/ Land Reform Review Group (Scotland)

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Douglas Griffin - on 11 Jan 2013
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/About/Review/land-reform/ReviewGroup
Today was the deadline for the submission of evidence.

Andy Wightman has published his evidence. Definitely worth a read.
http://www.andywightman.com/docs/andywightman_lrrg_20130113.pdf
ring ouzel on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin: Andy is a good bloke. I've been in several meetings with him and he certainly knows his way around this stuff.
MG - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to ring ouzel: He has some good points there but he would be more convincing if he dropped the socialist revolutionary stuff. Mostly emotional hyperbole at the moment.
Douglas Griffin - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to MG:

Care to give examples of what you see as "socialist revolutionary" about his proposals?
Howard J - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin: Andy Wightman's 'evidence' seemed to me to consist largely of opinions and assertions without much evidence to back it up. Some references are unattributed and he seems to be over-fond of referencing his own books and articles.

I don't understand how reducing land values by 20%-30% (and how does he proposed to do that?) would release capital. Or how forcibly requiring landowners to leave their heritable property equally to their children would work - he seems to have in mind vast highland estates, but what if you own a small house and have several children? He hasn't considered the adverse effects of seeing estates increasingly fragmented over the generations, resulting in landholdings which are too small to live off. If my memory servise, I believe this was a real problem in parts of France and Wales where equal inheritance applied.

He seems to be motivated by political ideals rather than practical considerations. Nothing wrong with having ideals, but they must work in practice or they can do more harm than good.
MG - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin: Forceable land purchase, communes, reduction in land prices, forced inheritance rules, etc.
Cuthbert on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to MG:

Another conservative reaction from yourself Martin.
MG - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Saor Alba: Well if your datum is Mugabe then yes it would appear that way, Donald.
Douglas Griffin - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to MG:

> Forceable land purchase, communes, reduction in land prices, forced inheritance rules, etc.

Those are very pejorative terms.

He means "communes" in the sense that they exist in Scandinavia or France - as the base unit of local democracy. Local government in Scotland is exceptionally centralised in comparison.

"Forced inheritance rules" - What is so fundamentally wrong with giving all children equal inheritance rights in law?

Reduction in land prices - again, in what way is that a bad thing?

Cuthbert on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to MG: #

Dont be an idiot, Mugabe is a killer. This is land ownership. Not death. Doh!

I'd support new legislation to make is legally enforcable that estates over a certain size can't be purchased by people not resident in the UK (Scotland after independence), they must have a community and biodiversity plan and break the link between job and property.

I fully support the Pàirc Estate hostile buy out and hope it sets a precedent.
MG - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin: Are you really happy with the State deciding who inherits your property? It's a fairly fundemental right to write a will.

Do you own a house? Happy with paying a mortgage for 25 yearsnto have 25 percent of your efforts wiped ou deliberately by the State?
Toccata on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

The Andy Wightman document is laugh out loud funny! Probably decent A-Level (or CSYS) course work but embarrassingly naive. I guess the purpose of think tanks is to discuss extremes so that the people who matter can discount them.
Douglas Griffin - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Howard J:

> Andy Wightman's 'evidence' seemed to me to consist largely of opinions and assertions without much evidence to back it up. Some references are unattributed and he seems to be over-fond of referencing his own books and articles.

He does reference his own books and articles - and websites. One of these - whowownsscotland.com is absolutely necessary, because there's no 'official' channel by which people can readily find out who the landowner is, as is commonplace in much of the rest of Europe. Wightman is explicitly calling for the creation of such a register - with free public access - in this document.

As for references, if you get a copy of 'The Poor Had No Lawyers' you'll see that every page contains references - there are dozens of pages full of them at the back of the book. I suspect this would have been out of place in a submission of this kind.

> He hasn't considered the adverse effects of seeing estates increasingly fragmented over the generations, resulting in landholdings which are too small to live off. If my memory servise, I believe this was a real problem in parts of France and Wales where equal inheritance applied.

On the contrary, I think he has considered the effects of this - Wightman has 20 years' experience in this area and it's a bit odd to suggest that he wouldn't have considered the consequences - he simply doesn't share your view of them as "adverse". The current set-up is one of the reasons why Scotland has one of the most concentrated patterns of land ownership in Europe. Again, is everyone else out of step with us?

> He seems to be motivated by political ideals rather than practical considerations. Nothing wrong with having ideals, but they must work in practice or they can do more harm than good.

Of course they're political - how can seeking to change the existing land ownership pattern be anything else?
Douglas Griffin - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to MG:

> Happy with paying a mortgage for 25 yearsnto have 25 percent of your efforts wiped ou deliberately by the State?

Are you referring to the Land Tax proposals?
MG - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin: No the desire (how?) to see property prics fall. It's pretty bonkers stuff that obscures his sound points.
Douglas Griffin - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to MG:

I wonder whether the large numbers of people who are currently unable to afford to buy a house, or land on which to buy a house, would agree?
johncoxmysteriously - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

Does Scotland really not have a land registration system? If not then calling for one is hardly a radical socialist step.

jcm
Douglas Griffin - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

It does, but owners are only legally required to enter details in it when land changes hands.

http://www.brianwilsonwrites.com/?p=307
"The Land Registration (Scotland) Act of 1979 was created by the then-Labour Government. It records all changes of ownership of land and creation of new titles. It is administered by the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland. As of 2012, only 55% of properties are covered by the register, accounting for just 21% of the land of Scotland."
MG - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin: Probably, if they thought a bit - i.e. their jobs, pensons etc. are all tied up with property prices.
In reply to Douglas Griffin:
The 7 Men of Knoydart had the right idea!
Douglas Griffin - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to MG:

> Probably, if they thought a bit - i.e. their jobs, pensons etc. are all tied up with property prices.

Their jobs are tied up with property prices??

As for their pensions - I'd prefer mine to be built on more than a property bubble. And why should younger people have to be content with paying rent all their lives because land (of which there is plenty) is currently an unaffordable resource?
MG - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> [...]
>
> Their jobs are tied up with property prices??

Well we have had a 20 percent drop in prices in the last five years. Look at the effects. You want another 20 percent!

>
> As for their pensions - I'd prefer mine to be built on more than a property bubble.

Ditto.

And why should younger people have to be content with paying rent all their lives because land (of which there is plenty) is currently an unaffordable resource

They don't have to. Plenty buy houses, hence the prices.

