Nicola Sturgeon today announced the Scottish Government’s legislative programme for the remainder of this Parliament. It contains a proposal for a new Land Reform Bill as well as a Succession Bill and a review of the Council Tax. Announcements of further proposals are expected in the consultation paper to be published next week.

After a decade of absence, it’s great to see the land question back on the political agenda. This is an important, substantial and meaningful set of proposals. Taken as a whole, they will hopefully shift the baseline of the debate – that is to say the set of assumptions and norms that have too often been taken for granted and in which politicians have too often been reluctant to tackle.

In the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government, Scottish Ministers argue that,

The relationship between the people living in Scotland and the land of Scotland is of fundamental importance. Our aim is to move the debate on land reform from one focused on historic injustices to a modern debate about the current balance of land rights in Scotland and how this can be managed to best deliver for the people of Scotland.”

Amen to that.

Scotland comprises its territory and its people.

How land is owned, used and governed is vitally important to the wellbeing and prosperity of all who live in this country – in particular to those who, because of inflated land values, cannot afford the basic human right of a home. For far too long, the ownership and control of Scotland’s natural resources have been in the hands of a small elite. Their political influence has been such that reforms that would, in any other European country, be regarded as normal, have been dismissed as extreme or an unjustifiable attack on property rights.

As for the proposals themselves, they represent a suite of important reforms.

Topics to be included in the Land Reform Bill include:-

Withdrawing the non-domestic rates exemptions for sporting estates

Sporting rates were abolished by the Conservative Government in 1994 and the non-domestic rates (NDR) on over 90% of Scotland were abolished back in the 1950s. It is clearly inequitable that, whilst the corner shop, the pub and the hairdresser all pay NDR, the multi-million pound assets outside the villages and towns of Scotland pay virtually none with all “agricultural” land (including sporting estates and woodland) removed from the valuation roll altogether.

One of the bizarre consequences of this is that there are Danish landowners who own large areas of land in Scotland who pay land taxes to their home municipalities in Denmark to pay for nice kindergartens for their children. They are asked to contribute no such levies to Scottish local authorities for equivalent services for their employee’s children here.

Powers for Scottish Ministers to intervene where the scale of land ownership and land management decisions are a barrier to local sustainable development

With such a concentrated pattern of private landownership (432 landowners own half of the privately-owned rural land in Scotland) and such an open and unregulated market, it is inevitable that there will be situations where the public interest should intervene. This can be because of local monopolies (where one owner owns most or all of the land in or around a settlement) or where there is a history of neglect and bad practice affecting tenants and others in the community.

A new duty on charity trustees to consult with local communities where decisions on the management and use of land may affect a local community

There are large estates in Scotland that are currently owned through charitable companies (such as Mount Stuart Trust on Bute and the Applecross Trust in Wester Ross) that were set up decades ago to avoid tax. Often they are run by the same family that once owned them and who appoint their friends as Trustees. The local community has no right to join as members and has no legal right to have any stake in the governance or management of the land despite receiving substantial tax benefits through charitable status and non-domestic rates exemptions.

A new Land Reform Commission to develop the the evidence base for future reform, to support public debate and to hold this and future Governments to account

Land reform is a topic that has been neglected for some time. It is also a topic that cuts across many areas of public policy such as housing, fiscal policy, regeneration, community development, agriculture, forestry etc. it is to be welcomed that the Scottish Government is willing to appoint a Commission to “hold this and future governments to account”!

A land information system to provide transparent, comprehensive and freely available data and information on the ownership, occupation, value and use of land

Scotland has a wealth of data on many aspects of land but they are disparate, costly to get hold of and difficult to interpret. Explore the Cadastral portal for the state of Montana to see what a modern land information system should look like.

Other reforms include:-

A review of the land and property tax that affects most people – the highly regressive council tax

The announcement of the long awaited reform of the council tax is welcome. To many people this might seem a totally separate topic but houses sit on land and how that land and property is taxed has a significant impact on perhaps the most important land market to most people – the housing market.

This regressive tax should be replaced by a far more progressive and equitable framework based on the findings of the Mirrlees Review Chapter 16 chaired by Sir James Mirrlees – one of the Scottish Government’s own economic advisers. Whilst no legislation is envisaged this session – a cross-party review will examine alternatives and report by Autumn by 2015.

The modernisation of succession law so that all children are treated equally when it comes to inheriting land

This reform has been resisted by the landed class throughout the whole of the 20th century. Read Chapter 28 in my book, The Poor Had No Lawyers and today’s blog by Lallands Peat Worrier In 1964, when Scotland finally got rid of primogeniture, Lord Haddington and other railed against reform arguing in the House of Lords that

By assimilating heritable property, which from time immemorial has passed under the law of primogeniture, with moveable property and dividing it equally among the intestate’s next of kin, you are striking at the very roots of Scottish traditions and undermining the whole fabric of Scottish family life.”

Of course it only undermined the traditions of the lives of the aristocracy – particularly by discriminating against women. That Scotland should only now be catching up with the reforms that swept Europe in the aftermath of the French Revolution over 200 years ago says much about why we need such reform!

A Harbours Bill to provide a revised legislative framework from one of Scotland’s oldest forms of social enterprise – Trust Ports

Increasing the Scottish Land Fund to £10 million from 2016-20 to meet demand

Implementation of the recommendations of the Agricultural Holdings Review Group which is due to publish it’s final report in January 2015

A full consultation will be published next week and it is expected to propose additional reforms that require further work before they can be framed as legislation.

This is a very substantial package of measures. A lot of work lies ahead to bring them all to fruition and they will be opposed every bit of the way by powerful vested interests

Much more information will be published next week when the Scottish Government publishes its full consultation together with an important statement on Land Rights Policy.

Meanwhile everyone who believes that the land of Scotland should be owned and used in the public interest and for the common good should take the time to understand the issues at stake, participate in the consultation and make Scotland a country where land is owned and used for the many and not the few.


  1. Bring it on!!!!

    • CA’ CANNY! Messrs. Hector, Paul Cochrane & Slurry Stirrer…..CA’ CANNY in your ignorance, and prejudice of what maintained our rural foundation for centuries…till the last 50 years in the loss of our local ESTATES, local communities, local life & wildlife in Galloway to Forestry Commission et al SNH, RSPB et al….Forestry Commission & remember they were but ….a commission….the largest Absentee Landlords in Scotland who escape Andy’s net every time in irresponsibility, mismanagement & loss to its local rural peop[le, grazing animals & knowledge, experience & skills of positive, proper caring LAND USE ie the CULTURE OF AGRICULTURE

      • Bang on Mary – absolutely bang on.

      • Rural foundation for centuries?
        A parasite more like.

      • Mary, i am lost!….why are you picking out the shortcomings of the FC, SNH, RSPB etc to try and criticise my views on local empowerment and redistribution of land ownership? as far as i am concerned, i would like to see the FC, SNH, RSPB etc stripped of their land ownership. Its not ‘just’ the big estates i want to see broken up.
        try reading some data on remote communities, like falling population, lack of investment, school closures, housing standards, lack of teachers and doctors and then take a look at where the big estates are in Scotland. You will then understand the link.

