Comment posted First Minister announces ‘radical rethink’ on land reform by Bob Chicken.
On the face of it this appears to be a genuinely progressive move towards much needed land reform in Scotland. However, history tells us that this is unlikely to be the end-result.
Scottish land law and ownership has an absolutely scandalous history. The land that now comprises Scotland has been the subject of a number of spuriously “legal” land grabs by the monarchy, the aristocracy, the church and the wealthy i.e. those who can either make the law or afford the legal advice to turn it to their advantage.
The way in which rural Scotland is managed by some of its landowners is a downright shame.
For the last month or so I have been talking to tenant farmers about issues arising from the judgements made by Lord Gill on the Land Reform Act 2003. One of the conclusions that I have come to is that, however well-meaning the spirit of the law, those with the money to examine its fine detail always come out on top.
Undoubtedly there are landowners who act as good members of the community and encourage economic development while still protecting the natural environment. It would also seem that many large land owners act in a way that actually works against the economic development of our rural communities and contributes to many of our social problems.
Scotland’s history is filled with many tales of absentee, wealthy landowners inflicting all kinds of injusices on the communities that live on and around their lands. I always thought that these were mostly a thing of the past but find that farm tenants still go in fear of upsetting their landlords because, quite rightly, they don’t trust the law to protect them (or can’t afford its protection!).
I have seen evidence to show that some landowners may be deliberately allowing good farm buildings to deteriorate to ruins in order to get tenants off the land or to prevent the farms from being occupied by people who may be able, at some future time, to claim a right to buy.
Many tenancy contracts also have clauses which allow the landlord a share of any profits which may come from “diversification” of the use of farm buildings e.g as B&Bs or self catering. This kind of micro economic development can make a substantial contribution to the economic well-being of our rural communities. Sadly, many of these ideas are killed at birth by the knowledge that sharing the profit will destroy their viability.
Any proposals for land reform must take into account the shameful elements of Scotland’s history of land reform and the ability of those with money to turn apparently good, socially progressive legislation to their advantage.
Andy WIghtman’s book “The Poor Had No Lawyers” is an intriguing, must-read for anyone participating in this review.
Bob Chicken also commented
- Graeme, Derek,
To design a land reform package to restore social justice to the ownership of land in Scotland will require considerable political will and effort. It will also need vast amounts of civil service and legal vigilance to ensure that any loopholes are sealed against all-comers. I have no doubt that the current landowners interests will be defended by some of the best legal brains that Scotland has to offer.
How on earth do you expect land reform to be given the necessary political and administrative priority if Scotland decides to separate from the UK? Every waking moment of our politicians, civil servants and judiciary will be consumed with the intricate political, administrative and legal surgery necessary after jemmying Scotland away from the rest of the UK.
Recent comments by Bob Chicken
- Loch Fyne Whiskies sold
A great pity that Richard is selling up. He has done a terrific job with Loch Fyne Whiskies and his choice of stock has brought a lot of pleasure to many of us!
- Care Accolade 2013 recognition for Argyll and Bute Council Community Dementia Team
Well done the Dementia Team – thoroughly deserved recognition for all your efforts.
- Campbeltown IS to get the white elephant ferry route
One of the lessons we all learned from the last Ballycastle service is that it’s important to develop the business to business links.
After the service had stopped, and prior to a 2nd attempt to get it going again, a survey was done with businesses on both sides of the North Channel. It was found that, despite a complete lack of encouragement to business trade, many links had been forged and that a surprising number of businesses had started trading on the other side.
It was also found that the short and sporadic seasonal nature of the service discouraged many traders from making any commitments. A number told us that they would be happy to trade across the water if the service ran on an 11 or 12 month basis.
There were also a lot of agricultural ties between the two sides. None of this was exploited by the ferry company. Indeed, one got the impression that they were actually anti-business.
If this service is to prosper there needs to be a concerted effort to make these vital business to business links with the mainland. Perhaps this is a good opportunity for HIE to lend a helping hand (and some serious seedcorn funding) to encourage local businesses to make a start.
Tourism is, of course, important, it provides the the icing for the cake. However it is the day to day trade links that will make this service work and, hopefully expand from the, less than generous, 3 days/week to the 5 to 7 day service that is really needed here in Kintyre.
- Struan Lodge closure proposal and costs confusion – have we not seen this before?
“When all of this unravelled through the dedicated researches of SRSN and of the newly formed and effective Argyll Rural Schools Network”
So,who is going to take up the sword, so effectively wielded by these bodies for the primary schools, on behalf of the old, the poor and the vulnerable as they are marched into the firing line?
- Troubling responses to the death of Margaret Thatcher
I find it a sign of a healthy democracy that, from the announcement of her death, the UK media and public expressed their true feelings about Thatcher, whether I agree with them or not.
A few young socialists showing their joy at the passing of such a divisive icon of British politics is surely to be applauded and not villified.
On the other hand, yesterday’s tributes in the Mother Of All Parliaments seemed designed as nothing more than a stage managed session of mutual self gratification for the Tory Members. It was just about saved from tooth rotting, sugary blandness by the contributions of Glenda Jackson, Michael Meacher, David Winnick and Angus Robertson.
However,the moment I enjoyed most, took place in the placid environs of the House of Lords where the true and lasting nature of the Tory Party really became apparent. Lord Tebbit, in the presence of Lord Howe, told us he regretted that “I left her at the mercy of her friends,”. The Chingford Polecat truly savaged the Dead Sheep!
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