Douglas Griffin - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to MG:

> Well we have had a 20 percent drop in prices in the last five years. Look at the effects.

What are the "effects"? Don't you think that the drop in prices has been a symptom rather than a cause? Surely it's the over-inflated property bubble that was at least partially responsible for the economic crash in the first place?

> They don't have to. Plenty buy houses

But plenty don't/can't - especially in rural Scotland. That's just tough on them, I guess?
Douglas Griffin - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to MG:
> Are you really happy with the State deciding who inherits your property? It's a fairly fundemental right to write a will.

A couple of points on this. According to what I've read (in The Poor Had No Lawyers), the State already decides what you may or may bequeath. Summarising from Wightman's book:

The Succession (Scotland) Act 1964 abolished primogeniture so that landowners can still bequeath to whomever they wish, but if they die without leaving a will, the next of kin all inherit equal shares. The 1964 act also regulates the legal rights that children and spouses can claim regardless of the wishes of the deceased. A surviving spouse is entitled to one third of the deceased's estate if the deceased left children or descendents of children or one half if there are no children.

However, these legal rights apply only to moveable property, i.e. they explicitly do not apply to land. Children have no legal rights to inherit property. They never have had and still don't. This marks Scotland out in comparison to our European neighbours. (For example, in France the Napoeonic code of 1804, which still forms the basis of inheritance law, legally obliges landowners to divide their estates among their children equally.)

In Wightman's words: "Forget feudalism or other aspects of landed power, the one factor that has sustained such a concentrated pattern of private land ownership has been the law of succession and in particular the continuing distinction between heritable property [i.e. land] and moveable property."

Adam Smith (in The League of Nations) was calling for this to be abolished as long ago as 1776. (Perhaps he was an early "revolutionary socialist"?) Since then, landed interests have blocked efforts to change the pattern of land inheritance in 1916, 1951, 1964, 1990 and most recently during 2007-2009. In 2007 the Scottish Law Commission published its latest discussion paper on the subject, arguing for the distinction for heritable and moveable property to be abolished. (Perhaps they are covert revolutionary socialists too?) This was opposed by the National Farmers Union, the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association, the Scottish Estates Business Group. So far the SNP government has sided with the landowners on this one.
timjones - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

> Andy Wightman has published his evidence. Definitely worth a read.
> http://www.andywightman.com/docs/andywightman_lrrg_20130113.pdf

The man is a short-sighted buffoon. Has he even considered what his ill-concieved ramblings would do to food prices?
Douglas Griffin - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones:

Maybe you could explain what you mean?
Doug on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones: Have you ever met Andy ? far from a "buffoon"
timjones - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

If you continually sub-divide farms and then charge those smaller units business rates they are going to need to be paid substantially more for their produce. Prices would have to rise dramatically in order to ensure that we could feed the nation under these absurd proposals.
timjones - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Doug:
If he's not a buffoon it's a shame that he makes himself appear to be one with some of the dumb ideas in this document.
Douglas Griffin - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones:

> Prices would have to rise dramatically in order to ensure that we could feed the nation under these absurd proposals.

As far as I can see the proposal is change the law so that land is sub-divided on the death of the owner. So it would be a gradual process, not an overnight one - no one is planning an immediate cull of landowners.

So sorry, I still don't see why this would lead to "dramatic" price increases - in fact, I don't see why it would necessarily lead to price increases at all. France has been operating such a system for more than 2 centuries and I've never noticed any particular food shortages when I've been over there.
ads.ukclimbing.com
MG - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin: That's intestate deaths. If youvmake a woll ypi can leave property to whoever (or I want a refund from my solicitor).
MG - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to MG: Sorry on phone!
timjones - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:


> So sorry, I still don't see why this would lead to "dramatic" price increases - in fact, I don't see why it would necessarily lead to price increases at all. France has been operating such a system for more than 2 centuries and I've never noticed any particular food shortages when I've been over there.

You need to take the long view. The fact that it wouldn't happen overnight doesn't mean that it is the right thing to inflict on future generations.

This is based on nothing more than short-term politics of envy. Family businesses need the freedom to make the tough decisions that are necessary to ensure their survival.

I suspect that the consequences of this would be nowhere near this fools rose-tinted vision with families being forced to sell on the death of the current owner and the land being hoovered up by larger businesses.

In France you see small part-timers and large agri-businesses. IME you don't see many of the mid-size family farms that we have in the UK.
Douglas Griffin - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones:

This is very much about the long view. (As an aside, it's interesting that the "politics of envy" gets brought in to the discussion every time someone proposes to challenge established privilege.)

OK, you've not been able or willing to show why the specific inheritance proposals would lead to the dramatic food price increases that you claimed they would earlier.

Let's consider what you have just claimed about families being forced to sell. Suppose a landowner with 3 children dies tomorrow. Under these proposals, each brother/sister would each inherit one third of the land. Who is forcing the family to sell up?
timjones - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

Think it through for a minute, split a business three ways and you have 3 families expecting an income instead of one. Split again when they die and the problem multiplies.

Why do you have an issue with someone who has built a b s having the right to decide who they pass it on to when they die?
davepembs - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

You don't appear to understand the situation of UK farms today. A standard sized UK farm can generate enough income to pay for one family. This family is usually Mother and Father and one of their offspring and any young children that one offspring has - that's it. If the farm was left to three children none of them could generate enough income to support themselves individually so either one child would buy the other two out but would probably be unlikely to be able to raise the mortgage necessary to do this, or all three would sell. Round here there are farmers who have died intestate and had the farm split three ways. Other farmers have then bought the farm from the three or however many children to increase the size of there holdings which means they can then run a farm to support say two of their sons and families. Eventually there will be a very small number of very large family farms - estates I guess you would call them in other words by trying to split up large estates you'll end up with - large estates!
Douglas Griffin - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones:

> Think it through for a minute, split a business three ways and you have 3 families expecting an income instead of one.

Whereas under the present system you have one family retaining ownership of the land and the other two looking for an income somewhere else? Meanwhile the pattern of private land ownership remains in its current highly-concentrated state - which is fine for those who have it, but perhaps not so good for the many who don't.
Douglas Griffin - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to davepembs:

You're right that I don't understand the system as you have desribed it.

You're saying that if we had inheritance laws which didn't distinguish between land and moveable property we would end up with large estates.

