Land ownership transparency debate

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Scotland’s largest landowners, the Buccleuch family, have announced “ambitious” plans to register all of their 225,000 acres in the next five years.

However, they have been called on to reveal offshore holdings.

Buccleuch, one of Scotland’s major rural businesses, is taking part in an initiative to put all land in Scotland on a modern map-based land register. The scheme, led by Registers of Scotland, aims to move all land in Scotland from the historic deeds-based General Register of Sasines – the world’s oldest national land register – to the modern digital map-based public Land Register of Scotland.

Buccleuch – which encompasses all of the land interests of the Buccleuch family – has registered the 2,400 acre Eckford Estate, part of the larger 61,000 acre Bowhill Estate, on the Land Register.

John Glen, chief executive officer of Buccleuch, said: “We began this process two years ago – well before the latest round of land reform legislation – and we believe in the transparency of land ownership.”

But land reform campaigner Andy Wightman, recently elected for the Scottish Greens in the Lothians, said the plan does not go far enough and called on the family to reveal any landholdings held offshore.

Wightman pointed out that the family, headed by Richard Scott, the Duke of Buccleuch, uses a Cayman Islands tax haven firm to sell land.

This week Wightman said: “The time has come for Buccleuch and others to be fully transparent in relation to their landholdings held in offshore secrecy jurisdictions such as Grand Cayman.”