13 August 1999

Land time bomb

SCOTTISH land reform plans are a ticking time bomb under farmers and rural businesses, according to Alex Johnstone, chairman of the Scottish parliaments rural affairs committee.

His comments followed publication by the Scottish Executive of an action plan to implement land reforms from this autumn. Legislation will allow communities the right to buy land when farms or estates are placed on the market. Time to raise money will also be granted and valuations will be set by executive-appointed officials.

A Scottish Land Fund, using Lottery money, is proposed to facilitate such purchases, and back-up compulsory purchase powers will be included in the draft bill.

The timetable includes proposals to abolish rating relief on sporting rights, reducing or abolishing agricultural and forestry rating relief and introducing taxation based on land value.

Mr Johnstone, Tory spokesman on rural affairs, said farmers had every right to recoil at the suggested return of land rates and claimed that community right to buy legislation would erode land values.