Why is it then that in other European countries which don't distinguish between land and moveable property, the pattern of private land ownership is far less concentrated than it is here?
tom_in_edinburgh - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones:
> (In reply to Douglas Griffin)
>
> Prices would have to rise dramatically in order to ensure that we could feed the nation under these absurd proposals.

Breaking up highland estates which are used for deer and grouse shooting isn't going to have any effect on food prices. It might even encourage crofting if small parcels of land became available.

splaty on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin: im afraid mr Griffin that you are wrong. i know of two family cases in scotland where with not being in the will someone inherited a part of a house. in one case there was a poorly writen will with one child inheriting the house and had to "buy out" the family member that was not in the will. the other point that is wrong is the workability of forced division of estates. a close friend of mine is one of three sons of a local farmer but as youngest he did not get a share of the farm as it was deemed not big enough to support all three of them. the father worked out a fair settlement before he died to avoid the exact proposal that you have. im not having a go here but would be interested to know if you live in a farming/rural community and if you live in scotland?
Douglas Griffin - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to splaty:

If you have a look at my profile you'll see where I live. Very much in a rural part of Scotland - the same country I've lived in all my life.
timjones - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

What is the problem with concentrated ownership and what do we gain by diluting it?

The reality is likely to be that we take ownership from family farmers and pass it to those who can afford to buy. Who wins?

Believe it or not most family farms manage succession effectively with some family members going out and finding careers whilst one stops at home and works for their inheritance. Those who work elsewhere very often get something in the will as well. Passing control to the state is unlikely to be an improvement in most cases.

I suspect the biggest winners would be lawyers, solicitors etc :-(
davepembs - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin: One of the biggest problems is the viability of small land parcels. In France there are huge agri estates owned by agri industries in the north and in the south yes many small land parcels, but owned by part time smallholders who work as mechanics, teachers whatever and grow a few crops which they sell at the farmers markets at weekends more as a plaything than as a business. Owning 20 acres with 15 sheep on a split up Scottish grouse moor is not going to pay for bread never mind about butter, it just wouldn't be viable without another income and jobs are a bit scarce in the Highlands especially if everyone who used to be employed by the big estate is looking for work as well.
timjones - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:
> (In reply to timjones)
> [...]
>
> Breaking up highland estates which are used for deer and grouse shooting isn't going to have any effect on food prices. It might even encourage crofting if small parcels of land became available.

If you believe that estates need breaking up, you may need to consider how you limit the effects on smaller businesses that are likely to be the big losers under this sort of regime.

Its the impact on smaller businesses that is likely to impact on for prices.

davepembs - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones: Spot on, with my near neighbours here, one son (actually not the oldest) will take over the the farm the other son has had a house bought for him and his family, funded by the farm and has a garage business. All very well sorted, two families with incomes and the farm as a viable business intact - no govt interference, no lawyers everyone happy!
Cuthbert on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones:

I play the Euro Millions. If I win I could maybe buy Rothiemurchas or Glen Strathfarrar. I could destroy the entire eco system, evict all my tenants and get rid of their jobs. I could do this from the other side of the world without anyone ever knowing who I am and paying little tax in the process.

Do you think that I should be allowed to do all that?

Wightman is on the money.
Cuthbert on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

I think about this in two stages with the most important applying to what many might think of as large Highland estates. Given the way politics works round here, it might be better to work at this in stages. There is momentum behind community buy outs and so on and pressure the Crown Estate to reform so they would be my priorities and leave small estates, housing right now.
timjones - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Saor Alba:
> (In reply to timjones)
>
> I play the Euro Millions. If I win I could maybe buy Rothiemurchas or Glen Strathfarrar. I could destroy the entire eco system, evict all my tenants and get rid of their jobs. I could do this from the other side of the world without anyone ever knowing who I am and paying little tax in the process.
>
> Do you think that I should be allowed to do all that?
>
> Wightman is on the money.

Rubbish! If you have that money you could achieve the same effect by buying up lots of smaller holdings.

Protecting the environment, tenants rights and paying your taxes are all laudable aims BUT you will not force others to do this by diluting property ownership and imposing extra taxes on honest businesses. To believed so is just lazy, naive thinking.



timjones - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Saor Alba:
> (In reply to Douglas Griffin)
>
> I think about this in two stages with the most important applying to what many might think of as large Highland estates. Given the way politics works round here, it might be better to work at this in stages. There is momentum behind community buy outs and so on and pressure the Crown Estate to reform so they would be my priorities and leave small estates, housing right now.

What the hell do you gain by attacking small businesses and home owners?

Cuthbert on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones: What planet are you on? I am not attacking anyone. I am advocating more stringent controls on the ownership of large Highland estates and increasing the accountability.

It's not naive, I'd actually suggest that the current approach backs me up as well on this.
timjones - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Saor Alba:
> (In reply to timjones) What planet are you on? I am not attacking anyone. I am advocating more stringent controls on the ownership of large Highland estates and increasing the accountability.
>
> It's not naive, I'd actually suggest that the current approach backs me up as well on this.

In that case why do suggest leaving "small estates, housing right now"?

Also what do you define as a "small estate"?

This guy is sweeping all property into one category in his utopian vision. Your quotes lead me to believe that you hold the same opinion?
Cuthbert on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones:
> (In reply to Saor Alba)
> [...]
>
> In that case why do suggest leaving "small estates, housing right now"?
>

Because I think that politics in Scotland moves in small steps and not one massive big one.

> Also what do you define as a "small estate"? I'd do so over a certain size.
>
> This guy is sweeping all property into one category in his utopian vision. Your quotes lead me to believe that you hold the same opinion?

The you have got me all wrong.
tom_in_edinburgh - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones:
> (In reply to Saor Alba)
> [...]
>
> What the hell do you gain by attacking small businesses and home owners?

The whole scheme of rich landlords owning vast areas of land including entire mountains is distasteful. It is a throwback to the feudal system and the history of military suppression and clearances. It only survives because of tax loopholes - 40% inheritance tax like normal people pay would wipe out the large estates.

If the estates were wiped out and lots of small packets of land became available you would probably find people moving from the cities to the highlands. Lots of people can work from anywhere they can get a fast internet connection.
timjones - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:
> (In reply to timjones)
> [...]
>
> The whole scheme of rich landlords owning vast areas of land including entire mountains is distasteful. It is a throwback to the feudal system and the history of military suppression and clearances. It only survives because of tax loopholes - 40% inheritance tax like normal people pay would wipe out the large estates.
>
> If the estates were wiped out and lots of small packets of land became available you would probably find people moving from the cities to the highlands. Lots of people can work from anywhere they can get a fast internet connection.

