Scots Land Reform Bill to be brought forward by government

Scots Land Reform Bill to be brought forward by government
BBC News

The Scottish government has said that it will bring forward a Land Reform Bill before the end of the current term of the Scottish Parliament.

Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse made a speech on the planned legislation at a conference on Skye.

The government said the bill would ensure land was "used in the public interest".

The Scottish Land Fund, which helps communities to buy land, is also to be extended until 2020.

Last month, a government-commissioned study recommended that there should be an upper limit on the amount of land held by private owners in Scotland.

The Land Reform Review Group also called for a big increase in community land ownership.

And the group said the current tax system should be changed.

Tax "plays an important part in maintaining the concentrated pattern of large scale, private land ownership in Scotland," it stated.

The Scottish government believes the country needs a fairer distribution of land ownership and is aiming reduce the dominance of large, traditional sporting estates.

During his speech at the Community Land Scotland conference, Mr Wheelhouse said: "The review group’s report was a major milestone in taking forward Scotland’s land reform journey and I welcome its vision and the significant contribution the report makes to the debate in Scotland.

"Over the coming weeks and months the Scottish government, Scottish Parliament and Scottish society will have time to consider the report."

He added: "By bringing forward a Land Reform Bill, before the end of the current term of the Scottish Parliament, we will take forward the direction of travel laid out in the report.

"The bill will be another significant step forward in ensuring our land is used in the public interest and to the benefit of the people of Scotland."

‘Punitive approach’

Douglas McAdam, the chief executive of landowners group Scottish Land and Estates, said private landowners had played their part in the process of bringing land reform forward and were "ready to embrace changes that would bring real benefit to rural Scotland".

However, he added: "What has been very disappointing recently has been incessant attempts to demonise private landowners and the unwillingness to accept the hard evidence of the positive role our members play.

"This approach was sadly all to plain to see in the final report of the Land Reform Review Group which we believe decided to take a punitive rather than a constructive approach to the issues.

"There is a view expressed that landowners are resistant to change but that is not the case. For example, we welcome the extension of the Scottish Land Fund where there is a willing buyer and seller."