The Scottish Affairs Committee is in Inverness taking evidence on two inquires: A follow up to its report earlier this year on the management of the Crown Estate in Scotland, and the start of oral evidence in a new inquiry into Land Reform in Scotland.
Monday – Land Reform
In July the Committee launched a consultation into land reform calling for an end to "tax avoidance and subsidy milking" by land-owners in Scotland. The Committee had commissioned a briefing paper from four notable land experts “432:50 – Towards a Comprehensive Land Reform Agenda for Scotland” which described how how almost half of all privately-owned rural land in Scotland is owned by 432 landowners. Under current law those land-owners receive large public subsidies but are liable for low levels of taxation on land.
The move followed an assurance by the Prime Minster that “having all countries sign up to an action plan for putting together registers of beneficial ownership by companies ... will help tax authorities make sure that people are paying tax appropriately.”
In the first oral evidence session on Monday the Committee will hear from Community Land Scotland at 14.00 at Inverness Town House.
Tuesday – The Crown Estate
In March this year the Committee published a critical report which identified major issues in the Crown Estate Commissioners’ management of its responsibilities, particularly in relation to the seabed and the foreshore, including:
- lack of accountability and transparency
- lack of communication and consultation with local communities
- the inappropriateness of the CEC's statutory remit for its responsibilities in the marine environment
- cash leakage from local economies and other adverse impacts arising from the way the CEC operates
- limited benefits in Scotland from the CEC's involvements
The evidence did not identify such problems with the CEC's management of its urban and rural estate.
The Committee was disappointed with the Government and CEC’s own response to the report and returned to Inverness in September for meetings with interested groups and organisations to discuss and how matters of rural land ownership and development could best be progressed.
On Tuesday at 0830 the Committee will hold a formal follow up session at the Inverness Town House with the Crown Estate to clarify how they intend to operate in future.
Ian Davidson MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
“Despite the current focus on the White Paper and on Separation, life goes on and the Scottish Affairs Committee are now focusing on the important issues of Land Reform and the Crown Estate.
“After our investigations are completed we intend to produce reports and recommendations which can be implemented with or without constitutional change.
“We believe that the issues of Land Reform and the Crown Estate have both been sadly neglected for too long by successive governments in both Edinburgh and London and we intend to propose changes that can be implemented right away if the political will exists.
“Land Reform and greater accountability for the Crown Estate don't need constitutional change – they just need greater priority and changes in policy."
- The evidence sessions are open to press and public and will be held at the Town House, Inverness High Street, IV1 1JJ