Scottish Land & Estates issued the following statement after the First Minister’s statement today to the Scottish Parliament on the Scottish Government’s legislative programme.
David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “The First Minister has stated that Scotland’s land is an asset for the many not for the few and we agree with that. The reality is that the land is already an asset for the many and landowners of all types and sizes are already delivering a huge range of public benefit and we can provide even more. We would have hoped that the First Minister would have recognised in her speech the substantial social, economic and environmental contribution of land-based businesses and estates. Indeed landowners, regardless of scale, are heavily involved in activities that support the policy objectives of the Scottish Government including areas such as renewable energy, agriculture, housing and tourism.
“Sporting estates are too readily singled out in a negative light when in fact they are businesses that make a key contribution to rural tourism, local employment and the environment. The announcement that business rates exemption is to be scrapped for sporting estates does not take in account the current voluntary payments made for river and deer management. The perception that sporting estates do not pay their dues is not accurate. Estate businesses, whose activities generally extend beyond sporting, pay business rates and other taxes where they are due. Exemptions were put in place to support the industry in the same way that the Scottish Government is taking steps to support sectors such as construction.
“The government says it wants radical reform and that is an ambition it has stated many times. We believe it is time for a modern debate on land reform which recognises that both private and community land ownership make very worthwhile contributions to Scotland. So much more can be achieved by taking a more constructive and collaborative approach rather the negative rhetoric that is the case to date.
“There is ample evidence that private landowners play an active role in terms of rural development and are willing partners in making rural Scotland a better place. Engagement with communities is a fundamental element of our recently launched Landowners’ Commitment. We will engage enthusiastically in the forthcoming consultations and will continue to do what we can to achieve that objective.”