Scotland politics

Plan to restrict Scottish land ownership

Image caption The Scottish government said that nation's land should benefit everyone

Companies would not be allowed to own land in Scotland unless they are registered within the European Union, under government proposals.

Scottish ministers are also considering extending such a restriction to trusts and partnerships, as part of proposed "radical" land reforms.

The government said Scotland's land should benefit "the many, not the few".

But landowners said they now faced the threat of being forced to sell off land, under the proposals.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already announced her intention to bring forward measures allowing ministers to take action against landlords seen as a "barrier to sustainable development".

And she earlier outlined moves to scrap tax breaks for shooting and deerstalking estates, as part of a proposed Land Reform Bill.

As the Scottish government asked for public views on its plans, it said restricting ownership to EU companies, trusts and partnerships would end the current situation where communities and others find it difficult to trace their local landowners.

The restrictions would not apply to individuals from other parts of the world who want to buy Scottish land.

'Transparent system'

Environment Minister Aileen McLeod, said: "The Scottish government's vision is for a strong relationship between the people of Scotland and the land of Scotland, where ownership and use of the land delivers greater public benefits through a democratically accountable and transparent system of land rights that promotes fairness and social justice, environmental sustainability and economic prosperity.

"I am keen to see a fairer and more equitable, distribution of land in Scotland where communities and individuals can own and use land to realise their potential. Scotland's land must be an asset that benefits the many, not the few."

Labour has backed the government's land reform proposals, but the Conservatives have branded them, "a Big Brother-style land grab."

And Scottish Land and Estates, which speaks for private landowners, said it was dismayed over a lack of clarity in the government's plans.

David Johnstone, chairman of the organisation, said: "We believe the government's desire to make rural Scotland more prosperous would be better served by viewing private landowners and land based businesses as part of the solution.

"Instead, we are now faced with the threat of landowners being forced to sell land if they are regarded as being a barrier to sustainable development."

He added: "Taken in the round, all these proposals have the potential to deliver a serious blow to land-based businesses of all types and sizes and we do not think that is in the interests of rural Scotland."

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