Royal Highland Show 2015: Land reform bill under fire

The Scottish government’s major Land Reform Bill faced loud resistance at a Royal Highland Show seminar, just days before its long-awaited publication.

Royal Highland and Agricultural Society President Lord Forsyth rejected the need for reform.

He said the current work of large sporting estates did Scotland an “enormous service”, as they maintained land and employment in very marginal areas.

See also: Reform bill to be unveiled in a fortnight

“Far be it from me to give advice to the First Minister but this is a very fragile, delicate area and one that has worked well to the advantage of Scotland,” the former Scottish Secretary told a breakfast seminar hosted by land agent Bidwells.

Lord Forsyth’s comments were well received by the audience of lawyers, landowners and land agents.

But the Scottish government’s Rural Affairs secretary, Richard Lochhead, made it clear in his address that he did not agree with the show president.

Mr Lochhead insisted land reform was high on the political agenda for good reasons.
“The land question has been enormous in Scotland for generations,” he said.

“We know we have a concentrated pattern of land ownership in this country compared to the rest of Europe.

“The people of Scotland feel strongly about that. We also know that land, how it’s used, who owns it and how it’s managed influences the health of our economy.

When that is not working there is a duty for Parliament and government to look at what we can do to ensure land is used in the national interest.”

Mr Lochhead also confirmed the Land Reform Bill would be published next week and would contain details of tenancy reform.