper Alex Hogg, who chairs the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, fears job losses and said: “This is a state-centred programme of recommendations which, if implemented, would greatly discourage private investment... (and) will place a major burden on Scottish tax payers.

“We hope ministers consider these major proposals carefully and take into consideration the massive contribution Scotland’s rural workforce makes to the country’s economy and natural heritage.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Countryside Alliance (SCA) is concerned about the group’s recommendation that there be a limit on the area of land that can be held by private owners and it fears other comments could lead to farming, forestry and other land-based businesses no longer being exempt from non-domestic rates.

SCA director Jamie Stewart said: “Although we wholeheartedly support greater community involvement in land ownership/management, we fear the proposed changes will seriously damage private investment in Scotland which will put the jobs and livelihoods of thousands of people in the most marginal rural communities at risk.”

The 260-page report contains 62 recommendations.