  2. Hopefully the start of the social justice programme.

  3. Lets do this! first step is financial appraisal of all estates and their owners. If this shows that the estate is not the Lairds primary source of income(ie, billionare absentee London banker) then that ticks the 1st box for tenant farmers to buy the farm. The state of some of our communities are in the balance now, playground days are over, time for serious redistribution of power.

  4. I see the Tories are squealing already. Any mention of Common Good, and our historic burghs Andy?

  5. I also dont believe in SNH or NTfor Scotland mothballing islands like Rum and only allowing english with school age families, anyone who could buy into communities in Scotland having profitted from the disparity between home ownership in south of england and rural Highlands and Islands. More discussion and involvement not just who has the most historical clout locally, as so many of us have been born lowlanders of clearec landowners. Lots to discuss inclunding total blocking of fracking. No one has a right .

    • Kirsten do you really have the right to talk about an island you cant even spell.

      Bring on the land reforms. For too long we have cowtowed to the landed gentry and now we’re paying the price. For too long lands have lay to waste when they could have been put to productive and profitable use. Forestry is a necessary evil and so is agriculture. Lands that could be developed for both go unused to pacify the sporting ambitions of the friends of the gentry. Shooting and fishing employs people but niether puts wealth into the economy. Let the honest people control and manage the lands and boost the economy.

      All the lands of Scotland should be controlled and worked by all the people of Scotland. Maybe then farming, forestation and sporting can work hand in hand whilst protecting our lands and all that live on it. Maybe then we can support and aid the near extinct native creatures and look to the re-introduction of species that have been wiped out in our country simply because they didnt have a sporting value to the rich.

      • What island are you talking about the spelling of Alex?

      • Alex, you clearly have no idea that the Gaelic spelling of the island you mention is exactly as Kirsten has spelled it.

        “Forestry is a necessary evil and so is agriculture.” Agriculture is a necessary evil? Let us know what you are eating, please, since you clearly have access to something the rest of humankind has yet to discover.

        “Shooting and fishing employs people but niether puts wealth into the economy”. Quite apart from the fact that the above is plainly garbage, you can’t spell neither, and you’ve got me wondering just how large a part of the 45% were people such as yourself.

      • Perfectly put Alex, I think this is the direction most Scots want to go, of course the inbred ones wont like it even a little bit, they really do think they have a right. after their ancestors stole our ancestors blind. Time to take back our lands. If not, I will have to retire to a country where I can buy a little bit of land cheaply and I don’t see that I should have to as i own App. 1: 5,000,000th of the land mass of Scotland by right of inheritance.

      • To Alex MacLeod:
        I do not find the odd spelling mistake in any way offensive provided the communication is clear. however if you wish to complain about spelling then first make sure that your own writing is free of such mistakes.
        I believe the correct spelling for your “niether” is neither!!!
        Personally I am in total favour of complete land reform. No Foreigner should be able to hold land in our country: Rent yes – Own no!
        All land should be taxed and such tax should take account of the production and support given to the people. It must not be a playground for the Wealthy to shoot for fun.

      • Alex, I don’t think you should criticise Kirsten’s spelling when your own leaves much to be desired.

    • Why block fracking ? , as long as it is done with an environmental impact analysis, and land is re-landscaped afterwards (possibly turned into nature reserves ?), this would provide work and energy supplies for people in a future independent Scotland.

      • We need to leave it in the ground and invest in renewables instead. The days of burning fossil fuels with no thought for the future are over.

      • Strathpuffer: –
        I sincerely suggest you examine in great detail the whole business of Fracking. I have no wish to see the clear fresh water of Scotland contaminated with foul and dangerous chemicals, to experience methane gas come out of the water taps or to see or experience the earth movements caused by lubrication of the cracks forced in
        to the earth’s structure.
        This system is to increase the wealth of those that don’t live in the area and care even less. It is not needed. Where gas is required we have a plentiful supply in the North sea.
        Incidentally, whilst I am now retired, I spent my entire working life as an Engineer in the Nuclear and Oil & Gas industry and i am fairly well informed in thse areas.

      • Fantastic news Andy. Strathpuffer… blinding sarcasm (i hope!). They said same thing about ‘filling in the hole’ after opencast mining where i’m from. We should block fracking because rewarding state backed bullies who ‘shit in the well’ for a fast buck/to keep the fridges on is not a good message or legacy for Scotland’s grandchildren, and an insult to our ancestors & what remains of our natural heritage; in my opinion. Who deserves ownership of land if they sanction the destruction of the very bedrock with high pressure chemical soup?

  6. Hugely hopeful start to the new administration. How long do you think it will take to get any legislation passed?

  7. hello Andy, do you know if any analysis has been done of the funds given by the Land Fund to date? I am interested in seeing the variety of uses that community owned land is being put to as well as any information available on management/decision making structures. All the best.

  8. Thanks again Andy

  9. Are you guys claiming Rockall? Ireland has something to say about that.

    • The United Kingdom claimed Rockall in 1955 and had previously claimed an extended exclusive economic zone based on it. This claim to an extended zone was dropped upon ratifying UNCLOS in 1997, since rocks or islets such as Rockall, that cannot sustain human habitation or economic life, are not entitled to an exclusive economic zone under the Convention. However such features are entitled to a territorial sea extending 12 nautical miles. The UK’s claim to territorial waters around Rockall was previously disputed by Ireland on the basis of uncertain ownership of the rock. With effect from 31 March 2014, the UK and Ireland published EEZ limits which resolved any disputes over the ownership of the islet.

      In response to a Freedom of Information request, the British Government has said, “The islet of Rockall is part of the UK: specifically it forms part of Scotland under the Island of Rockall Act 1972. No other state has disputed our claim to the islet

  10. The ideas on NDR on land will hit one or two realities if they take place.1 There are very few small business left and those there are will be rates exempt at the moment through the rates relief scheme .2 most farms make a loss before subsidy so you will rate them and just make it worse with less money being respent in the local economy.If the public want cheap food as they do, the land that farms the food will alwayse make poor returns.Just check the SAC farm returns and do the sums.I am sure the bigger farms on the best land could manage rates but most of Scotland is poor soil.Scotland needs to generate/create money.In the long term just taxing will slowly hinder this ability as we compete and lose in the global economy.A state take of near 50% of GDP is what is killing us,so although some new money from farm rates will help it will just scratch at the surface.Rates should be means tested to be fair but this doesn’t occur for house rates so I don’t expect it will happen for land.

    • Sporting estates dont produce food, that is the whole point of rating them.
      To qualify for agricultural exemptio, you have to practise AGRICULTURE!!!

      • Venison and Grouse are food n’est-ce pas? In fact I’ve been encouraging local estates to start donating some surplus game to the local foodbanks to help alleviate rural poverty.

        • Still not agriculture

          • Many of the land that will be affected is not suitable for agriculture in the conventional sense. A few sheep possibly, trees probably (with resultant devastation of moorland habitat). So I would say that grouse and venison production is the closest form of agriculture they can have.

        • ‘sporting’ just as the name suggests. Fun, pleasure, pass-time, enjoyment from wounding and sometimes killing wild animals/birds. NOT food production at all.
          What i don’t understand is the constant ‘bigging up’ of the economic contribution these ‘kill for fun’ estates make. But now all of a sudden they need protection, because they are so fragile and we must have special tax breaks. What is it? lucrative and booming OR just managing to wash its face?

        • Pops, it must be awful where you live…. Local Estate=>Local foodbanks=>rural poverty…..hmm, what could we do to improve the lives of those poor locals?????

          • There is absolutely no contradiction between seeking significant land reform and eating venison. Scotland has a fragile eco system and the destructive impact of over population of deer needs to be addressed. I’m happy to help address this by consuming large quantities of venison but I would also support moves to bring sporting estates under greater levels of community control to ensure the democratisation of their economic and gastronomic benefits.

        • Hebridean Farmer

          Well well,
          I wonder why the phrase “Then let them eat cake ” comes to mind ??

        • What about the loss of rural income in the form of wildlife tourism caused by many shooting estates, especially grouse moors, but also pheasant shoots, habit of raptor persecution – after all, why would a wildlife tourist want to come to an area where all the Golden Eagles etc have been poisoned ?
          Furthermore, many estates are funded directly or indirectly by tax and grant scams such as loss adjustment etc (and corporate hospitality – especially with pheasant shooting), so the economic benefit to both local and national taxpayers is very dubious.

  11. This is wonderful news. Thank you for all your hard work. You have played a huge part in this.

  12. I wish we had something this progressive down in London !

  13. I think this could be great news for the public members who enjoy the great outdoors. Forestry commission Scotland, snh, nts, have always wanted the public involved in coming to use the land to improve the health and wellbeing of all, I hope this will strengthen now.

    • FC, SNH and NTS ‘want public involvement’; not in my experience. They may deal with them, but are foced to do so and it comes as an afterthought. ‘Land right’ will change this!

  14. Very emotive and will raise debate which is much needed. I welcome these reforms. Ecologically Scotland is still recovering after centuraries of inappropriate land use.

  15. Yes thanks from me as well for your work on this Andy – and for keeping a wary eye on those who claim to speak for us!

  16. I hope that this will lead to the protection of Scotland’s ecology and it’s promotion. Certainly we need jobs that things like grouse shooting etc provide but there needs to be a balance. What about the future? We need more trees, and different flora and fauna that will provide a habitat for a huge range of species which will benefit us and future generations.
    Never mind the fact that everybody has the right to their own home.

  17. thank you for all your work on this Andy, your hard work will help make Scotland a fairer and better place for everyone

  18. RE. water pollution and earthquake linked to fracking in the US,

    • Ambrose, any intelligent study of the process of fracking and its effect on the Fracked area will scare the wits out of any right thinking person.

  19. I think “modernising succession law” – ie dictating the terms of someone’s Will is probably a step backwards rather than forwards. I certainly don’t want to be catching up with the French from 200 years ago. What happens if it’s a small family farm that is simply not economically viable to split? Will it just stop at land, or how far will it go once the precedent has been set? What if one of the beneficiaries is totally unsuitable for land stewardship? Will they be forced into managing property and making decisions that could be totally unsuitable? I agree there is a huge inequality with land ownership in Scotland, but when the Government starts intervening on how someone’s assets are distributed on death I would call this a step backwards.

    (During the French Revoluation approximately 16,594 people were “modernised” with the use of a guillotine. A far more successful revolution to follow was the American Revolution, which effectively removed restrictions rather than imposed them, through the granting of basic, unequivocal rights to life, liberty and property.)

    • If a small farm is split, it should be relatively simple for the person who gets it to take out a mortgage on the other half. Most families are only 2 kids now anyway.
      There are already plenty of “beneficiaries ” who are unsuitable for land stewardship, mostly in the landed classes.

      • Thanks Hector, but I do work as a mortgage broker, and technically it is not possible to get a mortgage on a commercial property (which is what a farm is), only a commercial loan. In these cases, the underwriters of the bank financing the loan are likely to look at a whole range of things including cashflow and profitability of the business. They will also look at the borrower’s record in that business and their credit history. These last two things will prove difficult if the person inheriting the farm has no proven track record of farming and little or no credit history. The recent credit crunch has made banks very, very wary about making loans to businesses… so in short, it is not relatively simple for someone inheriting half a farm to simply buy the other person out.

  20. Just looked a Caadfel’s link. What a disgrace, all of that descending into ruin.

  21. Long overdue, let’s hope it finally happens. And while we are at it let’s sort out the Forestry Commission who when told to sell of surplus holdings let big business cherry pick and left the rest to local communities (preferably on lease rather than purchase.)

  22. I voted SNP because of their plans to replace Council tax with a fair local income tax when all users would pay their fair share according to their income – I think Nicola has bottled it and whilst there will be minor changes the tax on houses will continue with no account being taken on household income – a great pity for those on relatively low income but not subject to welfare benefits and not a solution to the unfair local taxation which we all use.

  23. Some good comedy available on the SLE website.

  24. Andy you previously stated ” I have proposals that would maintain the integrity of the Land Register, assist with the process of land registration AND ensure free public access to good quality information about who owns Scotland. This will be the subject of another blog in the near future,” in your blog on 1 August about the completition of the Land Register. When are you going post your blog regarding your proposals..they would be very interesting. The completition of the Land Register is said to be linked to Land Reform.

    • I was looking forward to this post as well – maybe saving it up to coincide with when the new Land Registration regime goes live in the next week or so? Also the posts you were going to write on the SL&E report (the missing slide one).

  25. Just putting rates on big estates will make little difference to more land being available for anything.Stoppping Inheritance TR and Roll over tax relief would transform land values but the SNP are not proposing this are they?

  26. Alex, you hit the nail on the head, the problem is bad or miss-education leading to wrong thinking. Education and land reform go hand in hand so that the future generations will be better prepared to deal with what they own and how to use their resources, where at the moment we are landless in our own country and expected to look after and pay taxes on a country we were born in, but are not allowed to own, a very sick society indeed all down to wrong thinking.

  27. Andy, I think you have completely misjudged the scope and tenor of this announcement. It looks like a completely damp squib to me. The only substantive measure is reinstatement of sporting rates, which is not an innovation, and it will have little impact on land values or the pattern of land ownership, considering the vast personal wealth of many of Scotland’s lairds. I just don’t see a Ministerial power to intervene being workable as local sustainable development is such a nebulous concept. Attempt to use would surely end up in the courts, probably all the way to Strasbourg, and would require real appetite and commitment from Government. The commitment is to review council tax not reform it. The other elements are relatively minor or are a repackaging of commitments already made. While the land commission may sound like a good idea, one only has to look at the fate of SNH (or the Sustainable Development Commission) to see the fate of critical quangos. Radical is not. I don’t see the pattern of land ownership in Scotland changing any time soon. If you want to take the temperature, just look at the response of Scottish land and estates. Hopping mad? Froth and frenzy? No, calm and collected, and breathing a big sigh of relief I would have thought.

    I await the decision re: ARTB with interest, as that will provide further evidence as to whether I am right in my contention that this Government just talks the talk in relation to land reform.

  28. And so it came to pass that landlords in Scotland were found to be untouchable .
    Herendeth the lesson .

  29. In the interests of keeping this thread going down in a straight line, as it were, I’m replying here to hector’s comment above:-

    “If a small farm is split, it should be relatively simple for the person who gets it to take out a mortgage on the other half. Most families are only 2 kids now anyway.
    There are already plenty of “beneficiaries ” who are unsuitable for land stewardship, mostly in the landed classes.”

