Land Reform Bill introduced

59139Today sees the launch of the Scottish Government’s highly controversial Land Reform Bill (see here).

The ‘radical’ proposals included in this Bill could have far-reaching effects on land ownership in Scotland, with an emphasis on achieving sustainability, fairness and transparency.

Aside from the obvious wider social justice aspects of this Bill, there are a couple of proposed measures that are of specific interest to us:

1. The ending of rates exemptions for shooting and deerstalking estates;

2. Greater transparency and public accessibility to information on the ownership of land through a new land register.

Sporting rates were abolished in 1994 under John Major’s Conservative Government. As Andy Wightman wrote last year, “It is clearly inequitable that, whilst the corner shop, the pub and the hairdresser all pay NDR [Non-Domestic Rates], the multi-million pound assets [sporting estates] outside the villages and towns of Scotland pay virtually none with all “agricultural” land (including sporting estates and woodland) removed from the valuation roll altogether“.

The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association is unimpressed with this proposed measure and cites job losses as its main concern (see their response to the recent Land Reform consultation here, question 26). It’s a familiar use of the old victim card from them – they used the same alarmist scaremongering nonsense back in 2003 when they argued ‘jobs would be at risk’ if the Government didn’t issue them with licences to kill buzzards, sparrowhawks and peregrines (see here). Licences weren’t issued, jobs weren’t lost and the gamebird-shooting industry didn’t collapse; on the contrary, it’s booming, with last season’s grouse shooting predicted as “one of the best years in living memory” (see here).

Greater transparency about who owns the vast sporting estates in Scotland is of obvious interest to us; we want to know which estates are ‘at it’ and what positions of power and influence the landowner may have, especially in relation to the effective enforcement of vicarious liability in cases where illegal raptor persecution has been uncovered. See here for a very good example of why this transparency is required.

It’ll be interesting to follow the progress of this Bill through the Parliamentary process and to see just how resolute the politicians will be against the might of the omnipotent landowning lobby.

9 thoughts on “Land Reform Bill introduced”

  1. ..and I see the proposal is to use the money raised from re-imposing rates on the estates to help fund community buy-outs..which seems unusually sensible to me…a word of caution though…lets make sure the new boss does better on the environment than the old bosses..thats not a given, by any means.

    1. I think your caution is well advised.

      I would have preferred to see licensing of shooting estates than this, with the licence being subject to an ongoing satisfactory environmental audit. That way if shooting estates couldn’t operate in a way that respected the environment they would lose their licence and their capital value would fall to a level that would allow other uses to become viable.

    2. Conservation charities in scotland like the biggest one in england who own over a quarter million Ha protect thousands more will double in size . Ever wondered why there are next to none hen harrier south of the border

  2. The history behind this makes me sick.

    Why o why do our governments keep on giving to the rich and starving the poor? Reduced rates, greater subsides, tax breaks, and selling off the countries assets cheaply, all to help the underprivileged rich scum.

    It is about time to balance the books away from those that don’t need help.

    Is it a strange coincidence that the RBS sale is proposed with a £12bn loss and benefit cuts will rake in £12bn from the poorer members of our society.

    Let us hope that some good will come from breaking up the rich strangle hold on our country.

  3. the small shops get charged more pro rata NDR than supermarkets who get a reduced deal due to the size of their premises on the basis that they provide employment. Of course they often put the smaller shops out of business… Maybe it’s time to look at that too.

  4. Land reform? It’s about time the Scottish Government stopped overruling local authorities on wind farm decisions. In the Highlands they have become an epidemic. Local communities repeatedly object to them but the Government just doesn’t listen & continues with a policy which will mean having to import power from the south. The present administration has overruled 40% of wind farms blocked by local councils. No democracy, just more centralisation & dictatorship.

    1. Well said ICT but to some of us who have been following the wind energy saga in Scotland this has been known for years.
      The real problem is that there has been no energy strategy in Scotland for many years and our political masters have taken control of something they know nothing about rather than employing engineers and financial experts with knowledge of power systems.
      All we got was Alec Salmond and the SNP, and now we have a degraded landscape which offers little to our tourist industry and the wildlife that should inhabit our hill country.
      Now they tell us that the Beauly to Denny power line is not needed after all as there will never be enough power to transmit south. What a fiasco.

  5. Degraded landscape? – but there’s a lot more to do yet – I can still se a few tops without a mast of some description, a few glens without a line of pylons marching through and a number of hill slopes bereft of a windmill (turbines they ain’t) – come on Scotia – get into the 21st century! And can we get a few more bulldozed tracks through the hills whilst we’re at it? All this would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic – and as for the Land Reform Bill I seem to recall “And always keep a-hold of nurse, for fear of finding something worse” is this not going to penalise the “good” estates (and funnily enough I can think of several or more) because of the other bastards?

  6. There’s not a day goes by without a letter in the P and J reporting a wind farm imposed on their community. Its really is a case of big brother. There’s a very important decision imminent ( in fact well over due ) for the Monadhliaths,a very sensitive environmental site just on the edge of the Cairngorm National Park, its announcement will really show how sincere the Holyrood or if the zealots run the show..

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