Scottish Land and Estates says there is no evidence ‘big is bad’ for land ownership in consultation on Bill

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A body representing landowners has told ministers that large plots of land owned by a single entity are not a bad thing as a consultation on new land reform laws is nearing completion.

The Scottish Government is seeking to introduce a new Land Reform Bill that would introduce a public interest test on sales of large tracts of land, or create one with the aim of diversifying land ownership.

A consultation document said a large-scale landholding would be over 3,000 hectares.

The same document stated that a failed public interest test could result in large properties being divided into lots, with a single buyer unable to buy the entire unit or local community organizations being offered a portion or a portion. part of the land, with the initial sale only allowed to go if the group refuses to bid.

The test could also impose requirements on buyers, including forcing them to make plans for how they will tackle climate change.

But Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) – a body which represents landowners in Scotland – said it was not true that large-scale land holdings were necessarily a bad thing.

While the Scottish government hoped the bill would benefit communities and the environment, SLE chief executive Sarah Laing said it could have the ‘opposite effect’ and lead to legal battles over sales of land that has been prevented from moving forward.

“The ownership scale, whether you are a public or private owner, is crucial to improving the environment through peatland restoration, renewable energy and biodiversity,” she said.

“Scale also provides the platform for vital economic activity in some of our most fragile regions. The Scottish Government has no evidence to back up its big is bad position, in fact it has plenty of evidence to the contrary.

“We already have a body of long-agreed legislation that allows communities to acquire land, as well as the voluntary land and property transfers that continue to happen across Scotland.

“The planning of even more laws and a public interest test that could well lead to large-scale land sales and acquisitions becoming entangled in legal disputes and red tape threatens to add millions of books at the cost of land reform to the Scottish taxpayer.

“State interference of this degree in the land market is a minefield and unnecessary, and will do nothing to help us get to net zero.”

The consultation is due to end on Sunday.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We fully understand and appreciate the valuable contribution that many responsible landowners across Scotland are making to our economy and to achieving our Net Zero ambitions.

“Our proposals aim to encourage and support responsible and diverse land ownership, including ensuring that communities have more opportunities to own land and have a say in land use in their area. .

“We will carefully consider the responses to our consultation as we develop these proposals for inclusion in the Land Reform Bill.”

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