    Pity about the stupid last last five words because hector otherwise is spot on that what the change in succession law boils down to is NOT Andy’s prescription in his book:-

    “Plenty of other types manage perfectly well in multiple ownership so why can’t land? … a farm can still be run efficiently if owned by four brothers and sisters – they merely need to co-operate and manage it as a single entity.”

    (Good luck with that! Next we’ll be hearing about repeal of the divorce laws on the basis there’s no reason why a couple can’t get along in a relationship!) Rather it is that the person who has been bequeathed the farm will have to take out a loan over it to pay for the legal rights claims of the persons who weren’t bequeathed it. Whether that is “relatively simple” as hector reckons, I’m not so sure (can the business sustain the extra interest charges?) but it’s what has to happen or else the farm has to be sold so they share the proceeds and neither of them gets it.

    Now you might say that’s all just tough luck on the beneficiary in the interests of modernising the law. But we need to identify that this is the issue we’re looking at (at least in this forum). It is NOT about dukes and earls. Their estates are mostly all in trusts or companies such that any change to succession law won’t affect them anyway. It’s about “ordinary” farmers.

    It’s a bit of an irony that with one hand we’re talking about ARTB and ridding farmers of the succession shackles of the “near relative successor” such that they needn’t fear bequeathing their farm to a sibling or more distant relative and then with the other hand we’re saying actually you can’t do that after all!

  30. Trusts and companies will need to be tackled another way.

  31. Speaking as an ecologist who has been involved in several land buy outs for the purposes of ecological restoration I must object to the thoroughly erroneous notion that heavily managed, unnaturally overstocked grouse moors and deer ‘forests’ are good for wildlife or make great habitat. This is a very cynical and disingenuous claim on behalf of the sporting lobby. In fact, this type of management is a gross distortion of natural ecological processes and does not produce, natural, diverse ecosystems – these wide open, windswept moors are in fact man made ecological deserts. The lobby has, over the years, successfully portrayed this as ancient tradition and sound wildlife management. In fact, this form of management is relatively recent and hails from the the mid to late 19th century. Anybody who is actually familiar with natural (not burned, cut or grazed by domestic stock) moorland will be fully aware of how much more species-rich and diverse the habitat is. This negative impact of Muirburn on deep peat is well understood – blanket bog is Scotland’s single most important habitat – some circa 12^ of the worlds blanket bog is found in Scotland. These bogs have been routinely burned, drained and destroyed over the past 150 of years by the sporting lobby, not to mention the accompanying slaughter and persecution of the natural fauna of these habitats. For the sporting lobby to claim that they are custodians of natural ecosystems is a plain and simple lie which a first year ecology student could prove in five minutes.

    As well as being an ecologist I’m also come from literally centuries of rural farming stock myself (I am the first male on my dads side that has not worked in sheep/cattle farming in the Southern Uplands for at least 250 years). I can absolutely assure you that my late father, grandfather and great grandfather will be having a little dram and dancing a jig at this news. I welcome these proposals, perhaps we can finally grow up as a nation on the subject of land ownership and management.

  32. Hector

    You are exactly right . As I mentioned earlier these landlords are untouchable . Maybe someone can enlighten us on how much tax these landlords pay ? . Or maybe do not pay .

  33. As for Mary Armstrong’s point – the estates abandoned you and any paternalism the allegedly had years ago when they discovered the business model. They have exploited their inherited position for their own gain not yours or mine. Their day is over and now it is time to move on.

  34. If we are considering wildlife tourism then a much better option for these sporting estates would be to ‘manage’ them as wild land – complete with native forests, wild boar, beaver, lynx etc as well as mere deer, grouse and a few raptors. This would provide a huge attraction for wildlife tourism and a major boost to visitor numbers. We could introduce visitor taxes or levies which could be ring fenced for rural development, especially public transport in remote areas and also general rural infrastructure. There is in fact many, many interesting and exciting alternatives to this tired and discredited model of land ownership and use. Too many people just want to stand still and follow the ‘auy, been’ philosophy. Well, as I stated above, it has not ‘auy, been’ at all. Land management and use has always been changing over millennia (think of enclosed land for example, which is a relatively recent development. This just represents another new chapter in the long history of land use in this country and far from something to be feared, it should be embraced with open arms. Let us take a proper Scottish attitude and roll up our sleeves and get on with it.

    • There is nothing to disagree with in your comments; what you propose is indeed the best way forward BUT. What is required is genuine land reform and I wonder if any government has the courage to take on the lairdopoly.

    • Start Adair,
      perfect sense. Your posts cut through all the nonsense and get right down to the simple truth. This is where the model for land reform must begin. By scrapping the daft notion that Lairdy habits, whether they be on moor land or productive tenanted farmland are simply a massive choke, a strangling of everything rural.
      Lets keep the pressure on.

  35. Hugo, you got that wrong, the american revolution came first.
    The french king supported it with large sums and armies, which when they came home brought the revolution idea with them.
    France increased the taxation on the peasantry to pay for the war, while landlords started enclosing land. Add in a bad harvest and bang, its a revolution.

  36. Start Adair, I too “like” your comments. They’re an excellent example of how much more effectively opinion can be formed by just telling it how it is and explaining and educating instead of ranting and villifying and distorting with snide innuendo etc.

    What’s your take on the Alladale Wilderness Reserve (anyone not aware of this, just google it)? Is it an example of the way forward in embryonic phase or just a prettily tarted up traditional sporting estate with an inventive marketing angle?

    • He likes to present it as a conservation exercise but an enclosed area only available to paying customers does sound more like a commercial venture.

    • I don’t think much of the Alladale model, as he has put up massive electrified fences (not sure if he has completed the entire estate yet ) which obviously prevent natural migrations of wildlife such as deer, and I foresee a problem with bird strikes against the fencing, and last but not least, it impinges on the right to roam that we fought so hard for – a step backwards posing as eco-friendly.

    • While applauding the reintroductions and re-wilding it does look more like a commercial venture; at £7500 a week to stay there it must be a nice little earner.

      If the fences stay once the area stabilizes and the right to roam is restricted it will be just another playground for the well heeled.

      • I think the fences are intended to stay – if he is introducing potentially dangerous wildlife such as wolves, legally they will need to be enclosed – so in effect the area will become a safari park in all but name. Additionally, the electro fencing is expensive – so I don’t really see it as being some sort of “throwaway” instalment like with Forestry Commission fencing.

        • What happens if mr polsons company goes bust and the fence falls into disrepair ,?
          Who is going to pay to catch all the escaped wolves?

          • The landowner at Alladale is not Anders Polson it is Paul Lister.

            I think they have hit on a basic problem which is an animal welfare one, which is that you can’t have predators and prey fenced into the same enclosure, so for that, and a lot of other reasons, I think its a non-starter. There is too much focus on reintroducing mega fauna, and not enough on the state of the ecosystem. The problem is mismanagement of the Highlands, continued today by sporting estates, as Start Adair explains very aptly above.

    • I’m not sure the Alladale model is the one to follow. it does look like a commercial exercise and from the ecology point of view he may be trying to run before he can walk. Nevertheless, he is breaking new ground and certainly stirring up debate.

