Alex Salmond has unveiled “radical” plans to extend controversial community buyouts of land from their Scottish owners claiming this strategy they would create a “fairer society”.
This proposal is likely to meet stiff opposition from Scottish lairds, but wouldn’t it be a golden opportunity to take land away from those irrsponsible Scottish landowners upon who’s estates protected raptors are found poisoned, shot or otherwise just disappear.
The First Minister announced the formation of a new group headed by Dr Alison Elliot, the first woman Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, to draw up detailed recommendations.
An accompanying research document, published by the Scottish Executive, suggested several ways to help communities buy land from their owners with and without consent.
The Scottish Green Party welcomed the announcement, calling for a redistribution of wealth away from “those lucky enough to be born into the families which have hoarded so much of Scotland’s land for generations”.
The SNP attacked outmoded practices of land management in Scotland and said communities want to “do things for themselves” without being “held back by others”
Although the Land Reform (Scotland) Act, introduced seven years ago, introduced community buyouts, there has yet to be a successful hostile takeover of crafting land by those living on it.
Speaking during a visit to Skye, where the Scottish Cabinet was meeting, Mr Salmond said: “By improving the relationship between our land and people, we can create stronger communities and deliver the economic growth and fairer society that the people of Scotland quite rightly expect.”
Dr Elliot added: “I want to take a look at all the opportunities that exist to promote more communities taking control of their future by taking control of their land.”
A further 10 advisers, with expertise in areas such as property, economics, law, landownership, and forestry will be appointed to the group shortly. It will then produce a work plan, which is expected to be agreed by Scottish ministers this autumn.
The research report states there has been higher than expected use of part of the Land Reform Act that allows communities to register an interest in their land and buy it from the owner when it comes up for sale.
But, in the 11 cases where the land has been purchased, the areas bought have been small and often limited to specific buildings. In some cases, it said land either does not come up for sale or is withdrawn.
The legislation also allows hostile takeovers of Crofting land against the wishes of the owner but said this may be “unworkable in practice” because of its complexity. The report said no Crofting groups have used it to buy land and associated fishing and hunting rights.
Scottish ministers last year approved two applications for crofters to take ownership of the Pairc Estate on Lewis in the Western Isles, but the research said the owner is appealing the decision in court.
Rob Gibson, the Caithness, Sutherland and Ross SNP MSP, said: “By addressing the glaring and outdated practices which must be put under the spotlight by the review, we can create stronger communities and deliver the economic growth that the people of Scotland quite rightly expect.”
Scottish Land and Estates, which represent more than 2,500 landowners, promised to play a “positive and constructive role” in the review.