Our Land festival aiming to raise profile of radical land reform agenda in Scotland announced
Common Space, by Ben Wray
A FESTIVAL of activities and events will take place throughout Scotland in the last two weeks of August to highlight the case for radical land reform.
The Our Land festival is backed by Common Weal, Women for Independence, Scottish Land Action Movement, Radical Independence Campaign, and land reform authors and activists Andy Wightman and Lesley Riddoch, and will culminate in a weekend of action on 29-30 August.
Scotland has the most concentrated land ownership in Europe, with half of the land owned by 432 people.
Riddoch said that the Our Land festival will “illustrate the social problems that stem from land shortage and to showcase the benefits of more diverse ownership and more community control.”
She added: “Our Land aims to highlight the problems of dereliction in cities and emptiness in the countryside that flow from an elitist system of land ownership that allows a handful of individuals, quangos, insurance companies and trusts based in offshore tax havens to dictate the price, availability and use of land in Scotland – from the remotest islands to the busiest city centres.”
Current activities lined up for the festival include a gathering/festival at Abriachan in the Highlands, a flash mob and bike ride on an estate in Duns, Berwickshire and a mass picnic on disputed/derelict land in Angus.
Our Land is looking for others to come forward with their ideas and initiatives to be part of the festival.
A new bill on land reform has been proposed to the Scottish Parliament, after Nicola Sturgeon set out the plans for “radical” land reform shortly after becoming SNP party leader and first minister in November last year, saying at the time that “Scotland’s land must be an asset that benefits the many, not the few”.
The new bill will end tax relief for shooting estates and force owners to sell the land if they are blocking economic development. Money raised from ending the tax exemption will be used to boost the community land fund from £3m to £10m a year by 2016.
A land register will also be created so that information about land ownership can be made available in the public domain, as well as a Scottish Land Commission to ensure the issue is given a permanent footing in Scottish politics.
The move has been opposed by the Scottish Tories and Scottish Land & Estates, which represents big landowners in Scotland. Both say land reform will cost Scotland’s rural communities jobs.
Robin McAlpine, director of Common Weal, said that Our Land was a chance to be imaginative about how land reform could transform Scotland.
“Lives are built on land. Nations are made up of land. Why is Scotland so different? When will we wake up and change it? Well, with the Our Land festival you have the perfect chance. Imagine a different future – and build it for a day. If we can catch enough imaginations we may be able to build it for good,” he said.