      PS. It’s Stuart, fill the form in wrong!

      • In this country we do tend to jump from one extreme to the other – we don’t have to adopt a one size fits all approach. Commercial forestry is a good example of this, we jump from virtually no timber left on our hills to blanket exotic conifers all over the place and often in the wrong place where no consideration was given to practical issues such as extraction on roads and infrastructure not designed to carry the load. Different solutions will work in different places and we must avoid dogma at all costs.

        • Round my local area in Peeblesshire, mountain biking has came out of nowhere as an extremely popular outdoor activity and land use. Must admit, it’s not my thing and (when the FC consulted on the issue, I wanted them banned!). However it is a prime example of where there is a real demand from regular folk for an area of land where they can go and do their thing. It has been a raging success with much knock on benefits for local businesses and the next step is the introduction of a chair lift (which also created a little bit of work for ecological consultants like myself). Twenty years ago these local FC plantations were just the usual mix of timber production with a few footpaths and not a lot else – now they are buzzing and a real social hub and contributing to the local economy.

  37. This would not be happening without your efforts Andy, and those of a few others like you. You have my thanks. Well done.

  38. So a medium sized farm just managing to break even after supporting the retired farmer and his son who works the farm would have to be split apart on the fathers death if there is another sibling involved irrespective if the sibling has never set foot on the farm ?. If the retired farmer bequeaths the farm to his farmer son the state can intervene and overrule the farmers will, how can this be right or fair?. Basically the son works all his life on the farm to have it taken away on his fathers death just to pay off his non farming sibling?, that’s downright disgusting. As for it being relatively easy to get a mortgage to pay off said sibling, seriously?. A million pound millstone around your neck which even the next generation will never be free of!!. Some people here really need to speak to farmers to learn some basic home truths, it’s not all shooting estates and forestry these proposals are going to affect, this bill will be the death bell on many family farms in Scotland. I’m absolutely disgusted by the whole thing .

    • I would wait and study the small print. It is certainly not the intention of land reform to damage the small family farm, quite the opposite. As I said above, any legislation must be flexible and be able to fit each individual case. Clearly, what works for say, a huge estate in the remote northwest is unlikely to work for say, lowland Fife. If we are grown up about it then there is reason we cannot deal equitably with everyone. It is really up to everybody to get the issues out there and aired. The status quo is certainly not tenable and a democratic decision for change has been taken. Everybody with an interest has to get stuck in and make their case.

      • The agricultural lobby will, of course, be one of the most powerful voices in the debate. Whether they lobby for the interests of big agribusiness or the small farmer is the issue I suppose. I would imagine that SNP MSPs in rural constituencies with large farming interests will not be keen on upsetting their voters.

        There are many balances to be struck. None more so than between those who live and work in the countryside and the urban tax payers who provide the subsidies for much of this activity. Wise heads ought to be able to balance the various interests as long as there is a will to do so. What we don’t want is for it all to break down into vested interests just shouting at each other. The first step in doing this is the recognition that there is no single countryside with one single purpose, which is how each group tends to see their own position. Scotland is a big small country as they say, more than capable of supporting agriculture, recreation, game sports, nature conservation, sustainable energy, rural industry, tourism etc. It’s really up to all of us who have an interest in these matters to make it work best for all.

  39. Thanks for a well written straight to the point article.

  40. Andy.
    We do appear to have another thread trying to start here; re-wilding, which is a subject of importance. Would it be possible to start a thread on the subject?

    • Probably another good debate to be had would be on huntin,shootin & fishin ; at present it is associated with toff sporting estates shooting grouse on moors where all the raptors and mountain hares have been exterminated, and bankers shooting tame pheasants using their excessive bonuses and corporate hospitality tax dodges.
      Obviously, in the Highlands, and indeed the rest of Britain, there is a long tradition of rough shooting,wildfowling, ferreting, lurchers etc practised by working class hunters and gypsies out to get something for the pot and to satisfy the natural hunting instinct etc (and dare I say it, a long and noble tradition of poaching !) – and yet we have the twin evils of the aristocrats on one hand and animal rights fanatics on the other controlling the “debate”.
      One idea to throw in the hat would be ; “what would post toff land management look like” – I’d suggest a combination of decisions made by genuine hunters,conservationists,farmers/crofters etc to maximise game/wildlife output – as distinct from the elitist run monocultures we have at present.
      Old Gaelic proverb ; “There are three things of which a man should not be ashamed – a stick from the forest (firewood), a beast from the hill (deer) and a fish (salmon) from the river”.

      • I was born and live in ‘Poacher’s Paradise’ (aka Peebles) where taking a salmon with cleek and torch was a right of passage. The large salmon fishing vested interests have been tying for several decades to remove what little reasonably priced salmon fishing we have left on the upper Tweed. They talk conservation but are only really interested in raising salmon numbers (regardless of natural balances) in the middle and lower stretches so as to charge fortunes and keep the best beats as a preserve for the rich.

  41. One of the most amusing encounters I’ve had with the Lairded gentry was with one well known land owner who I will not name who was railing (rightly) against all the (legal) netting stations on the Tweed and the damage they were doing to salmon stocks. I reminded him politely that the vast loss of spawning grounds due erosion created by stock encroaching right onto river banks was on land he owned and rented out to tenant farmers; ditto all those un-natural blockages closing of hundreds of miles of potential spawning grounds; ditto the stock causing nutrient enrichment;, the destruction of deep peat and the subsequent alteration to hydrology, water chemistry etc thanks to Muirburn and drainage, again on his land where his friend go shooting and not forgetting all that land he either sold to forestry interests or planted himself with blanket exotic conifers, hardly ideal habitat for upland watercourses and spawning grounds. He went away somewhat bewildered and maybe even a little chastened.

  42. It was me that started the re-wilding thing and sometimes it’s easy to forget this is Andy’s blog rather than a public forum! Anyway, with that caveat, thanks for the reactions about Alladale. For my own part, I don’t think Paul Lister would deny it’s a commercial venture and why shouldn’t it be? How else do you stimulate rural economies through wildlife tourism without commercial venture? It’s a high end one, of course, but what’s wrong with taking money off the well heeled?

    As regards the fences, I know nothing about it but would guess that, if the aim is to re-establish a more balanced eco-system you need to re-establish deer’s natural predators and you have to begin with some sort of enclosure. Hopefully the plan is you work out from there by getting neighbouring estates on side until eventually you can take the fences away because the deer, the predators, the trees and people are back in general balance. Probably not in my lifetime but you have to start somewhere.

    Strathpuffer raised a good point by asking what the post-toff landscape would look like? Too often this debate seems to be characterised by people telling us what they don’t like/want. That’s the easy bit, the hard part is what do you want to replace the status quo with? So what would people here do if they were given the power to run an estate like Alladale? Or what would you do with that derelict lodge in Glen Fiddich posted above?

  43. My main concerns with estate run shoots, are the very ‘unsporting’ practice of shooting birds which are fleeing the perceived danger(beaters) only to be flying right onto the guns. This is very divisive and cruel, even worse to think that half of these birds will be buried. In terms of rural impact, there are vast areas devoted to shooting and from information i have gathered from factors and shoot managers, they claim that most estates struggle to make ends meet. This is where the tenant farmer comes in, the rent the farmers pay is what keeps many of these estates afloat. Our land is being under used, we must look out the way and allow more people with a greater variety of ideas take more control, coupled with vast change in ownership of holdings. Eventually we will shake off the daft notion that there is nothing else that can be done with the hills other than shoot grouse, although landward BBC tried its hardest to celebrate the grouse moor!

