Nicola Sturgeon announces radical land reform plans for Scotland

Scotland's new First Minister sets out her legislative agenda

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The laws governing Scotland’s land must undergo “radical” reform so that both urban areas and the countryside are treated as assets which benefit “the many, not the few”, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Formally announcing her programme for government at Holyrood, the country’s new First Minister said she intends to bring 12 bills before the Scottish Parliament in the coming year in a package of legislation for “all of Scotland”.

Plans to take action against landowners who pose a “barrier” to development will be included in a bill on land reform, Ms Sturgeon said, while bringing to an end rates exemptions for shooting and deerstalking estates – which she said were “put in place by the Tories in 1994 to protect the interests of major landowners” – will be used to pay for an increase in the fund supporting community land ownership.

The First Minister also announced the creation of an independent commission to examine fairer alternatives to the council tax, and said further laws would be passed to prevent people being pursued for historic poll tax debts.

In education, Ms Sturgeon said she wanted to increase the number of students from poorer backgrounds in higher education. At least 20 per cent should come from the most deprived 20 per cent of the population, she said, admitting that this was a “challenging” target.

She also promised more funding for the NHS to tackle the problem of “bed blocking”, in which patients’ are kept in hospital unnecessarily while they wait for care services to be put in place.

A consultation will also be held on creating a specific offence of domestic abuse, Ms Sturgeon said, while new legislation may be brought in to combat so-called “revenge porn”, in which intimate photos of someone are posted online by their ex-partner without their consent.

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