Are you even reading what I've written?

Wightman's ill-conceived to strike out at the rich will hurt far too many people who work hard for small gains.

His proposals extend far beyond large highland estates. Don't let the politics of envy blind you to the full magnitude of what he is proposing and the major impacts it would have.
timjones - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Saor Alba:
> (In reply to timjones)
> [...]
>
> Because I think that politics in Scotland moves in small steps and not one massive big one.
>
> [...]
>
> The you have got me all wrong.


In that case where would you draw the line between large estate and small businessman or home owner?

I'm afraid that Wightman remains a delusional fool who fails to comprehend the full impact of his proposals IMO.
davepembs - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh: Where would all these city folk live when they arrive at their small plot of Highland grouse moor, do want them to be able to build houses, create nice cottage gardens, maybe turn that bit of heather moorland over there into a quad bike track for the kids?
Howard J - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:
> (In reply to MG)
> [...]
>
> A couple of points on this. According to what I've read (in The Poor Had No Lawyers), the State already decides what you may or may bequeath. Summarising from Wightman's book:
>
> The Succession (Scotland) Act 1964 abolished primogeniture so that landowners can still bequeath to whomever they wish, but if they die without leaving a will, the next of kin all inherit equal shares. The 1964 act also regulates the legal rights that children and spouses can claim regardless of the wishes of the deceased. A surviving spouse is entitled to one third of the deceased's estate if the deceased left children or descendents of children or one half if there are no children.
>
> However, these legal rights apply only to moveable property, i.e. they explicitly do not apply to land. Children have no legal rights to inherit property. They never have had and still don't. This marks Scotland out in comparison to our European neighbours. (For example, in France the Napoeonic code of 1804, which still forms the basis of inheritance law, legally obliges landowners to divide their estates among their children equally.)
>

I'm not a lawyer, but this summary of the Act suggests he is wrong, or perhaps he is being deliberately selective:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2005/12/05115128/51285

Strictly speaking he is correct that "legal rights" apply only to moveable property. The deceased's partner also has certain "prior rights". However there are other rights referred to in section 3 which decide how the remainder of the estate is divided between members of the family after after prior and legal rights have been satisfied. These clearly apply to both moveable and heritable property, and here children are first in the queue. All this applies only on intestacy - these rules don't overrule a valid will (although some aspects may apply where the will is defective).

The example Wightman quoted in his evidence of someone leaving his property to his eldest son (of twins) bypassing two older daughters may seem unfair and old-fashioned, but it was his choice, not something imposed on him by law. Wightman seems to be suggesting he shouldn't be allowed that choice (which might raise problems with the Human Rights Act).

Dividing estates equally might seem fair, ,but the problem is that over generations you end up with smaller and smaller, and eventually uneconomic, parcels of land. This is what happened in France, and the result (as someone else has mentioned) is a large number of part-time farmers working uneconomic smallholdings which then had to be massively subsided by the CAP.

No doubt Wightman has his sights on the large estates. He doesn't mention how this might affect a small farm that might have to be divided between several children? How about a small terraced house in the city?
Cuthbert on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones:

Please see above. I would put on area of estate and it would be quite large. I am talking Corrour, Braulen, Glen Cannich, Rothiemurchus sort of size.

I think your continual use of insulting and dismissive language suggests that it's not worth continuing this conversation.
Cuthbert on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:
> (In reply to timjones)
> [...]
>
> The whole scheme of rich landlords owning vast areas of land including entire mountains is distasteful. It is a throwback to the feudal system and the history of military suppression and clearances. It only survives because of tax loopholes - 40% inheritance tax like normal people pay would wipe out the large estates.
>
> If the estates were wiped out and lots of small packets of land became available you would probably find people moving from the cities to the highlands. Lots of people can work from anywhere they can get a fast internet connection.

Me like!
timjones - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Saor Alba:
> (In reply to timjones)
>
> Please see above. I would put on area of estate and it would be quite large. I am talking Corrour, Braulen, Glen Cannich, Rothiemurchus sort of size.

So why did you suggest leaving small estates and housing for now. It's hardly surprising that I misunderstood you!

> I think your continual use of insulting and dismissive language suggests that it's not worth continuing this conversation.

Am I supposed to be polite about a man who proposes business rates on farmland? How would you feel if he proposed putting VAT on food?



Howard J - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> I wonder whether the large numbers of people who are currently unable to afford to buy a house, or land on which to buy a house, would agree?

I wonder whether the large numbers of people who would be plunged into negative equity, and possibly lose their homes, by a massive fall in house prices would agree?

Cuthbert on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones:

I've already explained above and yes.
timjones - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Saor Alba:
> (In reply to timjones)
>
> I've already explained above and yes.

Sorry which parts of my post are you addressing these two replies to?

It's hardly surprising that you get misunderstood!

Cuthbert on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones:

The questions you posed and in the order you posed.
Douglas Griffin - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Howard J:

Sorry - you'll need to explain that to me. Why would a fall in property prices result in large numbers of people possibly losing their homes?

I think one of the central thrusts of Wightman's argument - backed up by his position on Land Tax - is that we should move away from a model where simply buying land and then waiting for its value to rise - often as a result of investment in infrastructure from public funds - is seen as the basis for an economy.
Douglas Griffin - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones:

> Am I supposed to be polite about a man who proposes business rates on farmland?

I think it's been an interesting discussion on the practical aspects of inheritance law as they would apply to small farms (though I agree that it'd be nice if people could stick to the arguments and avoid using insulting language about people) and there have been quite a few issues that I'll freely admit to not having considered.

However - earlier today you were talking earlier about farms being 'family businesses'. So why should they be exempt from business rates? I've read Wightman's argument about why they should not - maybe you could explain why the owners of something like 90% of Scotland should make no contribution to the provision of local services through business rates?

Clint86 - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin: I haven't read all this thread, but I've breezed through Andy Wightman's article. It sounds like it would lead to improvements in the state of areas such as Courrour estate which are horrific. Just managed so a few people can shoot deer. Proffits sent abroad. Wildlife wilderness.
timjones - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Saor Alba:
> (In reply to timjones)
>
> The questions you posed and in the order you posed.