    • What I often say to shooters is if they really want to do some real hunting then they should get behind re-wilding/ecological restoration and maybe one day the could be hunting boar or even bear – scary things that might hunt them back!

  44. SS, does a lot not depend on the on the primary focus of the estate and its location? For e.g. if it’s primarily a grouse moor, then the four figure rent payable by a hill farmer is a drop in the bucket of the costs so the landlord would be likely to regard him as a liability he’d be better off without. Whereas, if it’s low ground arable yielding 6 figure rents (with the first one being higher than 5), then the shoot is likely to be very much subordinated to the tenants’ agricultural requirements?

    And you say “the daft notion that there is nothing else that can be done with the hills other than shoot grouse”. I’m genuinely not being funny with you, but what are the other things that can be done with the hills? (These are the things people need educated about – never assume us townies know what you’re referring to.)

  45. £500,000 rent? What planet is that from neil?
    The hill farm tenant may be a liability in the owners eyes, but he has as much right to live there as anyone.
    Just watch the shoot decline without grazing animals.

    • Woops! You’re right! I meant 5 figure rent with first one not a 5 (e.g. Roxburgh Mains)

      • Sorry, you still lost me.e=mc2?

        • Sorry hector, you’re right again. My bad. I was meaning that agricultural rents of farms in prime arable areas like Berwickshire, East Lothian etc. at rents around £70k+ (eg Roxburgh Mains) are totally different from a hill farm in upper Perthshire rented at less than £10k. Not really comparing like with like was what I meant.

  46. Elite shooting such as grouse and artificial pheasant does not actually benefit genuine hunting in the bigger picture, since a Game Conservancy Trust (now renamed Game & Wildlife Conservancy Trust) report in 1996 blaming mountain hares and other mammals for ticks/louping ill, grouse moors have been eradicating mountain hares – not only depriving golden eagles of a food staple, but also depriving ordinary hunters of quarry species.
    Pheasant shooting – statistics show that only 40% of the pheasants reared are recovered – the rest are effectively feeding artificially high populations of common predatory vermin such as foxes,crows and stoats…which will also be killing natural game/wildlife species such as hare leverets,grey partridge chicks/eggs etc.

    • our most productive land needs to be in the ownership of those who farm it, in order to maximise investment and land stewardship. As for the hill ground, i would allow any tenant farmer who runs a hill flock or herd to buy the farm, therefore securing the first and basic hill activity. This leaves the rest of the hills and moores which would benefit from large scale afforestation. Renewables can also fit in, perhaps the strongest sector would be wildlife tourism. We can also have hunting, which would probably be based around deer control. I can visualise a massive mixed forest with paths and perhaps hutting, a wilderness.

  47. Slurry Stirrer

    What laws need to be passed by the Scottish Government to implement the changes you want to see in how the land is used?

    • Alan, a right for tenant farmers to purchase the farm on which they live and work(one holding only)
      As for the wild hills, these need developing, the sterile grouse moor can be discouraged through taxation possibly even outlawing ‘driven’ grouse shooting. Ownership could be mixed, perhaps maintaining some large private owners or even allowing the state to take ownership, then working with locals to head toward forestry or whatever the mix.

  48. It’s here, Consultation on Land Reform, at: Spread the word and let’s get folk to complete it.

  49. Scottish government is already the third biggest landowner in scotland, and now they want more!!.well, we will see how that pans out out in the EU Courts of law regarding their wee landgrab ha ha.If you want to buy our land then crack on but to think you have a “right” to it then “wise up you fools” cos your just going to look like the silly socialist party which was so popular in Germany in the 1930s!. Hell I might just pitch my tent in your backgarden, Right to Roam remember!!.!!.
    Seriously? is the SG so far removed from its building blocks for a nation???.

    • Privately owned land, beyond a certain reasonable amount, is almost as offensive a notion as privately owned air. I can’t live without breathing air and I can’t live without making a home somewhere on land. I also have to try to earn a living somewhere, somehow, but gross inequality in land ownership inevitably feeds back into reduced opportunities for work and reduced incomes for ordinary people (as well as fewer opportunities for more expensive homes).

      If there was an infinite amount of land it wouldn’t matter. We could all go off and stake a claim to our own little bit. But there isn’t and so we have to share.

      The ECHR very clearly states that the right to property is not absolute. Governments are free to amend the right to private property if that is in the national interest and if they act in accordance with whatever laws might exist (which they also have the power to change).

      Private property has its place but individualism also has its limits. How can exclusive rights be asserted to a claim of private property? By force? If property is held by right of force, it can also rightly be taken by force.

      Assuming nobody would seriously propose that, this leaves us with exclusive rights held by consent. Land ownership becomes a conversation in which we have to consider the needs of other people in our society as well as our own. Everybody needs access to the finite resource of land and it is not in the public interest to allow this conversation to be blocked by those who have annexed large chunks of our shared inheritance as private property.

    • The big landowners have had years to put their house in order – the prospect of serious reform has been on the agenda for a couple of decades. But their behaviour merely exposes them for what they are. It was all so simple in the old days before a democratic light was shone on these issues through Devolution. One simply had a word with your friends in Parliament and the Scottish Office and the plebs were kept in their place. The reality is that they should think themselves lucky that after their track record we do not indeed just take the land off them and nationalize the lot. What is being offered is very tame, thoroughly civilized and lawful. Now we will finally find out the true position of the big landowners – is all that public relations stuff they’ve been putting out for years true or will they be exposed for the greedy, selfish, uncaring dinosaurs that many of us think they are? They can greet into their malt or they can grow up and join a 21st century democracy.

    • Ian
      you have totally lost me. SG big land owner? do they have tenants? well lets grant them ARTB. The SG can step in and buy when the lairds dont fancy owning the estate anymore. Where is the land grab coming from?

    • Just to clarify the tent in the back garden point, access rights do not extend to the curtilage of a house.

  50. Did anyone else think the consultation was a bit “talks about talks” rather than a real deal?

    Why was it headlined on the SG website as about transparency in land ownership (I thought I was looking at the wrong announcement at first) when actually it goes further than that (Does it? A bit.)

    And you’ve got to wonder about the competence and commitment of a Minister who signed off a document which asked whether to take forward “some of” the AHLRG’s recommendations which they haven’t made yet.


    Slurry Stirrer – you said above grouse moors should be discouraged through taxation. Why not just cut to the chase and ban them? We’ve had lots of attempts at reform by “fiscal policy” going all the way back to the 16th century (feuing of kirklands) and it’s still not worked and we are still where we are today.

    The vision for uplands (not low ground arable) I’m seeing coming through from comments above is:-

    1. Grouse shooting and deer stalking as we know it to be banned.
    2. Core prescription for uplands is re-afforestation (native species) and general re-wilding.
    3. Hill farming and renewables to be carried on but ? whether subordinated to point 2 above where they come in conflict (e.g. sheep known to be bad for environment).
    4. Redundant gamekeepers and stalkers etc. to be retrained as state employed deer cullers and nature tourism and rough shooting guides.
    5. Despite ban on grouse shooting and deer stalking, traditional rough shooting etc. (as described by Strathpuffer above) will still be allowed.
    6. None of the above may be commercialised – nature tourism guides and rough shooting guides to be state employees (althought to accommodate Norwegian model, they may be self employed so long as there’s no commercialism).

