ANGUS MACDONALD MSP JOINS COLLEAGUES TO LAUNCH RURAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE STAGE 1 REPORT ON LAND REFORM BILL

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Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald (pictured above, center with Rob Gibson MSP - above, right - and Sarah Boyack MSP- above, left - launching the Land Reform Bill Report at the Registers of Scotland) has joined Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment colleagues in Edinburgh to launch the stage 1 report on the Scottish Government’s radical Land Reform Bill.

Commenting on the launch Angus said:

"I was delighted to join my RACCE committee colleagues, Rob Gibson MSP (Committee Convener) and Sarah Boyack MSP (Labour Environment spokesperson) at the official launch of our committee’s stage 1 report on the Land Reform Bill at the Registers of Scotland, Meadowbank House, Edinburgh on Friday morning. In line with the remit back at SNP Conference our committee has called for the Bill to be strengthened, and I'm confident the Scottish Government will come back with a stronger, amended Bill with more detail at stage 2. We will be right up to the wire with this Bill, with stage 3 being finalised and the Bill becoming an Act on the last week of Parliament before the election (Parliament dissolves on 23rd March 2016)."

See video of launch here

Commenting on the launch Angus MacDonald said:

“Our Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee (RACCE) has stated that The Scottish Government’s Land Reform Bill requires strengthening in key areas to deliver on its radical ambitions."

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The Committee highlights a range of issues in its report on the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill, including:

  • ~ The Bill needs to state clearly that land is a national asset for the benefit of all the people of Scotland and be firmly and explicitly set within the context of international human rights obligations.
  • ~ Changes are required to the draft legislation to secure improved transparency about who owns, controls and benefits from land, and the Committee suggests how that might be achieved.
  • ~ Steps must be taken to explain more effectively why engagement between landowners, land managers and communities is demanded by the Bill, to ensure that guidance on engagement will not be ignored by any party and make all  concerned aware of potential penalties for not adhering to guidance.
  • ~ The proposed new right to buy for communities to further sustainable development is welcome but the Committee asks the Government to consider whether the test thresholds are too high and whether communities will be able to make full use of the provisions.
  • ~ A call for an intended review into deer management to be brought forward and concluded in time for the Scottish Government to take any required action at the end of 2016.

The Committee has significant concerns relating to the lack of detailed supporting information concerning the reintroduction of non-domestic business rates for shootings and deer forests. It calls on the Scottish Government to provide a thorough, robust and evidence-based analysis of the potential economic, social and environmental impacts of ending the sporting rates exemption as soon as possible, and certainly before the start of Stage 2, if the Committee is to be in a position to support this part of the Bill.

Regarding agricultural holdings, the Committee questions whether the Bill can deliver its stated objectives of maintaining or increasing the amount of land available to let and strengthening the rights of tenants and making it easier for them to invest in their tenancies while protecting the rights of landlords.*

It is vital that, subject to a full consultation, a statutory code of practice for land agents is developed by the Tenant Farming Commissioner and rigorously enforced.

A call for the Scottish Government to consider options that could give 1991 Act Tenants a right to buy ‘in certain circumstances’.

Convener of the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee, Rob Gibson MSP said: 

“The Committee shares the Government's stated aim of delivering radical land reform and supports many of the measures contained within and  general principles of the Bill. But in our view, some parts, as drafted, require more work to deliver their ambitions.

“Key issues - such as improving transparency on who owns, controls and benefits from land, making the rent review process fairer and more transparent; and creating a better environment for investment in holdings by both tenants and landlords - require either further consideration or more detailed explanation. We are asking for greater detail before the Stage One debate at the Scottish Parliament, so the Committee can be clear on what is intended and how it will work."

Mr Gibson continued:

“The Bill has stimulated a huge debate across Scotland about our land and what it means for the country. 

"It is important that as the Bill progresses through the parliamentary process members from across the chamber join the Committee and the Government in working to deliver the ambition and clarity most people in Scotland want to see.”

See more at:

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/94572.aspx#sthash.ZrJ5xv9Z.dpuf

BBC online:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-35005602

Scotsman:

http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/land-reform-bill-branded-laird-bashing-1-3966495

Full report available here:

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/94538.aspx

Copyright © Angus MacDonald MSP 2017

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