3 questions, 2 answers?

timjones - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:
> (In reply to timjones)
>
> [...]
>
> I think it's been an interesting discussion on the practical aspects of inheritance law as they would apply to small farms (though I agree that it'd be nice if people could stick to the arguments and avoid using insulting language about people) and there have been quite a few issues that I'll freely admit to not having considered.

Look I think a lot of the ideas in the document are deluded and foolish, that would hurt a lot of innocent hard working people. I've trawled the thesaurus and "delusional fool" is about as polite a way of succinctly expressing that message as I can find, I could very easily have been an awful lot more insulting. I believe that if you seek to influence policy in the way that Wightman does with that document you have a responsibility to consider the wider implications of your proposals. I believe that he has totally failed to do that and as such I have no regrets about what I have said.

> However - earlier today you were talking earlier about farms being 'family businesses'. So why should they be exempt from business rates? I've read Wightman's argument about why they should not - maybe you could explain why the owners of something like 90% of Scotland should make no contribution to the provision of local services through business rates?

If you impose an extra cast it should be passed onto the consumer. Food poverty is already a reality in the UK. The signs are that global weather and increased demand will lead to some pretty serious price increases in the near future. Is it wise to impose measures that will only further increase food prices?
Douglas Griffin - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones:

> If you impose an extra cast it should be passed onto the consumer. Food poverty is already a reality in the UK. The signs are that global weather and increased demand will lead to some pretty serious price increases in the near future. Is it wise to impose measures that will only further increase food prices?

OK, that's farms - I can see your point even if I don't necessarily agree with it. What about forestry or sporting estates - should they be exempt from business rates?

Howard J - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin: Business rates are based on the value of the property. The problem with agricultural land is that it varies widely in productivity, and whilst this is reflected in its value farming activities may require large areas of land. Hill grazing might be quite low value per acre, but a hill farmer needs a lot of it, so the total value adds up and his rates liability could be quite high. especially in proportion to his income.

It would be very difficult to structure a rates system which was fair to both grade 1 arable land in the lowlands and hill farmers grazing sheep. Any income raised would probably end up being returned to the farmers through increased subsidies.

Non-agricultural uses of farm premises are subject to business rates.
Douglas Griffin - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Howard J:

Thanks, that's interesting.
timjones - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:
> (In reply to timjones)
>
> [...]
>
> OK, that's farms - I can see your point even if I don't necessarily agree with it. What about forestry or sporting estates - should they be exempt from business rates?

I'd find it hard to see why sport should be exempt.

Forestry is tricky, it's a long term investment rather than lucrative on a day to day basis and does it use local services to any major degree?
timjones - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones:

Come to think of it I suspect that the average farm uses one hell of a lot less council services than a high street shop?
tom_in_edinburgh - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to davepembs:
> (In reply to tom_in_edinburgh) Where would all these city folk live when they arrive at their small plot of Highland grouse moor, do want them to be able to build houses, create nice cottage gardens, maybe turn that bit of heather moorland over there into a quad bike track for the kids?

Sure. Let them build a house and have some land round it or have a hut in the middle of a forest. Obviously, there needs to be planning consent just like anywhere else and the location needs to be appropriate. But the balance at the moment where you can pay £600K for a 3 bedroom flat with a small garden in the middle of Edinburgh but if you travel less than 10 miles there is masses of land valued like the only thing you could do with it is farm sheep or shoot grouse is not sensible. A lot of that land has been in the hands of the same family for more than 300 years.

Logically there should be less farm land in the UK because land is scarce and other activities would generate more money per acre. If it wasn't for subsidies, tariffs and planning restrictions more of our food production would be done in low cost countries and more of our land would be used for housing and leisure.

Nobody is saying there should be unchecked urban sprawl but equally the present balance needs to move so folk can afford reasonable sized houses and investing in productive industry becomes more attractive to people with money than passively sitting on land. There used to be more people living in the countryside than there are now, the present population level is because landowners intentionally depopulated it.
Doug on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones: Tim, your profile suggests you life south of the border - its noticeable that most of those supporting Andy are from Scotland, & mostly the Highlands - wonder how much that influences our opinions?
Simon Caldwell - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones:
> If you continually sub-divide farms and then charge those smaller units business rates they are going to need to be paid substantially more for their produce. Prices would have to rise dramatically in order to ensure that we could feed the nation under these absurd proposals.

I don't believe that food prices would rise much. Imports would increase dramatically to provide a continued source of cheap food. The farms would either close down, or revert to small-scale subsistence farming.

Unless of course import restrictions were imposed, in which case the problem would be solved when everyone emigrated.
timjones - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Toreador:
> (In reply to timjones)
> [...]
>
> I don't believe that food prices would rise much. Imports would increase dramatically to provide a continued source of cheap food. The farms would either close down, or revert to small-scale subsistence farming.
>
> Unless of course import restrictions were imposed, in which case the problem would be solved when everyone emigrated.

The signs are that a lot of the food that we currently import is likely to be soaked up by expanding and increasingly affluent populations closer to source.

Also don't forget that we are not the only ones facing significant challenges due to an increasingly variable climate. Imports are unlikely to become any more plentiful, they certainly aren't going to get cheaper in the near future.

It would be exceedingly unwise to do anything that potentially increases our reliance at present IMO.
m dunn - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin: Had a look at your website; very impressive photography, especially the Landscape Details section. On the thread subject, thanks for posting. Most sensible Scots will agree with most of Andy Wightman's conclusions. However a self-interested minority will always squeal vociferously while refusing to listen to reasoned argument. They are not worth engaging with on an internet forum.
Cuthbert on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to m dunn:

Well said. This is about so much more than costs and so on.
Douglas Griffin - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to m dunn:

> Had a look at your website; very impressive photography, especially the Landscape Details section

Thank you. :-)
Douglas Griffin - on 12 Jan 2013
Some other submissions to the LRRG here:
http://www.andywightman.com/?page_id=2024
Simon Caldwell - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to m dunn:
> Most sensible Scots will agree with most of Andy Wightman's conclusions

then an independent Scotland would be doomed...
Howard J - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Saor Alba:
> (In reply to m dunn)
>
> Well said. This is about so much more than costs and so on.

Are you saying that something must be done, regardless of any adverse consequences?

tom_in_edinburgh - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Howard J:
> (In reply to Saor Alba)
> [...]
>
> Are you saying that something must be done, regardless of any adverse consequences?

When it comes to the largest estates then yes. Having 'feudal' landowners claim entire mountain ranges and patronage over villages is not acceptable.

