Greens table amendments aimed at strengthening land reform bill

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 18 January 2016 in News

Scottish Greens table amendments which would stop companies registered outside the EU from buying land in Scotland

The Scottish Greens have tabled amendments to the Land Reform Bill which would stop companies registered outside the EU from buying land in Scotland.

The amendments would also bring disused and derelict land into the valuation system so it can be taxed, which the Greens claim would raise £300m a year.

Proposals limiting land ownership to companies registered within the EU were recommended by the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment (RACCE) Committee, with 79 per cent of public responses in a recent consultation showing support for the measure.


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But ministers said the recommendation “would be outwith the competence of the Scottish Parliament”.

The Government response also claimed the move “would be a restriction on the free movement of capital”.

The Government said that such a restriction will only be compatible with EU law if it pursues a public interest objective and does so in way that complies with the principle of proportionality. Ministers argue this would not be the case.

The response says: “After reviewing this proposal, the Scottish Government came to view that it would not provide the greater transparency of land ownership that those who supported this proposal suggest”.

Green candidate Andy Wightman said: “Improving transparency is vital to understanding who benefits from our land. The government’s refusal to include an EU registration clause in the Bill is deeply disappointing.

“Our amendment would put a stop to all further landownership by secretive companies in tax havens. By confining ownership to EU-registered companies we can ensure that moves being made in Europe to tackle laundering and secrecy are much more effective since, to date, many secrecy jurisdictions have refused to co-operate. That has to be better than the status quo.”

Labour Spokesperson for Environmental Justice Sarah Boyack told Holyrood the Scottish Government’s delay in responding to the RACCE committee, “means that there has been little time for MSPs or stakeholders to consider potential amendments in advance of the Committee’s Stage Two consideration of the Bill.”

Boyack said Parliament has yet to see details from the Scottish Government on limiting ownership to companies in the EU.

She said: “Promises of amendments at Stage Three or future regulations mean that we’re not able to amend or scrutinise these proposals.  Moreover the danger is that the key decisions are kicked into touch until after the election”.

The Rural Affairs Committee will debate the Green amendment on EU registration on Wednesday.

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