Scottish Government outline ‘Radical’ land reforms.

The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill will end business rates exemptions for shooting and deer stalking estates, give communities a right to buy land to further sustainable development, and make information on who owns land and its value more readily available.

ministerLand Reform Minister Aileen McLeod said the Bill is a “significant step forward” in ensuring land is used in the public interest. But the body which represents landowners has already criticised some of the proposals. Business rates exemptions for shooting and deer stalkingestates were brought in by the Conservatives in 1994. The money raised from ending the exemptions will be used to help fund community buyouts, with a target of having one million acres of land in community ownership by 2020.

Landowners say the scrapping of the exemptions could threaten the viability of some sporting estates, while the policy does not take into account the current voluntary payments made for river and deer management.

Nicola Sturgeon first announced plans for land reform when she became First Minister last year, promising a ”radical programme” of reform so that Scotland’s land can be ”an asset that benefits the many, not the few”.

Other proposals contained in the Bill include the creation of a Scottish Land Commission, backed by a requirement on the Scottish Government to have a statement on rights and responsibilities over land, and issue guidance to landowners on engaging with communities.

Ms McLeod said: “Through the Land Reform Bill we want to ensure that future generations have access to land required to promote business and economic growth and to provide access to good quality, affordable food, energy and housing. “The introduction of the Bill is a significant step forward in ensuring our land is used in the public interest and to the benefit of the people of Scotland. “It will also end the stop start nature of land reform in Scotland that has limited progress. “Tackling the causes and consequences of inequality is at the heart of this Government’s work.

“At the heart of these proposals is the principle of responsibility that comes with all land ownership, and while there are many exemplary landowners in Scotland, the message is clear – it is no longer acceptable to own land in Scotland and not take the public responsibilities that come with that ownership seriously.

“I know this Bill will be good for the people of Scotland, encourage greater public interest and participation in land and help our communities reach their potential.”

Scottish Gamekeepers Association chairman Alex Hogg said: “We know what we do benefits Scotland’s countryside, its wildlife and communities and we know the integral part we play, in the public interest.

“As we have said all along, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s objective is to try to protect, as best as we can, the jobs of rural workers and their families and this remains the goal.

“Good can come from land reform but we must ensure that working people are not caught in the crosshairs of the negatives and we will continue to engage with Scottish Government on how the new ratings systems will work, with a view to preserving fragile employment.”

Scottish Labour’s environment spokeswoman Sarah Boyack said: “Communities in both urban and rural Scotland have much to gain from proposed new opportunities to buy and access land to further sustainable development. Crucially, this legislation will also be the opportunity to strengthen tenant farmers’ rights.

“I look forward to discussing with local communities, tenant farmers and landowners how we make better use of our land to create new opportunities to regenerate communities and create new homes and jobs. We need to make sure the detail in the Bill is up to the challenges we face now and in the future.”

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