Scottish Land & Estates said today the Scottish Government has a golden opportunity to deliver a land reform package that will genuinely benefit rural Scotland and is built on consensus and collaboration.
Responding to the announcement by Rural Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse that the Scottish Government is to bring forward a Land Reform Bill for Scotland, Douglas McAdam, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “The Scottish Government has made it clear from some time it wanted to take land reform forward and private landowners have played their part in that process by demonstrating they are ready to embrace change that will bring real benefit to rural Scotland. We are already working with government to deliver empowered communities and have put forward a raft of positive and constructive proposals and we hope that government recognise that private landowners already make a big social, economic and environmental contribution and will be key partners in delivering progress.
“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.
“Land reform should be based on a clear vision that delivers for all of rural Scotland, including people and businesses - both essential to the fabric of rural Scotland. This should also reflect the key government ambition of delivering multiple benefits from the use of our land and not be driven by ideology that is detrimental to those who already own property and land assests across Scotland. 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.
Among the suggestions being put forward by Scottish Land & Estates are:
• Streamlining the process for community groups to buy land for sale.
• Developing a community planning system that will benefit entire local communities.
• Progressing provision of affordable rural housing.
• Safeguarding the rights of tenant farmers (compensation at waygo amnesty)
• Establishing a new framework to help eliminate bad practice. (Office of Scottish Tenant Farming).
• Creating new opportunities for next generation farmers.