THE Scottish Government will “seriously consider” slashing the limits spelled out in its land reform proposals, Humza Yousaf has said.

The First Minister was responding to recommendations in a report from Dr Calum MacLeod, who in a paper published on Thursday said a 3000-hectare trigger for public interest tests on Scottish land sales should be cut to just 500 hectares.

Mercedes Villalba, a Labour MSP for the North East, has also called for a 500-hectare limit, calling the Government’s proposed 3000-hectare trigger “timid”. One hectare is equivalent to 10,000 square meters.

Yousaf was asked if he supported reducing the 3000-hectare limit, given that controversial purchases such as Discovery Land Company’s acquisition of the 2800-hectare Glenlyon estate would remain unaffected.

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The First Minister (below) told The National: “That is our proposition at the moment [a 3000-hectare trigger] but I’m more than happy to look at what Calum’s published and the Jimmy Reid Foundation have published, and anybody else that has a view on this.”

He went on: “I think we should be open-minded. I’ve said often that I think the land in Scotland is concentrated in the hands of too few people and therefore I am somebody who believes in fairer land ownership in Scotland.

“So I’ll look at the propositions and proposals and we will seriously consider them.”

The National: Humza Yousaf will reveal future plans for Scottish citizenship in the event of independence (Colin Templeton/PA)

MacLeod, who led the post-legislative scrutiny of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 on behalf of the Scottish Parliament, said he welcomed the “willingness to look at reducing the proposed 3000-hectares threshold” in the forthcoming Land Reform Bill.

He went on: “It’s absolutely essential that it is set much closer to the 500 hectares threshold that I and others have called for if the new legislation is to make a real difference in ensuring that Scotland’s land is owned and used for the common good of Scotland’s people, not for a privileged wealthy elite.”

In his report published by the Jimmy Reid Foundation, MacLeod argued that the situation on the ground has remained virtually unchanged over two decades due to actions being too “fragmented and piecemeal”.

The land reform expert also argued that the scope of the proposed public interest test should be extended to include local infrastructure of community significance, such as piers, slipways, hotels, community facilities, or greenspace. He said this would enable the test to be applied to urban as well as rural contexts.

The National: Labour's Scottish Labour’s environment spokesperson, Mercedes Villalba this week told The Herald

Villalba (above) told The National that while Yousaf’s comments were welcome, “it is his government's actions, not words, that will count”.

The MSP, who currently has a proposed Land Justice and Public Interest Scotland Bill before parliament, went on: "To see the transformative change we need in Scotland’s land ownership, a much more ambitious approach than their timid starting proposal of a 3000-hectare trigger for a public interest test is required from the government.

"Meantime, I will continue to campaign for a presumption against ownership of more than 500 hectares, above which the public interest must be proved to a regulator, and I invite anyone with an interest to join the call for #LandJustice and participate in the consultation on my proposal.”

READ MORE: MSP bids to limit how much Scottish land a single person can own

However, the land-owners’ representative body Scottish Land and Estates argued that a 500 hectare limit was too low.

Sarah-Jane Laing, its chief executive, said: “It is quite extraordinary that after 20-plus years of Scottish taxpayers helping to fund millions of pounds to support land reform initiatives, this new report [MacLeod’s] contends it is not enough.

“There is a raft of legislative mechanisms to enable communities to buy land as well as the plethora of transfers and sales which have been commonplace for years.

“Suggestions that landholdings above 500 hectares should be categorised as ‘large scale’ don’t reflect the realities of farming and land management and will be of concern to farmers.

“Landowners of all types and sizes make a significant contribution to Scotland’s wellbeing economy – delivering for people, jobs and nature. It is disappointing that this isn’t acknowledged by this report.”