Scots first minister hints at further limits on land ownership

Fears are growing about the Scottish government’s land reform proposals and how they will hit farmers, after Scottish first minister Humza Yousaf told The National he would “seriously consider” slashing the public interest test limit.

Last year, ministers consulted on plans to introduce a public interest test on sales of more than 3,000ha of land, but in June, Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba launched a bid to reduce the limit to 500ha.

See also: Anger sparked over MSP proposal to limit land ownership

Her Land Ownership and Public Interest Bill sparked a wave of protest across the industry, with Scottish Land and Estates chief executive Sarah-Jane Laing suggesting it was likely to influence government policy.

Ms Laing pointed out that the average size of a cattle and sheep farm in a less favoured area (LFA) was 815ha, while specialist sheep farms in LFA areas averaged 945ha.

She also warned that any reduction in the definition of large-scale landholding would affect farmers who were not selling, as they would have to prepare a land management plan and comply with the land rights and responsibility statement.

NFU Scotland head of policy team Gemma Cooper said: “Following the opportunity we had to meet with the first minister at the recent Highland Show, NFU Scotland has requested a formal meeting, hopefully on farm, when land reform would be one of the subjects we would be keen to discuss.

“We have previously indicated that 3,000ha could be an acceptable threshold for defining a large-scale landholding, but a threshold of 500ha is far too low because it will increase bureaucracy and impact on family farms.”

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