Large Scottish estates face fines for ‘nature restoration’ failings in new land reform proposals

Yesterday the Scottish Government moved forward with its latest land reform proposals by launching a consultation for a new Land Reform Bill, which it has committed to bring in during this parliamentary session.

This is a result of the Bute House Agreement in August 2021 when the Scottish Greens and the SNP reached an agreement on a shared draft policy programme which detailed the key areas of policy on which the two parties agreed to cooperate, and that included grouse moor reform.

[Ecologically poor grouse moors dominate the landscape in the eastern Cairngorms National Park. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

The public consultation is seeking views on what measures should be included in the Bill. The Government says:

The Bill will be ambitious. It will address long-standing concerns about the highly concentrated pattern of land ownership in rural areas of Scotland.  At the same time, we want to ensure that our land is owned, managed, and used in ways that rise to the challenges of today: net zero, nature restoration, and a just transition’.

Community empowerment and ‘nature restoration’ (which doesn’t appear to have been defined yet but surely doesn’t include the continuation of ecologically depauperate, intensively-managed driven grouse moors) both feature heavily and, subject to the consultation responses, landowners could face financial penalties for breaches of the new rules in the form of fines and/or subsidy withdrawal.

Sev Carrell has written a good overview piece in the Guardian about the proposals in the consultation – see here.

You can read the Government’s overview here, which includes links to the consultation paper and to the respondent’s form.

The consultation opened on 4th July 2022 and closes on 25th September 2022.

5 thoughts on “Large Scottish estates face fines for ‘nature restoration’ failings in new land reform proposals”

  1. Great news hopefully for our valued moors and countryside and how it can be protected.
    Now we just need our apathetic government to do the same for England and Wales, and soon.

  2. It is pretty clear there is a lack of biodiversity grouse moors, getting worse the more intensively managed it is. You only have to drive past one to see there is more diversity of flora on the road verges than the managed areas. It is currently not in the land managers interests to do anything that reduces their abilities to support unnatural densities of game birds. Hopefully this Law will change that, and provide much more transparency of land ownership and land management.

  3. Great idea but will it ever see the light of day with our present government who cannot deal effectively with raptor persecution issues in a timely manner ie licensing of grouse moors is a case in point plus how long has it taken them to deal with bringing the SSPCA onboard to assist with raptor crime investigations.

    1. The proposals deal with the powers to end all abuses associated with sporting estates, both in the first instance through compliance and enforcement, and ultimately through removing sporting estates altogether through changing national landownership and land use objectives . These proposals are probably just the start of a long term process but raptor persecution was never going to be ended outside the context of land reform anyway so maybe write a response to the consultation instead of banging on about the SSPCA, important though that is..

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