Land reform must be balanced, say Scots Tories

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 16 February 2015 in News

Conservatives will support measures to crack down on tax avoidance by Scottish landowners through the creation of a new ownership register

Conservatives will support measures to crack down on tax avoidance by Scottish landowners through the creation of a new ownership register, the party has said.

The Scottish Government is looking at land reform in this parliament, and the Conservatives say they will oppose SNP attempts to “erode property ownership”.

In a new ‘action plan’ published this morning, the party calls for increased transparency in land ownership through the creation of an ownership register and for the scope of the Scottish Land Fund to be widened to provide funding for communities seeking to lease land.

The plan also calls for an end to business rates exemptions for large-scale renewable projects and for the Government to fundamentally review state ownership and state management of forestry.

Launching the plan, Scottish Conservative enterprise spokesman Murdo Fraser said: “Let's have genuine land reform that works for the countryside. What matters in rural Scotland is not who owns land, but how it is used. Current land reform plans by the SNP Government are indicative of a central-belt government that doesn't get rural Scotland.

"Our plan is for responsible land use for the long-term. The SNP's plan to erode property rights and tax rural estates' sporting rights will simply cost jobs and deter investment.

"We need a balanced plan which backs the principle of property ownership but which also cracks down on tax avoidance by landowners and gives support for communities which want to lease land for the long-term. That way, they can plan for the future.”

On the call to review state ownership of forestry, the plan says: “We accept that some level of state ownership is essential and beneficial in non-commercial forestry, but we see no reason why commercial timber production should be owned by the state.”

It continues: “Other commercial activity (primarily tourist/recreational) forests could also be reformed, with state ownership remaining, but other community/private management models which ensure any profits are reinvested back in the asset should be trialled.”

The action plan is focussed on six areas: expansion of superfast broadband; a review of local policing and how it is accountable to communities; giving councils the right to block new windfarms through a moratorium along with discontinuing business rates exemptions for large-scale renewable projects; better community transport and increased transparency in land ownership.

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