    Obviously, there would have to be a transitional continuum but does that sound like a plan for the end game?

  51. Who knows Neil?

    Current cost of culling deer with government stalkers £100/beast – when applied to 100,000 beasts pa – cost to government £10,000,000 pa.

    Sheep known to be bad for environment and trade/demand for product poor.

    Rewilding may lead to increase in hill fires following reduction in herbivores.

    How much do hill walkers and mountain bikers currently pay to enjoy highland scenery? How will Gov charge?

    Have you any thoughts on treatment of Crown Estate ag tenants now they are being transferred to Scot Gov? Will they have right to buy holdings prior to transition?

    • Bill, I would guess that even if ARTB isn’t enacted generally, the SG would have to offer farms on the CE estates to the tenants on a voluntary basis after the SG took ownership.

  52. Re re-employment of gamekeepers etc, one of the reasons that the SNH is regarded with derision by many rural people is because of their failure to control common vermin such as corvids & foxes etc, resulting in a lack of other wildlife such as mountain hares and ground nesting birds, gamekeepers/wardens or whatever you want to call them will have to be employed to do this – minus of course all the BS around raptor persecution and tame peasant rearing as is currently disgracing hunting.

  53. ambrose (@Tdrinker2)

    As a competent archer, if the law was changed, I’m sure you would be able to charge bow hunters, instead of paying out to the “shooters”
    At the moment you can hunt with anything from a gun to a broken bottle, but not a professional bow? What is the government frightened of? Is it because the bow is considered the first weapon of mass destruction (attempts to ban the English longbow, French wars).
    They are silent, don’t scare wildlife, they are swift and deadly as any gun with high power bows,
    There are courses to bring down wild game to prevent any suffering, we are a professional body of highly skilled archers trying for changes to the law, particularly in these times where the deer are now so many that they are themselves destroying the habitat as there are no natural predators such as wolves to control them.
    Bow hunters are the next most natural predator.
    Since the beginning of time man has hunted with bows, until someone decided that the common man was worth nothing, not an acre of land or a stag or a boar.
    Bowhunting is the most natural way forward for the balance of nature in our echo-system.
    Any support, or comments welcome.

    • Approved but this is really rather off topic!

    • ambrose (@Tdrinker2)

      My apologies, when I read about the problems above, I thought this might be a relevent solution, I don’t represent anyone here but myself, in case you think I’m doing this for some alterier motive, I just practice archery and think this would be a good way to help the land.

  54. Rewilding is a hugely attractive concept and Start Adair’s comments are spot on.
    Consider how we are currently using our uplands:
    Sheep farming – which leads to environmental degradation through overgrazing, thus preventing natural succession, and is hopelessly dependent on subsidy from the taxpayer.
    Blanket sitka afforestation – which is ecologically almost sterile, and was often planted as a tax dodge – and often the cost of extrication exceeds the timber value
    Windfarms – again, hopelessly uneconomic and utterly dependent on subsidies which transfer money from the people of Easterhouse to, say, the Duke of Roxburghe.
    Deer stalking – where unsustainably high deer densities lead to overgrazing, preventing regeneration of native woodland. The necessary cull is disproportionately funded by the taxpayer, who pay the FC rangers who work very hard to control populations, while at the same time some sporting estates feed them in winter to keep the numbers up (and thus stoke the value of the estate.)
    Grouse moors – does not have to be inherently bad in my view but when intensively managed there is significant degradation, with adverse effects on carbon capturing blanket bog and flood risk, as demonstrated by the EMBER research. Not to mention raptor persecution.
    It is crazy. If you were designing the system from scratch, you would not start here.
    Rewilding gives us a chance to get away from some of this madness.

    • peter,
      your comment on sheep farming is a little unfair. The subsidy system has created overstocking and cheap meat for the market. Also tenant hill farmers are so restricted by their lairds that they cant diversify to forestry, hydro, wind, shooting, fishing, tourism, house sites etc… so they have to just pack the place with sheep. Heavy regulations coupled with poor housing and aggressive rents have guaranteed that the next generation look at tenant hill farming and think, ‘to hell with this’ I’m off to glasgow!

      • SS, I do have every sympathy for the actual hill farmer – especially as a member of my own family used to be a tenant hill farmer (for him, it was uneconomic even with subsidy). They have no control over the subsidy regime or the laird’s decisions and must make shift as best they can.
        I was just questioning whether upland sheep farming is the best land use, given that it is actually costing money rather than generating it, and there are resulting environmental harms. I admit there are social benefits in providing employment and preventing depopulation of rural areas.
        A lot of taxpayers money goes into the uplands: agricultural subsidies, windfarm subsidies, rates exemption for sporting estates, various other tax exemptions for landowners, etc, etc. I think this money could be spent more wisely.

  55. Not for the first time, George Monbiot provides a clear, sharp overview of all that is wrong.

  56. Cattle are what is needed on the hills, they provide the biological diversity that allowed nature to thrive before the clearances.
    Forestry and farming should be integrated and practised by the same person: ie , the farmer, owning the land, putting trees where they grow best to benefit the stock as well.
    Put an end to blanket forestry and blanket farming, follow the norwegian model.
    Rewilding could be done in some places, IS being done, but food is still needed remember.

    • Its all about location, location, location. Most of the countryside is already so improved that ecological restoration/re-wilding is not a serious option. It makes sense to concentrate re-wilding efforts in areas which are already considered wild – the Cairngorms being the most obvious example. The Cairgorms are ‘marketed’ as a wilderness, the Uks arctic etc. At the moment, a visitor from a far might feel somewhat cheated when they find out it is a man made wilderness not a natural one. Down here in the Southern Uplands there is a fairly clear area that could (and partially is – I’m working on it as we speak) be re-wilded in the heart of the Tweedsmuir/Moffat Hills and out in the Galloway Hills. Together these areas would only account for a small percentage of the whole Southern Uplands leaving the rest for other options. Nobody is seriously considering re-wilding good productive farmland. There is huge scope for more environmentally sensitive timber production – moving away from the the blanket conifer, clear fell model to mixed stand, selective felling, continuous cover model. The latter as well as the primary goal of timber would create real, permanent forests which, of course, can be used for recreation and will also benefit the wildlife. I’d like to see hutting, fishing ponds etc integrated with sustainable forestry. Collective vegetable plots on land in and around urban areas is another thing we should be pushing. Land set aside purely for recreation with, perhaps, a small charge or membership system to fund it. there is lots, besides the traditional that we could do with a bit of imagination and the will to do it.

