The SNP and the road to radical land reform
LandMatters, by Andy Wightman
On Thursday evening last week, Channel 4 news broadcast an 11 minute film on land reform in Scotland. It’s worth a watch. It highlights, among other things, how grassroots members of the SNP are campaigning for a more vigorous approach to land reform.
The film was broadcast on the first day of the SNP conference where I was a speaker at a fringe meeting hosted by the League Against Cruel Sports as one of the co-authors of a report on the intensification of grouse moor management. I was also scheduled to speak at an unofficial fringe meeting on land reform on Friday evening.
I noticed that there was a debate at the conference on a motion which congratulated the Scottish Government on its land reform and community empowerment bills. (1) I had heard that amendments had been submitted to the conference organising committee but that they had not been accepted for debate. I knew that some delegates were frustrated. So, when the security guard was gazing out the window, I sneaked past and into the main hall to listen to the debate. It lasted 42 minutes and if you click on the video above it will play from the beginning at 1:15:25.
I knew something was up when a young man called Nicky Lowden MacCrimmon took to the stage (at 1:25:45) to propose that the motion be remitted back for further consideration. Coming after workable contributions from two Ministers, Aileen McLeod and Marco Biagi, Nicky made it very clear that the grassroots membership were not satisfied with the ambitions of the party leadership. Here’s a flavour of his contribution.
“This motion talks about a road to radical land reform and I don’t think as a party we can say we’re being as radical as we can be, as we should be and as we have the powers to be right now.
I cannot support the motion wholly as I and many other grassroots members of the SNP believe that our vision for land reform is not radical enough and that we’ve not had an opportunity to debate that as a party and think where are we going to go with land reform.”
[Claps from audience]
“Does radical land reform leave 750,000, three-quarters of a million acres of Scotland, in the hands of unaccountable, nameless corporations based in tax havens across the globe? No, it doesn’t and we have the power to change that now.”
[More claps and whoops]
Does radical land reform leave tenant farmers with no right to buy, no security of tenure – farmers who have invested in that land, worked that land for generations, who have kids in the local school, who contribute to local economies being told your tenancy’s up, find somewhere else to live, work, raise a family. No it doesn’t and we have the power to change that now.
At the end of the debate, the delegates voted to remit the motion back by 570 votes to 440.
Nicky had watched the Channel 4 broadcast and later told broadcaster, Lesley Riddoch,
“Seeing Andrew Stoddart on TV and the stories from Islay just made me think someone has to say something. It was one of those, ‘if not me then who, and if not now, then when?’ ” moments. I take it very personally when the SNP is characterised as feart or bottling it on radical land reform. I know this isn’t how people feel in my branch or on social media. What I stood up and said was what other members have been saying to me.”