Imagine a feudal country where 432 families own half the land. Welcome to Scotland

The country's vast estates are under threat of being broken up and sold to small farmers. The laird's response? Get off our land

Their lineages date back to before the time of the Stuart kings whilst their farms and sporting estates sprawl across vast swathes of some of the most beautiful - and lucrative - landscapes in the world.

Yet the Scottish Lairds have found themselves under attack after breaking their silence and fiercely opposing reforms which could see their historic lands broken up and offered for sale to small farmers and community groups.

Scotland currently has the most concentrated pattern of private ownership in the developed world with just 432 individuals accounting for half of all non-public land.

Submissions by the aristocracy and their representatives to the Land Reform Review Group, which was set up by the Scottish Government to consider the stalled question of redistribution, reveal deep-seated opposition to change, critics claimed.

Among those to challenge the proposals was an estate belonging to the 10th Duke of Buccleuch - a title created in 1663 for the illegitimate son of Charles II - who is now Europe's largest landowner with holdings valued at more than £1bn.

Mark Coombs, the manager of the Duke's 33,000 ha Queensberry Estate said there was no call for the ownership structure to change.

"There are also concerns if the purpose of changing the ownership is simply to allow another party … to carry-out the same activity as is currently being undertaken by the existing owner as this strikes at the essence of ownership rights and suggests a clear move towards a more collectivist political view which is not representative of the body-politic of Scotland," he said.

Also critical was the Duke of Roxburghe, whose land and property company includes his home Floors Castle. In its submission the 24,000 ha  estate said it was "disappointed" at the emphasis placed on the expansion of community ownership.

Seafield and Strathspey Estates, a 35,000 ha enterprise which includes some of the finest salmon beats on the river Spey, is managed on behalf of the family of the Earl of Seafield. It said landowners were being blamed for the inefficiencies of local and central government.

"There is a myth presented by individuals sponsoring land reform in Scotland that 'too many acres are owned by too few individuals.' It may be true that 'many acres are owned by few individuals' but there is very little evidence presented to show that this is a bad thing," the estate said.

Land reform activists and author Andy Wightman said land ownership had become even more concentrated.  "We need to work towards a true property owning democracy. We need many more people with a stake in the land," he said.

 "It's the first time they have addressed head on the fact that so much land is held in so few hands. They are denying it's a problem but they are conceding it is one of the central issues which is very interesting because they cannot win in the long term," he added.

Three-quarters of 484 respondents to the review - which will report in April next year - said they were content with the current status quo. Half of all submissions came from estates, farm owners, landowners and their representatives.

Sarah-Jane Laing, director of policy and parliamentary affairs at Scottish Land and Estates, which represents Scottish landowners said its members did not oppose community buyouts.

 "It is disappointing that after being encouraged to 'come out of the trenches' by politicians, our members who willingly engaged and provided evidence are now being individually attacked and ridiculed by a well-known anti-land reform activist via social media," she said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas