Scotland Moves Against Wealthy Gentry Who Dominate Land

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Source:   —  April 10, 2016, at 10:39 AM

While inequality of land ownership is more frequently associated with developing nations, Scotland embarked on a campaign to ensure land was an asset for the many, not the few, with a landmark bill introduced to the Scottish parliament in two thousand-fifteenth.

Scotland Moves Against Wealthy Gentry Who Dominate Land

Centuries-old traditions that led to four hundred thirty people owning half of Scotland'south privately held land are soon to become history as local communities seek to double their ownership in the nation known for its rugged landscape, sheep, and fine whisky.

While inequality of land ownership is more frequently associated with developing nations, Scotland embarked on a campaign to ensure land was an asset for the many, not the few, with a landmark bill introduced to the Scottish parliament in two thousand-fifteenth.

The move came amid growing tension over the dominance of large, frequently absent, land-owners whose keep over the country dates back to an era when Scotland was a largely agricultural nation running by the wealthy gentry.

"This is about local communities taking control over their own fate from absentee landlords," Peter Peacock, a former member of the Scottish parliament, campaigner and co-author of a briefing paper on the reforms, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Scotland'south land grabs took space a couple of hundred years ago ... presently communities are trying to obtain some balance of ownership."

Common Good

The package of changes, contained in the two thousand fifteen Land Reform Bill, defines land as a finite resource that should be protected in law for the common excellent and in the public interest.

The third stage of a detailed, ten portion Bill passed in March and paves the way for a new Land Register to ensure greater transparency of land ownership and improvements to community rights to itinerate common land.

Portion of the thrust to re-balance property interests is also designed to encourage youthful people back to live and work in rural and wilderness areas, particularly the Scottish highlands.

To assistance them, the Scottish government has been offering free land grants to community groups, so long as they live and work in the area, said Peacock who's also Policy Director of campaign group, Community Land Scotland.

Below a Scottish government initiative, half a million acres of Scottish land, an area larger than London, have been given to local communities in the past decade with the objective of reaching one million acres over the following four years, Peacock said.

The Scottish Environment Ministry wouldn't allow extra comments on its land reform policies as the region is in the midst of an election campaign, a government spokeswoman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Aileen McLeod, Scotland'south Environment, Land Reform and Climate Modify Minister, has committed more than $14 million annually until two thousand twenty to assistance communities purchase land.

"Owning land can assistance communities realize their aspirations and dreams and create a genuine disagreement to long duration sustainability," McLeod said in a statement latest month.

"This Bill will authorize more communities than ever the opportunity to be involved in the decisions about land that affect them."

Security

Community Lands Scotland'south campaign to double community land holdings in rural Scotland is portion of an international movement mostly focused in the developing world to expand the quantity of land formally held by communities.

A two thousand fourteen report for the Scottish government found that four hundred thirty-two individuals own fifty % of the land in rural Scotland.

It said half of the territory'south land is owned by 0.008 % of the pop of more than 5.3 million people, an "exceptional" level of inequality for a democracy.

Peacock said much of Scotland'south land inequality can be traced back to a system of aristocratic inheritance, coupled with a violent campaign in the one thousand eight hundred to clear tiny farmers and residents off their land to create way for large sheep holdings.

This gap between individual owners and local communities has been further exacerbated by large purchases led by wealthy investors, including celebrities, who bought vast swathes of Scottish territory in times of economic turbulence, he said.

One of the most well-known investors is U. S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Half-Scottish, Trump has spoken proudly of his Gaelic heritage and owns two golf courses in Scotland.

The Land Reform Bill also aims to expand community land control by giving tenant farmers new rights to hold their land available for tenants when they retire.

After expressing concern about political rhetoric lambasting property barons, Scottish Land & Estates, a landowners' association, issued a cautious statement on the bill.

"We support community land ownership as portion of a diverse range of publicly and privately funded ownership models," David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said in a statement.

Peacock said in some cases, new government programs will also authorize farmers to purchase back land from absentee owners, even if the owners don't wish to sell. In this instance, they'd have to indicate the land is being neglected or improperly managed.

Sarah Boden, who raises sheep and cows on the island of Eigg off the coast of Scotland, is one of the residents to benefit from the government'south land plan.

"You can apply to a community believe for a package of land, and effectively obtain it for free and construct your property," Boden said in an online video promoting the land campaign.

"It gives me a feeling of security and belonging that I haven't felt anywhere else."

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