Wed 16 Dec, 2015

Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green MSP for Lothian, today urged Scottish ministers to improve the Land Reform Bill to tackle tax avoidance and secrecy, and give tenant farmers a right to buy.

The Green MSPs will vote tonight to support the Bill at stage one, while warning that improvements are needed to deliver the bold legislation that Scotland deserves.

Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green MSP for Lothian, said:

"We all need land but access to it and ownership of it is unequal. Not only do relatively few people own most of Scotland but around a quarter of all estates over one thousand acres have been held by the same family for over 400 years. I hope this Bill is the start of the Parliament taking a renewed interest in land reform, which affects urban areas as well as rural communities.

"Improving transparency is vital but unfortunately what the Government proposes is completely unworkable because it limits the ability to reveal who is in control of land. The Bill as it stands will continue to allow Scottish land ownership to be involved in complex schemes of tax avoidance and evasion and secrecy.

"Greens support the idea that when it comes to companies owning land, only EU-registered companies should be allowed to do this. With the EU ratcheting up anti-laundering and transparency rules, we have a chance of discovering who is benefiting from our land.

"The case of Andrew Stoddart in East Lothian has highlighted the need for a right to buy for tenant farmers in specific circumstances, and I again urge ministers to amend the Bill to reflect that before bringing it back to the parliament chamber for a final vote."

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