John Lamont criticises ‘radical’ land reforms

The Scottish Government has published proposals on a series of ‘radical’ land reforms.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 23rd June 2015, 12:50 pm

It wants to legislate on a number of measures aimed at achieving ‘a fairer and more equitable distribution of land in Scotland’.

The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill will end business rates exemptions for shooting and deerstalking estates, give communities a right to buy land to further sustainable development, and make information on who owns land and its value more readily available.

Land Reform Minister Aileen McLeod said the Bill is a “significant step forward” in ensuring land is used in the public interest.

But the body which represents landowners has already criticised some of the proposals.

Borders MSP John Lamont MSP said: “People in the Borders want to see a strong rural economy, more local jobs, better broadband and an improvement in local services.

“These proposals won’t deliver any of this. Instead, they represent a huge increase in government interference in land ownership and a £7m tax bill for estates which employ hundreds of people.”

Business rates exemptions for shooting and deerstalking estates were brought in by the Conservatives in 1994.

The money raised from ending the exemptions will be used to help fund community buyouts, with a target of having one million acres of land in community ownership by 2020.

Landowners say the scrapping of the exemptions could threaten the viability of some sporting estates, while the policy does not take into account the current voluntary payments made for river and deer management.

Nicola Sturgeon first announced plans for land reform when she became First Minister last year, promising a “radical programme’’ of reform so that Scotland’s land can be “an asset that benefits the many, not the few”.

Other proposals contained in the Bill include the creation of a Scottish Land Commission, backed by a requirement on the Scottish Government to have a statement on rights and responsibilities over land, and issue guidance to landowners on engaging with communities.

Ms McLeod said: “Through the Land Reform Bill we want to ensure that future generations have access to land required to promote business and economic growth and to provide access to good quality, affordable food, energy and housing.

“The introduction of the Bill is a significant step forward in ensuring our land is used in the public interest and to the benefit of the people of Scotland.”

Scottish Gamekeepers Association chairman Alex Hogg said: “Gamekeepers, stalkers and ghillies are proud people. We have faced huge challenges and have had to adapt to new ways of working; more in the last decade than at any other time in history.

“However, we have done it. We know what we do benefits Scotland’s countryside, its wildlife and communities and we know the integral part we play, in the public interest.

“As we have said all along, The Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s objective is to try to protect, as best as we can, the jobs of rural workers and their families and this remains the goal.”