SNP set to cap how much land lairds can own
A LEGALLY enforced limit on land ownership could be introduced in Scotland under radical plans being considered by a Scottish Government quango.
The proposals would set a cap on the number of acres any individual or company can own.
The SNP has previously been accused of attacking landowners with its controversial programme of land reform.
But the latest plans – under consideration by the recently formed Scottish Land Comission – would represent an unprecedented involvement of the state in property transactions.
Last night supporters of radical land reform said existing landowners should be persuaded to forfeit some of their estates for the common good with a ‘forceful approach’ if necessary.
Critics, however, said the cur- rent system of land ownership was already providing benefits.
In April, the Scottish Government set up the Scottish Land Commission whose aim is ‘to provide direction, leadership and strategic thought to land reform in Scotland’, and to ensure ownership and management ‘contributes to the collective benefit’.
The Commission is now advertising for academics or consultants to research how ownership limits work abroad.
According to the advert, the aim is ‘to identify and describe the various approaches that other countries have taken to limit who can own land and/or how much land any single individual or entity is permitted to own’.
It is a sign the Scottish Government is about to embark on its most extreme land reform yet. That could lead to state intervention in major purchases, as in Germany and France, or limits on foreign ownership, as in Denmark. It could also spark moves to cut the size of Scotland’s largest estates, like the 240,000 acres owned by the Duke of Buccleuch, or the 169,695 belonging to Danish clothing tycoon Anders Holch Povlsen.
In 2014, the Land Reform Review Group recommended limits on the land the wealthy can own. The Scottish Government declined to write the measure into its subsequent land reform bill but the new £20,000 research project tendered by the Commission suggests it now plans to.
Land reform is a highly charged issue, with an estimated 50 per cent of rural Scotland held by just 432 individuals.
Robin McAlpine, of Left-wing think-tank Common Weal, said the government should seek a ‘mutually beneficial’ approach so land is handed over willingly, but he warned: ‘In some cases you will need a slightly more forceful approach. If anyone says we can’t allow the Duke of Buccleuch to lose a single inch of his estate, that’s an anti-enterprise approach to Scotland.’
But David Johnstone, chairman of landowners’ group Scottish Land & Estates, argued: ‘It should be acknowledged generally... that our largest estates are at the forefront of delivering the policy goals of the Scottish Government, whether it be with regards to farming, housing, forestry, energy or tourism.’
The Scottish Land Commission said: ‘We have issued a tender for a background piece of research looking at the approaches other countries have taken in controlling land ownership and the impact this has on ownership patterns and the productivity and use of land.’
‘Some cases will need a more forceful approach’