Scotland politics

Hoyrood 2016: Land reform raised on campaign trail

Scotland landscape Image copyright Thinkstock

New rules to make clear who owns Scotland's land will "shine transparency" in the wake of the Panama Papers leak, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

But the Scottish Greens accused Ms Sturgeon's SNP of "attempting to make existing legislation look like a radical promise".

Elsewhere on the Holyrood campaign trail, the Scottish Lib Dems launched their manifesto.

And the Tories and Labour criticised the SNP's record in government.

Ms Sturgeon said she would consult on setting up a Register of Controlling Interests as one of her first acts if the SNP is re-elected on 5 May.

She said the register would "shine the bright light of transparency on to the issue of who owns Scotland".

'Anonymous ownership'

She added: "The Panama Papers have exposed some of the issues around anonymous ownership of land - however the people of Scotland shouldn't have to rely on leaked documents to find out who owns Scotland."

The last SNP government passed the Land Reform (Scotland) Act earlier this year, but the legislation was branded too timid by critics, including some within the party.

Ms Sturgeon, who was visiting a gin distillery in Grantown-on-Spey before campaigning in Inverness city centre, also vowed she would be "a champion for all of Scotland's communities" if re-elected first minister.

Image caption Ms Sturgeon visited a gin distillery in Grantown-on-Spey

But Scottish Greens candidate Andy Wightman, a long-standing campaigner on land reform issues, said: "This announcement by the SNP is an attempt to make existing legislation look like a radical promise.

"The Register of Controlling Interests is already legal requirement under Part 3 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016.

"The SNP is announcing that if elected, it will obey the law - nothing more. Any government is bound to obey the law."

The party's co-convener, Patrick Harvie, joined campaigners protesting against proposals for development on greenbelt land near Stirling.

Elsewhere, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson also highlighted rural issues on the election trail in Aberdeenshire, where she met farmers who are still waiting for CAP payments.

'People's livelihoods'

She highlighted NFU Scotland figures which show that almost a third of farmers were still waiting for their payouts last week, describing it as "failure of the SNP government's making".

"We are talking about people's livelihoods and a key sector in our economy, but the SNP had taken their eye off the ball on this and many other issues," she said.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale visited a youth football group in Edinburgh to outline plans to stops cuts to schools and children's services.

She said that under the SNP, budget cuts would put after-school sports clubs and extra-curricular activities at risk.

Ms Dugdale said that Labour would take "different and fairer" decisions of tax, reversing a tax cut for the top 1% and setting a 50p top rate of tax for those earning more than £150,000 a year.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Liberal Democrats unveiled their manifesto at a soft play centre in Edinburgh, where they outlined their plans to raise £500m for a "transformation" of education by increasing income tax rates by 1p.

The manifesto also includes proposals to improve mental health care, a huge expansion in free nursery provision and a vow to reverse cuts to Scottish colleges.

Image caption The Scottish Lib Dems launched their manifesto at a soft play centre in Edinburgh

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