Call for braver land reform as festival keeps up pressure
The National, by Nan Spowart
Campaigners for land reform in Scotland are to keep up pressure on the issue by staging a national festival.
The event will reaffirm calls for bolder and braver legislation than the Land Reform Bill which was passed in Holyrood earlier this year, as well as examine how communities can use the new legislation and powers that have been passed by the Scottish Parliament.
Our Land Festival 2016 will cover everything from wastefully vacant land and property in urban centres to companies registered in offshore tax havens that own colossal tracts of Scottish land.
Activist Robin McAlpine said the festival was a clear message that neither the issue nor the campaigners were going to go away.
“Land reform is now very solidly on the national agenda and it will continue to be until there is real change in the unacceptable concentration of land ownership and much more of our nation’s land is in productive use for the benefit of the whole nation,” he said.
Last year’s festival successfully raised the profile of land issues across Scotland, laying the groundwork for amendments to the Land Reform Bill. This year’s event, which will see a series of activities taking place from August, will highlight that land reform is an issue for everyone.
The festival will consist of four main events across the country to help bring a focus to the campaign’s next stage.
“As Scotland’s recent political awakening has shown us, when we all take action and get involved we can build a movement strong enough to change the nation forever,” says Our Land, which is an initiative created by Common Weal, Women for Independence, Scottish Land Action Movement, Radical Independence and land reform campaigners Andy Wightman and Lesley Riddoch.
They are calling on activists and communities to plan their own events as part of the festival which kicks off officially on August 12, the “Glorious Twelfth” – a day associated with the start of the grouse shooting season on exclusive parts of Scotland’s moorlands.
These events could include finding creative ways to bring unused land back into use; a protest against restriction on access to land; celebrating and campaigning for popular public spaces, urban and rural, which may be under threat; land visits and tours; or engagement with community gardens and local food production.
“Scots have woken up to the fact that Scotland’s weird concentration of private landowners has put the brakes on everything from affordable housing to sustainable communities with locally-owned forests and energy systems, weekend wooden huts and fishing on some of the best lochs and rivers in Europe,” said Riddoch.
“Sadly, none of that will change overnight with the Land Reform Act passed in March of this year. The OurLand campaign which launched this time last year is back in 2016 with meetings to discuss our next five demands of the Scottish Government and to showcase the land-related problems that exist and the community solutions that are being forged right now, all over Scotland. I think folk are ready to challenge the idea that land is too precious, barren, complex to use and own more equitably in Scotland.”
Wightman added: “OurLand is a fantastic opportunity for everyone with an interest in land reform to come together and share ideas, issues and solutions to Scotland’s ongoing struggle for fundamental reform in land relations. Over the next five years in Parliament there is an unprecedented opportunity to make progress in democratising Scotland’s urban, rural and marine land. Individuals and organisations outside Parliament should be ambitious in their demands and I look forward to working with them in the years ahead”
OurLand events will start cropping up all around Scotland from August 7. Films like Common Weal’s Land Terra, which compares land reform in Scotland and Brazil, will be available to screen free of charge as will other titles from the Scottish Documentary Institute.
OurLand can provide a list of potential speakers, contacts and topics to help stimulate debate and support local action.