There won't be any adverse economic consequences from breaking up the sporting estates: the effect will be to free up an asset that could be used more productively. Grouse and deer shooting aren't exactly high value industries. Knowledge workers could be attracted to the highlands if they can buy better houses than they could afford in the city and get a fast internet connection.

Howard J - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:
> (In reply to Howard J)
> [...]
>
> When it comes to the largest estates then yes. Having 'feudal' landowners claim entire mountain ranges and patronage over villages is not acceptable.

Agreed, and there's a widespread feeling that something should be done. But doing something shouldn't mean doing anything. Andy Wightman's proposals might well achieve his objectives, but many of them would also have other consequences which would hit the very people he is trying to help. There is nothing in his submission to suggest he has considered these other consequences, and no suggestions how to mitigate their effects.

Freeing communities from feudal control is a fine principle, but if in practice if the result is to damage the local economy then that would be a high price to pay.

> There won't be any adverse economic consequences from breaking up the sporting estates: the effect will be to free up an asset that could be used more productively. Grouse and deer shooting aren't exactly high value industries.

Really? According to Scottish Natural Heritage http://www.snh.gov.uk/docs/B720765.pdf field sports tourism (including angling) is worth £136m a year to the Scottish economy. The asset comprises mostly mountain and moorland - how do you propose this could be used more productively?

My point is not that there shouldn't be reform, but that it has to be handled carefully so it doesn't do more harm than good. Unfortunately politicians like simple objectives they can claim credit for, and have usually moved on to something else before the downsides become apparent, leaving someone else to carry the can.




Baron Weasel - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to Howard J:

Good article exposing our feudal overlords and the EU welfare that helps keep them in place.

http://www.newstatesman.com/node/148874

Cuthbert on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to Howard J:

Re sporting estates, yes, really. Considering the size of estates we are talking about they are one of the worst employers and contributors to the economy. George Monibiot had a good piece in the Guardian about this http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2012/mar/02/deer-study-highlands-scottish

I agree with you about not going for change for change's sake but tackling the large estates and Crown estate will have to be done at some point so let's just get on with it.
Cuthbert on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to Baron Weasel:

I'd argue it's actually the British State that keeps the feudal system going and where the power really lies. Land and power have gone hand in hand in the UK for centuries before the EU was even though about.

If the UK left the EU the present system would be unaffected.
Howard J - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:
> (In reply to Howard J)
>
> Sorry - you'll need to explain that to me. Why would a fall in property prices result in large numbers of people possibly losing their homes?
>

Because property values can't be altered simply by decree - if it were that simple we'd all be millionaires. A fall in values of the magnitude Wightman is suggesting could only be engineered by massive economic intervention - by trashing the economy. One of the levers would be to increase interest rates by a huge amount. This would leave many people unable to pay their mortgages, and unable to sell because they are in negative equity. The result would be repossessions by the mortgagees. We're in deep enough shit already, don't you think, without deliberately making it worse?

Wightman seems to believe the 20%-30% fall in values would somehow be released back into the economy as capital to be employed for other purposes. He's wrong, it would simply disappear and be lost.


tom_in_edinburgh - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to Howard J:
> (In reply to Douglas Griffin)
> Wightman seems to believe the 20%-30% fall in values would somehow be released back into the economy as capital to be employed for other purposes. He's wrong, it would simply disappear and be lost.

Why would values fall? Building land is worth far more than farm land and increased economic activity in an area makes building land more valuable. Locking up the land in large estates is reducing its value.

Even if the price of an individual building fell and the person who owned it lost money there would be a balancing gain. Whoever bought or rented the building after the fall in price would pay less of their income towards housing and have more to spend on other things. The money they didn't spend in mortgage or rent would go into other, probably more productive parts of the economy. Making investment in land almost risk free encourages people to invest in land rather than in productive industry. That's one of the reasons the UK has so few world class technology companies.

Howard J - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:
On Page 8 of his submission Wightman is advocating a reduction in land values to around 20%-30% of current values (actually I'd misread this as being a reduction by around 20%-30%, what he is proposing is even worse). He doesn't suggest how this might be achieved (but see my previous post). He thinks this would lower indebtedness but ignores the vast numbers of existing loans (not just mortgages) secured against property values which would be seriously affected, and seems to think that this would liberate capital, rather than wipe it out.

A few new purchasers might benefit from the lower prices, but the overall effect of the economy would probably mean that most people's income would be reduced.

It is worth bearing in mind that the very largest properties are less likely to be purchased with borrowed money and are least susceptible to changes in interest rates. In the current recession, sales of multi-million pound houses in London have been hardly affected, it is the lower end of the market which has suffered.

Much of the land on the large estates is not suitable for building, and where it is then in most cases the estate will want to exploit it - they are commercial operations.

Douglas Griffin - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to Saor Alba:

> I agree with you about not going for change for change's sake but tackling the large estates and Crown estate will have to be done at some point so let's just get on with it.

Re. the Crown Estate, a few facts that people may not be aware of (much of this is lifted from The Poor Had No Lawyers):

The Crown lands of Scotland have historically been administered by 3 bodies:
  • The Crown Estate Commission (CEC), created in 1961 by the Crown Estates Act); it manages the seabed, most of the foreshore, agricultural estates, salmon fishings, rural agricultural estates, urban property, gold and silver;
  • The Queen's & Lord Treasurer's Remembrancers(!!), under the direction of Scottish Ministers, which administers treasure trove, ownerless goods and 'ultimate heir';
  • Scottish Ministers (accountable to the Scottish Parliament), which manages castles, palaces, etc.

The Crown Estate is an estate of property, rights and interests which comprises the Crown lands of Scotland. It is a type of public property and has always been so. The CEC is a statutory body charged under the Crown Estate Act (1961) with the administration and management of this estate and the associated revenues. It has since changed its name to, confusingly, The Crown Estate (more on this below).

(Incidentally, The Crown Estate Act contains the following passage (which I think most reasonable people would find quite incredible):
"The validity of transactions entered into by the Commissioners shall not be called into question on any suggestion of their not having acted in accordance with the provisions of this Act regulating the exercise of their powers, or having otherwise acted in excess of their authority, nor shall any person dealing with the Commission be concerned to inquire as to the extent of their authority or the observance of any restriction on the exercise in their powers."
In other words - it's none of your business!)

