Monday, 19 October 2009

SNP back further progress on land reform

At last weekend's annual SNP Conference, I was pleased to have two resolutions on land reform backed by an overwhelming majority of the delegates. The resolutions call for the speeding up and increases in community buyouts as well as new information on who owns Scotland .

In presenting each motion to Conference I also urged, and would do so again now, the agencies which are responsible to speed the land reform process. HIE must make a speedy commitment to back its Community Land Unit and ensure it is funded. Also, it has to be far more pro-active to support volunteers who apply for funds and stop giving the impression that it is a gate keeper for the Big lottery.

The Big Lottery itself has applications for buy outs, such as the one from the Embo football team, to set up forest crofts in Skelbo woods. The Big Lottery says it is carrying on best practice from the Scottish Land Fund days but that has to include buying government owned land for community uses and I will be writing them to seek clarification on the progress of the Embo and other bids.

This is still very much a live issue for the SNP. Overall, the SNP conference underlined the party's long held commitment to thorough land reform. At Eden Court the delegates endorsed my proposals to seek compulsory registration for all land holdings over 100 acres on the computerised land register. Means to identify and ban secretive offshore trusts from owning Scots land was called for. Enforcing residency obligations on overseas and absent land owners of large tracts of Scotland can ensure they are registered and accountable for their actions - this was also approved overwhelmingly.

Land reform in Scotland still has a long way to go. However the resolutions and support of the SNP show that we are well placed to take it forward. There is an appetite in the Scottish Government to make sure that all Scotland's assets are put to their best use, land is prime among these, I look forward to further progress on this issue and copy both resolution below for reader comment:


32 Community Buy-Outs
Conference notes the low numbers of community buy out approvals and calls on the Big Lottery Fund to end its presumption against funding the purchase of government land.

34 Land Reform
Conference calls for the preparation of land reform measures by the Scottish Government to make optimum use of Scotland's basic natural resource in keeping with the principles of sustainable development. Conference recognises the slow pace of land registration through the National Registers of Scotland and seeks consideration of mechanisms which will speed up the process including means to identify beneficial owners of large areas of Scotland and the consideration of compulsory registration by landowners for all holdings of 100 acres and above. Conference also seeks an assessment of the practicalities of enforcing residency obligations on all land owners from overseas and gathering evidence on means to ban offshore trusts and companies and private trusts from owning land in Scotland

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