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COURIER OPINION: Can land reform for Scotland favour the man in the street over the elite?

Land reform could mean big changes to the ownership of the Scottish countryside. Photo: Shutterstock.
Land reform could mean big changes to the ownership of the Scottish countryside. Photo: Shutterstock.

Should the super-rich simply be able to swoop in and purchase swathes of the Scottish countryside at will?

Huge areas of Scotland currently rest in a small number of private hands.

But the Scottish Government has promised meaningful land reform, while acknowledging the important issues which surround the status quo.

Issues include housing in rural and urban areas, access to wild landscapes and Scotland’s ability to transition to a net-zero economy and combat the negative effects of climate change.

Turbines and pylons. Land reform in Scotland has to balance competing interests.

In short, it is impossible to divorce land reform with the health and wellbeing of Scotland’s people and its communities.

However, Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba is working on a proposal that would see a cap placed on the number of acres that any individual is permitted to hold.

There would be exemptions for farmers and some others. But such a move would literally change the landscape of Scotland forever.

It is a radical idea and one that will find merit with many people.

But there is a reason why land reform legislation is neither simple nor swift.

Those with the deep pockets to buy up huge tracts of land also have the money to defend themselves.

And where they see their interests compromised, they will surely have no compunction in seeking recourse through the courts to protect their holdings.

However, the interests of the country and its people must be paramount.

The social will for land reform is growing and the case for change is clear.

It is up to the politicians to plot the policy and legal pathways that will deliver meaningful change to a system that for generations has favoured the elite over the man in the street.

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