This article was published as part of our 16-page Manniefest special edition. Click HERE for more information and more articles setting out a vision for the Highlands and Islands after independence.

MOST independence supporters are convinced of the need for land reform and smaller, more independent, better-funded councils. But how do we get there?

The SNP promised to reform council tax in 2007, but this unfair, regressive way to fund local government is still alive and kicking. Is that because there is no better alternative, or just none that Holyrood will seriously consider?

AGFRR (Annual Ground Floor and Roof Rent) could be the transformational change we’ve been waiting for.

Yes, it sounds technical. But replacing all existing UK, Scottish and local taxation with AGFRR would get Scotland off to the best of all possible starts (socially, environmentally and economically) in the first days of an independent Scottish state AGFRR is simple to introduce, gives our government absolute control and possession of our public funds without interference from Whitehall, encourages enterprise, vanquishes poverty and leaves negotiations with the rUK government on legacy and peripheral issues to take their course without impacting on the dynamic thrust which independence will generate.

The principle behind AGFRR is straightforward. The model uses land and what is built upon it as the source of our public funding and prosperity. Parliament will set its budget for the year ahead, decide land types and set the rate per square metre for each type to meet the budget. There will be no need to borrow or recreate a Scottish version of the Gordian Knot of the UK tax system. Apart from legislation, all the elements to introduce AGFRR already exist. Payment of AGFFR can’t be avoided.

AGFRR will be levied on all land. That will be a challenge for the public sector which, according to the Scottish Land Commission, owns around 60% of all dilapidated or derelict land and property in urban Scotland. The public sector will have to develop, lease, sell or give away what it owns to those who will do something productive with it to generate the AGFRR charge.

Large private land and property owners who have enjoyed stewardship of vast areas of land over which they have made no or little contribution to public funds will be liable to pay AGFRR on every square metre which they own.

If an independent Scottish government increased its pre-Covid GERS budget from £81 billion to around £140bn to include a Universal Citizen’s Income of £200 per week for every Scottish adult and child, then the AGFRR charged to the owner of a typical three-bedroomed semi-detached house would be around £4400 with no other taxes to pay.

An estate of 30,000 acres could expect an AGFRR bill of £2,200,000. The owner of Balmoral Castle currently pays about £3600 in council tax, but the AGFRR would be £140,000, and that’s just for the house. All the other buildings and the land itself would also be charged.

As well as national rates for AGFRR, local authorities could raise their own AGFRR and adapt the land types to their particular geography and economic profile. AGFRR could fund the creation of hundreds of small local councils with executive and financial powers and embed local democracy at the heart of every community without involving an expensive explosion of bureaucracy.

The cost of this change could be minimal if the political council was a separate entity from the salaried officers who serve the councils. The current 32 organisations of paid council officials would be converted to Public Service Bureaux. (PSB). A local community could decide to become a council and contract with the PSB to deliver its services and policies. Innovation and research in the delivery and expansion of public services could be enhanced if the PSBs became university departments.

Of the total national AGFRR of £4400 for a typical semi-detached house and garden, about £1300 would be for council services, thus empowering local authorities to fund themselves without support from the Scottish Government, and in so doing, gain greater independence from the micro-management and diktat of central government. Independence should not stop at statehood.

AGFRR delivers the twin pillars of land reform which have eluded us for so long. Firstly, it acknowledges land as the principal source of our national and local prosperity. Secondly, its application hastens the democratisation of our land involving a significant increase in the spread of land ownership among communities and citizens to a degree unmatched by any existing mechanism, but without the need for the public to subsidise the purchase price.

AGFRR approaches redistribution differently from past initiatives. Ownership of land is an asset, but land also becomes a liability with AGFRR levied on it. Very quickly landowners will realise that land which they have owned and done nothing productive with will become too expensive to retain. The price will plummet even to the point of a negative market value thus enabling local people and communities to acquire land for social and private housing and other life-enhancing activities.

There is even the opportunity that a vast and truly National Park dedicated to rewilding will be created across Scotland if the Scottish Government agrees to accept land from large landowners who are unable or unwilling to meet their AGFRR commitments.

Ultimately, AGFRR is the practical means to create a true wellbeing economy and property-owning democracy. Many countries have their own versions of land taxation, but I’ve not found one quite as radical as AGFRR. The model is now widely discussed in independence circles and even debated by Scottish Government ministers. It’s not based on academic opinion or probabilities but that most precious of national assets, what’s under our feet, which can’t be cawd away from us.

Graeme McCormick is the author of AGFRR, Annual Ground, Floor & Roof Rent, New Public Funding for an Enterprising Scotland. It is available to purchase from