THE Scottish Government is being urged not to listen to “vested interests” but press on with more radical land reform.

Left-wing think tank the Jimmy Reid Foundation has penned an open letter to Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Mairi Gougeon on the issue – and they are calling for others to add their names.

The foundation, which will host First Minister Humza Yousaf as the keynote speaker at its annual lecture in October, said it had penned the letter after a meeting with Gougeon where it had pushed “the case for an integrated approach to land reform in the forthcoming legislation”.

It follows the July publication of a report by Dr Calum MacLeod called Land Reform for the Common Good, through which the think tank argued that land reform in Scotland has been too “fragmented and piecemeal” to have a real impact.

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MacLeod, who led the post-legislative scrutiny of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 on behalf of the Scottish Parliament, argued that the situation on the ground has remained virtually unchanged.

He called for the public interest test on Scottish land sales to be brought in at a threshold of 500 hectares – not the Government’s proposed 3000 – as well as for similar tests to be triggered by the sale of community assets such as piers, slipways, hotels, community facilities, or greenspace so the law can be applied to urban as well as rural contexts.

In their letter to Gougeon, the Foundation drew heavily on MacLeod’s report.

It stated: “The paper shows that despite successive governments’ political rhetoric since devolution about the need to diversify Scotland’s unusually concentrated pattern of large-scale private rural land ownership, mainly by encouraging more community ownership, that dominant pattern of private ownership remains virtually unchanged.

“The paper highlights that, since 2016, the Scottish Land Fund has assisted in bringing just 0.1%, (11,943 hectares) of Scotland’s rural land into community ownership. In contrast, 139,124 hectares of Scotland’s rural land changed ownership in 2022 alone, with community purchasers conspicuous by their absence.”

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The Foundation said land reform should be seen as a “distinctive area of public policy, cutting across Government portfolios in a strategic and increasingly interventionist way”.

They further noted reports from this newspaper that Humza Yousaf had said his government would “seriously consider” MacLeod’s proposals, as well as SNP president Michael Russell’s expressed support in his National column.

Alex Neil, the former SNP cabinet secretary, has also said he is “totally supportive” of the proposals in the letter.

It adds: “Scotland rightly aims to ensure a just transition to ‘net zero’ carbon emissions, and to establish community wealth building as the cornerstone of a wellbeing economy. To help meet these policy objectives the Scottish Government urgently needs to develop a radically progressive and integrated land reform programme connecting the nation’s people and land in ways that safeguard the wellbeing of both; now and for the generations still to come.”

You can find the open letter and add your name here.