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Land Reform Proposals in Scotland

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I really like George Monbiot and he's written a smashing feature on the topic of the Land Reform Proposals  in The Guardian.  In his article he lists the major benefits the government endow on the landowners. 'The City of London sits behind the Speaker’s chair in the House of Commons to protect the entitlements of a corporation that pre-dates the Norman conquest. This is an essentially feudal nation.'

Nobody benefits from the land more than the moneyed class – even if you decided to strike out on your own and go prospecting for gold you're not allowed as – 'the Royal Mines Act 1424 gives the crown the right to all the gold and silver in Scotland.'

Scotland is now calling into question the antiquated systems that line the pockets of a handful of rich landowners.  Although, many, including Lesley Riddoch argue that they are not going nearly far enough. This was a major topic of debate at the recent SNP Conference - where the limitations of the proposals were vehemently questioned. 

Yet, the corporate press are up in arms with The Telegraph publishing dire warnings e.g. deer stalking and grouse shooting could come to an end if business rates are introduced for sporting estates.  Yes, those international oligarchs, oil sheiks and the richest in Britain who come to shoot are exempted from business rates.  And in England Cameron has almost doubled the public subsidy for English grouse moors and frozen the price of shotgun licences.

'Farm subsidies, which remain limitless as a result of the Westminster government’s lobbying, ensure that every household in Britain hands £245 a year to the richest people in the land. ' And the single farm payment under which landowners are paid by the hectare, is a reinstatement of a medieval levy called feudal aid, a tax the vassals had to pay to their lords.'

One change that the Scottish Government is pushing for is that it be revealed, with the names of landowners listed for all to see, as for example in France. This is proving to be quite a task and at the moment only 26% landowners in Scotland have been identified. Old registers had been removed from public scrutiny at the behest of landowners.

'What sort of nation is this, in which you cannot discover who owns the ground beneath your feet?' 

As Scotland seeks to break up large areas of land when this is detrimental to the progress of local people and help local people buy land with the aim of “a fairer, wider and more equitable distribution of land”. Westminster encourages “greater competitiveness, including by consolidation” – there is now the fastest concentration of ownership which means a continued increase in the size of land holdings. The number of holdings is now 'possibly the fastest concentration of ownership since the acts of enclosure.'

So the Scottish Government raises issues of land tax valuation, fairer systems, public ownership of land, the building of better quality homes at cheaper costs as land is currently so costly and curtail practises such as our mountains being burned and over grazed to suit the purposes of the landowning class.

Monbiot suggests that: "Scotland is rudely interrupting the constructed silences that stifle political thought in the UK. This is why the oligarchs who own the media hate everything that is happening there: their interests are being exposed in a way that is currently impossible south of the border.'

'It's time we... broke the culture of deference that keeps us in our place.'







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