On 23 February 2014, the Sunday Herald revealed that Timothy Congdon, UKIP’s economic spokesperson, had benefitted from wind energy developments on his land in Argyll and Caithness.

Today (4 March) it was revealed that he has stood down from the post.

Timothy Congdon’s website is here. He regards himself as the “best economist in British politics” Nowhere does he declare his interests as a major landowner in Scotland. Given the absence of a freely-available online register of who owns Scotland, I have spent £21.60 in order to make transparent his landholdings which cover 6237 acres of land in Argyll and Caithness. The details which follow reveal 6 out of his 8 landholdings in Scotland. The website currently records them as separate holdings but in fact the Argyll properties are all contiguous with one another.

ARGYLL-SHIRE

Achaglass

Gartnagrenach

East Ronachan

North Ronachan

Sheirdrum Hill

CAITHNESS

Phillips Mains Woodland

Hollandmey Farm Forest

In addition, he has interests in a 329 acre Moodlaw forest in Dumfries-shire.

This matter not only concerns transparency but a wider issue of why so much (55%) of Scotland’s privately-owned forests are owned by absentee owners. Fully a third of Scotland’s privately-owned forests is owned by owners who live outside Scotland – in the rest of UK, Europe and offshore tax havens. For further analysis, see a report I wrote two years ago in February 2012.

 

Today, the Scottish Green Party published a report authored by myself on renewing local democracy. There is no need to say a great deal in this blog other than to highlight the fact that there are two inquiries currently underway on the topic. The first of these is COSLA’s Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy and the second is the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Regeneration Committee’s inquiry into the Future of Local government in Scotland.

Scottish Green Party Media Release

The full report is available here.

Blog and video of press conference here.

(I got some of my figures wrong in my verbal presentation as I didn’t get back from London until 5am having been rescued by East Coast’s Thunderbird Engine and leaving Edinburgh 2 hours later for the journey to Nairn)

Monday 20 January 2014
SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT
Enterprise and Environment

Tavish Scott (Shetland Islands) (Scottish Liberal Democrats): To ask the Scottish Government what the definition of “fairer” is in the Minister for Environment and Climate Change’s comment to BBC Scotland that “There should be a fairer distribution of land, communities should have access to land to fulfil their aspirations.” (S4W-19122)

Paul Wheelhouse:

The Scottish Government recognises that the current distribution of land is highly concentrated, given that reportedly just 432 landowners own 50% of the privately owned land in Scotland and that this concentration of ownership may lead to constraints upon fair access to land to enable communities and individuals to achieve their full potential.

The Scottish Government cannot pre-empt the outcome of the final report from the independent Land Reform Review Group, or the outcome of the ministerial-led review of Agricultural Holdings Legislation which are both due to report back later this year. However, our vision is for a fairer, or wider and more equitable, distribution of land in Scotland where communities and individuals have access to land and, where such is lacking, that there is the necessary diversity of tenure. The Scottish Government believe that Scotland needs to ensure communities are empowered to consider how land in their community is used, and that the system allows communities to fulfil their aspirations. This government also believes that land should be available to provide opportunities for new entrants to farming and forestry. Scotland is on a journey to delivering land reform and to enable improvements to engaging with communities on optimising land use. This government believes that the nation’s land should be used to benefit the people and environment of Scotland to deliver sustainable economic growth with due regard for impacts on the environment and upon the health and wellbeing of communities across Scotland.

To fulfil Scotland’s potential, this government believes we need to build a society with greater diversity of land ownership, where communities have access to land to fulfil their aspirations and needs and to support business and employment in rural areas, including in traditional rural sectors, and for provision of community infrastructure, such as housing and green space. This includes community land buy-outs to achieve greater distribution of land to communities, sustainable development and realise increased economic vitality and employment. There are currently just under 500,000 acres of land under community ownership and the Scottish Government is committed to a target of achieving 1 million acres of land in community ownership by 2020. The Community Empowerment Bill will streamline and extend the existing community right to buy contributing to this target to ensure communities have access to land needed for housing, environmental and employment opportunities and the Scottish Government, as one of Scotland’s largest landowners, is active in exploring opportunities for creation of new community ownership projects through appropriate transfers of ownership from the Scottish Government estate.