18 April 1997

Scot Nats pledge to end archaic land system

By Shelley Wright

LAND reform would be a key priority for an independent Scotland governed by the Scottish National Party.

The SNP manifesto says the countrys feudal tenure system is amongst the most archaic in the western world and should be abolished.

Feudal tenure involves the holding of superior title to land, with the holder having the ultimate say in whether or not the land can be sold. But the titles can be traded without the land so ultimately a feudal overlord can suddenly appear and block sales or evict people from property they thought they owned.

The SNP says that the system of feudal overlords has been "widely abused and has led to depopulation, massive profits for individuals who care nothing for the land and the people and insecurity for those who thought they had a title to their homes". That system has no place in a modern country the Party insists.

The SNP believes that land is the most valuable resource of a nation. And the Party would establish a Scottish Land Commission to oversee the introduction of new land laws, ending feudal tenure, and establishment of a Scottish land register.

That would "banish forever the mystery of land ownership behind which many have hidden in recent years, to the detriment of local communities," the manifesto states.

Other key agricultural policies include:

&#8226 Establishing a wide-ranging independent Scottish food and consumer health agency.

&#8226 Reforming the CAP to ensure support is switched away from commodities and directed at those who work the land.

&#8226 Widening access to modern machinery, by supporting machinery rings.

&#8226 Supporting crofting, including helping crofters to purchase crofting estates as part of an overall development package for those areas.

&#8226 Returning crofting estates currently owned by the Crown to those who work the land.

An independent Scotland would become an EU member state in its own right. The SNP believes that Scottish farmers have been hit in recent years by "successive Tory failures and by a growing neglect of the importance of the agricultural sector". Scottish farmers and farming communities are presently of minor concern to any UK government, as the BSE crisis has shown, the manifesto says.

"The SNP promoted a Scottish solution to the EU ban from day one, but the British government has refused to countenance such relief for Scottish beef farmers and the Scottish beef industry, even when they were invited to by the European Union," it adds.