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Landowners Raise Questions Over Funding For Land Reform Programme

Scottish Land & Estates, which represents landowners across Scotland, said today the wide-ranging programme proposed by the Land Reform Review Group (LRRG) would require a massive public spending commitment from the Scottish Government.

The LRRG report, which was published on Friday, put forward 62 land reform recommendations to government including the potential to enforce the sale of property to community groups and tenant farmers.

The report also called for the creation of more publicly-funded bodies such as a Land Commission to look at the sale and ownership of land and recommended a major exercise to map all the land owned in Scotland.

David Johnstone, Chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said today: "Having had time to digest the report perhaps the most striking question it raises is how all this would be funded.  The LRRG itself acknowleges there would have to be an increased spending commitment from the Scottish Government but the extent of the recommendations could require public funding running into hundreds of millions of pounds, particularly if the enforced sale of property went ahead.

"We would like to know from the LRRG how they see this working in an era where public spending is tight and, at best, the demand for land reform in vast areas of Scotland is either non-existent or very limited.

"Although ardent land reform campaigners will argue a price can not be put on ideologically driven transformation, at a time when bodies such as small community housing trusts are struggling for funding to achieve their objectives, we would suggest that if this money exists then those who live and work in rural Scotland could suggest more practical measures for delivering real solutions for their area than the LRRG have come up with.

"We should make clear that we are not opposed to land reform and made a series of recommendations to the group.  We support the community buy-out process being made simpler but this should be against the backdrop of a willing seller.

"We support the principle of mapping all the land in Scotland but again this is a huge undertaking and costly.

"We also understand and accept that things can be improved in terms of the use of land in certain areas, yet we remain disappointed that the Land Reform Review Group has not sought to develop collaborative solutions involving all sections of society.  Despite the promising direction following the evidence based approach of the interim report of a year ago, the final report represents a lost opportunity to build consensus and partnership on the contribution of private landowners and businesses.

"However, we are pleased that the Scottish Government has frequently recognised that private landowners are part of the solution and our vision for delivering land reform in Scotland calls for collaboration between communities and landowners through true local democracy by the creation of a fit for purpose community planning system that would actually deliver real benefits across rural Scotland at a fraction of the cost of the partisan, provocative and often punitive measures that have been proposed by the LRRG."




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