Rich private landowners have come under heavy fire after a series of intemperate outbursts aimed at blocking Scottish Government’s plans to tackle huge inequalities in wealth by radically reforming land law.
Large sporting estates have blasted the proposed changes as “ideological”, “emotive” and likely to stir up “hate tactics based upon jealousy”. They have drawn comparisons with Zimbabwe, and said they “resent” interference from urban-dwellers “with little experience of the countryside” and “distorted views”.
One landowner pronounced it “inconceivable” that private land should be required to deliver a public benefit, while another did not believe that land ownership “has to be in the public interest.” The government’s policy would only be acceptable if it deleted the idea of “building a fairer society in Scotland”, according to a major group of landowners.
Scottish ministers are proposing a major package of land reforms, including new powers for ministers to intervene, ending a tax break for sporting estates, and making ownership more transparent. Although about 70 per cent of the 1,269 responses to a recent public consultation were in favour, there were up to 50 private landowners who strongly objected.
Ministers have promised to publish a land reform bill in the next few weeks, but there is little sign that they are going to cave in to landowner pressure. In recent speeches, the land reform minister, Dr Aileen McLeod, has stressed the need to reduce the unequal distribution of wealth.