Scottish Land & Estates, which represents landowners and estates across Scotland, today called for greater clarity from the Scottish Government on its Land Reform proposals which could deliver a serious blow to land-based businesses.
In response to the publication of the Scottish Government’s Consultation on the Future of Land Reform in Scotland, David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “We will study the consultation in much greater detail, but our initial response is to express disappointment that the Scottish Government continues to miss an opportunity to create modern and meaningful land reform.
“There is a real lack of recognition of the major social, economic and environmental contribution estates and land-based businesses make in Scotland and we believe the government’s desire to make rural Scotland more prosperous would be better served by viewing private landowners and land based businesses as part of the solution.
“Instead, we are now faced with the threat of landowners being forced to sell land if they are regarded as being a barrier to sustainable development. The reality is that many landowners are the drivers of sustainable development. There needs to be much greater clarity on this issue particularly on what evidence exists to suggest this measure is necessary and in what circumstances the government thinks it is all right to force someone to sell their home and business.
“We are also concerned by what the Scottish Government means that land should be owned and used in the public interest. Does that mean all land based business activity or what happens on private land across rural and urban Scotland has to be solely in the public interest? Again, greater clarity is needed.
“We will be making a very forceful case that the forthcoming recommendations of Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group are treated separately rather than within a Land Reform Bill. All those who work in tenant farming have put a great deal of time and effort into suggesting solutions to make the let sector more vibrant and dynamic. This is a complex area and we believe merits separate consideration as is case with succession law.
“Taken in the round, all these proposals have the potential to deliver a serious blow to land-based businesses of all types and sizes and we do not think that is in the interests of rural Scotland. The First Minister has said that responsible landowners should have nothing to fear but few will take any comfort from this consultation document.
“During the Land Reform Review Group process we made a number of very constructive suggestions including the need for more transparency on land registration and we are pleased to see this has been taken into account by the Scottish Government.”