The Scottish government’s Land Reform Bill is to be laid before the Scottish Parliament within the next two weeks.
New environment and land reform minister Aileen McLeod told landowners at their conference in Edinburgh that the Bill would be prepared before the summer recess. And she urged them to be constructive during its passage.
In an uncompromising speech to a sell-out Scottish Lands and Estates (SLE) meeting, Dr McLeod laid out her vision for land reform and said she wanted to work with landowners to achieve the “maximum possible consensus”.
Dr McLeod reaffirmed the Scottish government’s commitment to have a million acres in community ownership by 2020 – it is currently less than half that figure.
Also part of the Holyrood government’s vision is to create a permanent body to act as an ongoing land reform commission and to remove the business rate exemption for shooting and deerstalking estates.
Dr McLeod rebuffed criticism that the land reforms were an ideologically driven attack on large land ownership.
“I see the Scottish government’s approach to land reform as one mechanism for tackling the causes and consequences of inequality that blights our society and limits our potential.
“So my approach to land reform isn’t about arbitrarily taking land away from landowners or growing the public sector, but about working towards the kind of society we want to be in the next 50-100 years.”
SLE chairman Lord David Johnstone said: “The challenge we face is to break down the stereotype image that is so convenient for those who are critical of the very existence of estates.
“They do not wish to acknowledge what is happening on the ground and what can be achieved in the future.”