Since the CEC changed its name to 'The Crown Estate', it is often confused with 'the Crown Estate' (it might have been simpler if they had left the name as it was but perhaps the intention was for people to confuse the two). This confusion is then compounded by frequent statements from The Crown Estate (the organisation) that it owns, for example, the seabed. These claims are incorrect (as was admitted by the Chief Executive of The Crown Estate in evidence to the Treasury Cttee of the UK Parliament in Mar 2010: "The Act gives us all the powers of ownership, although we are not owners in our own right".

To save confusion in the rest I'll refer to The Crown Estate as the CEC.

In 2007, Highland Council, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Shetland Islands Council, Orkney Islands Council, Argyll & Bute Council, Moray Council and COSLA published a report calling for the wholesale review of the CEC in Scotland.
In 2010, the Treasury Select Committee launched an enquiry into the administration and expenditure of the CEC. In its final report it recommended a review of the powers and functions of the CEC and expressed concerned over its monopoly position over the seabed. The report devoted a chapter exclusively to Scotland in which it recommended better relations with the Scottish Government and highlighted the frustration felt by many over how the operates in Scotland. Above all, the report criticised the CEC for putting commercial interests ahead of the wider public interests.
The Scottish Law Commission ruled in 2003 that the CEC does not own the seabed in Scotland. Crown rights to the seabed could easily be administered by Scottish Ministers or by local authorities. Instead, the CEC is playing a significant role in the development of marine renewable energy but has no accountability to either the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Ministers or the local authority in whose area the seabed is situated. The Scottish Parliament could change this situation but seems disinclined to do so.

Here's what Brian Wilson has had to say on the matter (from The West Highland Free Press, 27/05/11):
http://www.brianwilsonwrites.com/docs/WHFP_20110527.pdf
"Has Scotland been ill or well served by the fact that this vast resource is administered by an organisation which owes its origins to an agreement between monarch and government in 1760 that crown property would be run for the benefit of the Exchequer, in return for the establishment of a Civil List to fund the monarch? This anachronism results in some of our most valuable natural resources — most of the foreshore and all of the seabed within 12 miles from land — being within the control of entirely unelected and unaccountable people, with no tangible benefits accruing to the communities which look out on to these self-same resources. How many would recognise the name of Sir Stuart Hampson, First Commissioner, or Gareth Baird, supposedly the Scottish Commissioner? Who voted for them?

People can decide for themselves as to whether the current situation needs to be reformed.

Douglas Griffin - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to Howard J:

> On Page 8 of his submission Wightman is advocating a reduction in land values to around 20%-30% of current values (actually I'd misread this as being a reduction by around 20%-30%, what he is proposing is even worse).

I think you're perhaps talking about different things. Wightman is talking about land values (which form part of the overall value of a property); I believe you are talking about property values.
timjones - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:
> (In reply to Howard J)
>
> [...]
>
> I think you're perhaps talking about different things. Wightman is talking about land values (which form part of the overall value of a property); I believe you are talking about property values.


The problem is that Wightman appears to be talking about farmland values as well as development land values. It appears that he believes that lowering farmland values will somehow lower the cost of housing. The two markets are very different IMO.

Even at development prices the cost of the land is only part of the cost of a house. A relatively large proportion of the price goes to the builder and the suppliers of the materials.
Howard J - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:
> (In reply to Howard J)
>
> [...]
>
> I think you're perhaps talking about different things. Wightman is talking about land values (which form part of the overall value of a property); I believe you are talking about property values.

I'm not, but it doesn't matter - if it would be difficult to engineer a reduction in value of the magnitude he advocates, it would be next to impossible to direct specifically against land rather than buildings. I can't see how either could be achieved without wrecking the economy. The idea is frankly bonkers.

House prices have certainly increased at a faster rate than earnings, and it is difficult for first-time buyers to get on the ladder (although to a degree it always has been). However property values underpin a great deal of the economy, including many small business start-ups as well as personal creditworthiness. A fall in values isn't the panacea Whightman seems to believe it is.


Douglas Griffin - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to Howard J:

> A fall in values isn't the panacea Whightman seems to believe it is.

As you might expect, some people think it's exactly what's needed:
http://www.pricedout.org.uk/Home/tabid/36/Default.aspx

Their manifesto calls for limits to be put on price inflation and they would like to see a year-on-year decrease in house prices of 0-10% in some areas (principally the English Home Counties). Their goal is that the average price of a house in the UK should be no more than 5 times the average salary.

oldbloke - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

A fall in house price values would be fairly catastrophic for everyone. Far from releasing capital it would destroy it. Mortage debt was around £459Bn in 1999, £867Bn in 2005 and £1264Bn now. If you reduce asset value, it is the debt going to take a hit and the numbers are too big to be absorbed by homeowners or banks.
Howard J - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:
Re the Crown Estate, the "Crown" in this context means the State - this land is State-owned. It generates substantial income to the Treasury which is far in excess of the amount paid out in the Civil List (which is to meet the cost of the Royal Family's official duties rather than their personal use). It is administered by a statutory body which is accountable to Parliament. In addition, it works with local authorities, other public bodies and other stakeholders.

According to its 2012 report, revenues in Scotland increased to £12.3m with direct capital investment by the Crown Estate of £5.7m, supporting a range of Scottish industries, including £500k on mountain bike trails. The implication that no tangible benefits accrue to Scotland is simply wrong.

No doubt the system is not perfect, but how would you suggest this estate should be managed?



timjones - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to oldbloke:
> (In reply to Douglas Griffin)
>
> A fall in house price values would be fairly catastrophic for everyone. Far from releasing capital it would destroy it. Mortage debt was around £459Bn in 1999, £867Bn in 2005 and £1264Bn now. If you reduce asset value, it is the debt going to take a hit and the numbers are too big to be absorbed by homeowners or banks.

It amazes me that people think it would be a good idea to engineer a fall in house prices. I'd suggest that it would be a good idea to stall rises for a protected period but causing a major reduction soups hurt far too many innocent home owners.
Howard J - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:
> (In reply to Howard J)
>
> Their manifesto calls for limits to be put on price inflation and they would like to see a year-on-year decrease in house prices of 0-10% in some areas (principally the English Home Counties). Their goal is that the average price of a house in the UK should be no more than 5 times the average salary.

Same question - how can this be achieved? As I argued earlier, you can't force house prices down by decree, they would have to be forced down by economic measures which would do more harm than good. A fall in prices might actually reduce the supply of houses, as people in negative equity, or simply not wanting to suffer a loss, would not put their houses on the market unless they absolutely had to.