      • I agree – in practice there need be no conflict with rewilding and upland hill farming. Rewilding is likely to be targeted on areas that are unattractive for farming.
        The ‘cores, corridors and carnivores’ model of rewilding has been shown to work elsewhere and could work in Scotland too.
        I think rewilding would boost tourism and bring economic benefits, plus beneficial effects on CO2, flood risk etc. But that is not the reason for doing it. It should be done because we think it is the right thing to do, without expecting human benefit. This involves quite a shift from the assumed prevailing view that ALL land should be exploited for human benefit wherever possible.
        The whole idea is to restore natural processes – reintroduction of large carnivores, restore native woodlands (by planting if there is no seed source nearby, by natural regeneration if there is), reduce deer grazing pressure to more natural levels, and then to intervene less and less.
        I don’t think it is unreasonable to have a modest percentage of the highlands returned to a natural state for its own sake, without expectation of human benefit (though I firmly believe this would accrue).
        I also think that fishing and hunting are good for people – they restore a sense of connection to the land, compared to buying shrinkwrapped intensively farmed chicken breast in Tesco. It is unfortunate that they are minority pursuits here and often too expensive/inaccessible for the ordinary citizen – especially when we need a bigger deer cull to reduce the adverse impacts of too many deer.
        This is not the case in Scandinavia where hunting is a more mainstream pursuit – over 10% of the male population, IIRC. The Scandinavian countries have a lower population density overall, but most Scandinavians live in southern Scandinavia, where I expect the population density is not too different from Scotland.

        • Aye, southwest Norway is the model for Scotland re. ecological restoration/re-wilding. I’m currently looking at their montane scrub communities for ideas for over here and hoping to get out there next summer for a proper look. I’ve been involved in this field for nearly twenty years now and I thoroughly agree that it is worth it for its own sake. Although, as you say, human benefit is certain. We’ve now got a fairly big chunk of the Tweedsmuir/Moffat Hills taken out of production. Our first project has now had just over a decade without stock and approximately half a million native trees planted and already it is starting to look good. Tremendous to see anthropogenic grasslands succeed to heath, blanket bogs recovering, rare plants spreading out of their refuges into the open, explosion of bird and insect life etc, etc. Nobody is keen on planting trees but in the Southern Uplands there is simply no choice and of course it does have the benefit of providing employment. I haven’t yet seen a breakdown of the figures but we must’ve provided a fair bit of work for folks (including myself) over the years and we are just about to get started on an even bigger area which is contiguous with the first. It has been the best and most rewarding thing I have ever been involved in.

          • Puzzled by you comment Stuart that “Nobody is keen on planting trees…” why not, native woodlands add much to the area and provide shelter in bad weather for whatever animals are around; Chillingham is a good example, the wild cattle in winter snow move into the trees.

  57. Personally I want to see more radical stuff like nationalizing angling rights and getting away from the idea that you have to be a rich man to fish for salmon, especially on the more famous beats. Nothing could sum up everything that is wrong more than the exclusivity and elitism associated with salmon fishing in particular – the whole culture of it sickens me to the core. As a proud Tweedsider I find the whole thing humiliating. Let’s, effectively nationalize angling rights for all fresh, brackish and sea water. Why on earth should something so simple as fishing be the pursuit of the rich? Where did that idea come from I wonder? Certainly not the people of Scotland.

  58. Ambrose – here is something on Bowfishing you may be interested in ; – it is illegal in UK, though I can see no logical reason for this to be the case … as with other forms of working class hunting in the UK, it was banned after toff pressure over fears that it may be used for poaching – I wish you the best of luck with you’re legalisation campaign.

    Similarly the use of Scottish Deerhounds and lurchers to kill deer was first legislated against in the 1959 Deer Act, again after Landed Gentry pressure – although the law was so poorly put together that it was seldom used, with poachers being prosecuted under the other poaching acts anyway, and the loopholes were tightened up in an amendment to the 1996 Deer Act (as I recall it). Again – nothing to do with deer welfare – deer are often injured in shooting and need dogs to follow them up anyway – everything to do with hammering the plebs and gypsies !

    To bring things up to date, and this may very well rattle the cages of leftists and green types, the ban on hunting with dogs has largely been used to harass working class & gypsy lurcherfolk rather than the “formal red-coated toff” foxhound packs, of which there were only 3 packs in the border areas of Scotland anyway, and so largely irrelevant, hare populations are better protected by a close season which we now have in Scotland though not south of the border and more ecologically friendly farming techniques etc – I’d therefore suggest that the ban on hunting with dogs ass of a law should be abolished as well.

  59. ambrose (@Tdrinker2)

    Thanks Strathpuffer, the video highlighted ecological reasons for bowfishing as well as a decent sport to get us old people out and active instead of wasting away in our hovels as the wee right wans would like us to do, quietly.

  60. ambrose (@Tdrinker2)

    As with Strathpuffer, another good post in persuit of freedom for people who wish to excercise these rights and at the moment being shackeled from helping the land, to starting small businesses, to getting the best out of life itself.

  61. As I’m on a video roll – here is a great fox hunting vid ! – and to think the estates pay lackeys to poison/shoot these noble birds ;

  62. ambrose (@Tdrinker2)

    Thanks for that, YES, we could do this here, its yet another reason for allowing free living to develop such interests in the name of conservation, education and tourism.
    There are many like thinking lateral people who have idea’s flowing on a daily basis, have the drive and the skills to start and operate such developments but are prevented from the daily blockage of the wee right one’s saying NO, because it takes control from them and gives it to the people, who’m they don’t trust, but expect us to trust them. Strange wrong thinking culture we live in.

  63. And finally (for now !) whilst on the subject of non-feudalist hunting, here is a vid of lurchers – post-ban it is only legal to kill rats & rabbits with them, or to use them to follow up wounded fox,hare,deer – so this is a pre-ban vid ;

  64. ambrose (@Tdrinker2)

    On the video, This is no sport, killing for the sake of killing, these dogs are obviously not hungry so they’re trained killers, the human handlers are getting no exercise, maybe they have some warped sense of self gratification because “it’s their dogs”. Very bloodthirsty people, not hunters. cheers, time to chill.

  65. Ambrose, I’d disagree – quarry such as rabbits and hares are taken home to eat, and the dogs hunt naturally !

  66. Fair comment, just a different opinion, thanks for your reply.

    • uncomfortable watching the video, fair enough if your family are hungry and you need to get a rabbit. At least these people are not responsible for clearing tenants off the land. As for ‘dogs hunt naturally’….. with lamps??

  67. Slight misunderstanding Stuart Wilshaw.

    I was referring to planting trees as opposed to using natural regeneration which would always be the preferred option ecologically speaking. Essentially this is my forte – surveying the habitat and working out which species and woodland types should go where – great fun! Hardly any native woodland left in the Southern Uplands so no choice but to plant but it is a bit of educated guess work, especially in relation to tree-lines and montane scrub. Can’t just stick any old species anywhere – that would just be forestry.

    I’m quite literally writing recommendations for a 4000 acre site in the Southern Uplands at the moment. Currently considering the role of dwarf birch in the natural order.

  68. The act of parliament responsible for the clearances needs revisiting. Around 1700 i believe it was.
    That gave landlords power to evict at will, a power european landlords never had.
    Tenants need a fundamental human right to remain in situ ad infinitum.

  69. A good book if you can still get it was published by Laggan Community Trust as a fundraiser, I got mine from Laggan Community Stores ages ago ;

    another that is largely English, but has lots of Scots stuff in it is ;

  70. Tenants all over britain are sick and tired of landlords screwing them on rent . Sign the new era estate petition against mass eviction.