29 November 2001
Land Reform Bill is nationalisation

By Shelley Wright, Scotland correspondent

SCOTLANDS Land Reform Bill, which would give crofters the right to buy land even if landlords refuse to sell, is nationalisation, say landowners.

The Bill, which also deals with countryside access, was published by Scotlands Justice Minister, Jim Wallace, on Wednesday (28 November).

It will allow rural communities to buy land when it comes on the market, he said. Crofting communities should be able to buy land “at any time”.

Scottish Landowners Federation convenor Robert Balfour described the right-to-buy as a nightmare scenario.

“This is not the familiar right-to-buy like people buying their council house. Ministers should be honest enough to call it nationalisation.”

Substituting private investment by landowners with public funds to help crofting communities buy land was a “socialist message”, Mr Balfour added.

Donnie Maclennan, chairman of the Scottish Crofting Foundation said: We would hope that most takeovers would take place through co-operation.”

But the SLF and National Farmers Union Scotland are deeply concerned about access proposals, especially on landowners liability.

NFU Scotland president, Jim Walker, said he was was pleased that changes to the Bill could force local authorities to establish a core path network.

But liability remained a key concern, he added, saying that the Bill should emphasise that people who take access do so at their own risk.