Parliament: Land Reform - Bill will help Scots buy land

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The Independent Online
SCOTTISH COMMUNITIES will have a right to buy their land at an independently assessed price under plans outlined yesterday by Scotland's Lib-Lab coalition. But they can buy only when land is on the market, dashing hopes that big land-owners would be forced to sell.

Yesterday's White Paper detailed how communities will be able to register an interest in buying land where they live or work then, only if it goes on sale, will have six months to buy it. It also includes compulsory purchase provisions to prevent bad land management.

The White Paper, which will form the basis for one of the first Bills presented to the Scottish Parliament, was "radical" said Jim Wallace, Scotland's Deputy First Minister. He also outlined plans for walkers to have better countryside access. A new public right of access would go with safeguards to ensure the privacy of owners, said Mr Wallace. "Our proposals on community ownership and right of access will create in Scotland a modern and fair approach to land ownership and represent a long-awaited and significant sea change."

But the plans face stiff opposition. The Scottish Land-owners Federation said lairds should be allowed unrestricted access to the open market. The spokesman, Andrew Dingwall-Fordyce, said: "We believe it is manifestly unjust that a right to buy is created at the expense of individual liberty such as delayed sale.This would cause a deal to be lost when it might have gone ahead and create a means whereby a community body could force a sale at less than the price the owner could get on the open market."

David McLetchie, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said the right- to-buy schemes could deter potential investment. "We are creating a situation where we expect people who have bought in an open market to sell in a rigged market. People contemplating buying an estate in Scotland and investing in its development are going to be deterred from doing so. They might take their money elsewhere and invest in Wales or North Yorkshire."

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