Like all pressure groups, Priced Out is focussed on a single issue (and I agree it is a real problem). However the solutions are far more complex than they admit.

Howard J - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones:
> (In reply to oldbloke)
I'd suggest that it would be a good idea to stall rises for a protected period

Same problem - assuming this could be achieved (and it's probably easier than forcing a fall in values) it would only bottle up the market pressure on values until eventually the bubble would have to burst. In the meantime, the supply of houses would fall as people would only move if they had to.

timjones - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to Howard J:
> (In reply to timjones)
> [...]
> I'd suggest that it would be a good idea to stall rises for a protected period
>
> Same problem - assuming this could be achieved (and it's probably easier than forcing a fall in values) it would only bottle up the market pressure on values until eventually the bubble would have to burst. In the meantime, the supply of houses would fall as people would only move if they had to.

Would it be such a bad thing if purple only moved when they had to?
Howard J - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones:
> (In reply to Howard J)
> [...]
>
> Would it be such a bad thing if purple only moved when they had to.

It would be if it reduced the number of houses on the market. First time buyers depend on current householders at all levels in the chain deciding to move on. Often this move is voluntary - people decide they want something different/larger/smaller. If people think they will lose out by selling, and they are not absolutely forced to do so at a particular time, they will delay in the hope that prices will recover. Fewer moves means fewer opportunities for first-time buyers means higher prices for them.

Cuthbert on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to Howard J:

Out of genuine interest, do you have much experience with regards to large Highland estates? The only reason I ask is that you appear to have a fair amount of knowledge about this but concentrate on issues which I thought Wightman was initially less concerned about.
tom_in_edinburgh - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to Howard J:
> (In reply to timjones)
> [...]
>
> It would be if it reduced the number of houses on the market.

If you arrange a stream of low priced land entering the market and you have planning regulations which make it easy for individuals to buy small plots of land and build on them then first time buyers will build new homes if they don't like the prices on the existing ones. The total number of houses will go up and the size and quality of houses will go up.

In Germany it is normal for first time buyers outside the big cities to get a loan, buy a plot of land and pay a local builder/architect to build the house they want on it.

splaty on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:
> (In reply to splaty)
>
> If you have a look at my profile you'll see where I live. Very much in a rural part of Scotland - the same country I've lived in all my life.

doesnt change the fact your wrong!
Howard J - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to Saor Alba:
> (In reply to Howard J)
>
> Out of genuine interest, do you have much experience with regards to large Highland estates? The only reason I ask is that you appear to have a fair amount of knowledge about this but concentrate on issues which I thought Wightman was initially less concerned about.

Not of Highland estates, but I do have a professional interest in land management in Scotland (and the rest of the UK).

As for Andy Wightman's proposals, my original post was broadly critical of his ideas, which I thought were not fully thought-through, and his habit of referencing himself. Without re-reading everything, I think after that I think I've mainly been responding to comments made by others.

One of my points is that many of his proposals would affect far more than large Highland estates, although they are clearly what he has in mind. And I'm not suggesting he's wrong to raise the issues, just questioning his solutions.



timjones - on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to Howard J:
> (In reply to timjones)
> [...]
>
> It would be if it reduced the number of houses on the market. First time buyers depend on current householders at all levels in the chain deciding to move on. Often this move is voluntary - people decide they want something different/larger/smaller. If people think they will lose out by selling, and they are not absolutely forced to do so at a particular time, they will delay in the hope that prices will recover. Fewer moves means fewer opportunities for first-time buyers means higher prices for them.

That explains why there would be problems if prices were forced down, I'm not sure that it would be a major issue if prices stalled.
timjones - on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:
> (In reply to Howard J)
> [...]
>
> If you arrange a stream of low priced land entering the market and you have planning regulations which make it easy for individuals to buy small plots of land and build on them then first time buyers will build new homes if they don't like the prices on the existing ones. The total number of houses will go up and the size and quality of houses will go up.
>
> In Germany it is normal for first time buyers outside the big cities to get a loan, buy a plot of land and pay a local builder/architect to build the house they want on it.

How much do small building rural plus sell for up there?

What percentage of the cost of a new build is down to the cost of the land in rural Scotland?

Unless building plots are hugely more expensive up there I'd say that you are over-estimating the influence of land prices on house prices.

Howard J - on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones: Land prices vary considerably. There are plots currently being offered halfway between Inverness and Fort William at just £5000 each (without planning permission. £23000 will get you a coastal plot near Thurso with outline planning for a detached dwelling. Elsewhere you might have to pay considerably more.

I don't have figures for rural Scotland, and again figures vary considerably, but typically the land cost can represent 30%-40% of the total development cost. This is based on multiple units, and I would guess would possibly be lower in rural areas where land values are lower and development costs higher (due to additional transport costs etc). On the other hand a self-builder might want a larger plot than the mass developers generally offer. However a developer will also be seeking an immediate profit which could be around 30% (not that they can always achieve this these days), which a self-builder can ignore.

Self-build offers a lot of opportunities especially for those who are willing to take on a lot of the administration,and even more if they will do the actual construction work themselves. If you're going to employ an architect to deal with planning permission, building warrant, and design and use a building contractor then it will of course cost you. You also need a specialist mortgage. Most people don't want the hassle -buying a house is stressful enough anyway - but for those who do it offers the chance to get a house to their own specification for a reasonable cost.

Cuthbert on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to timjones:

Having looked into this, I reckon 50-60% of your costs might be on the plot itself and the rest on services and build.
Cuthbert on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to Howard J:

Dream on! That is one of the most misleading posts I've read on here. There is no "might" about it. You WILL have to pay considerably more. You have searched the HSPC site and chosen the cheapest you could find. It's also offers over.
Howard J - on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to Saor Alba: I don't have the time or the inclination to carry out detailed searches. I quoted a couple of actual examples of asking prices from this site http://www.buildstore.co.uk one of which doesn't yet have planning permission. I was careful to say that these are not necessarily typical - sorry if I didn't make this clearer. It is possible to find cheap land, albeit in what might be considered remote locations, but I agree you will usually have to pay more.

Cuthbert on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to Howard J:

No worries. Like the Greeks, many are cash poor but land rich. If you have relatives with land that is handy. If not, and you want to build something worthwhile, I'd say budget £100k for the land alone.
Howard J - on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to Saor Alba: I should also make clear that I was following up on Tom_in_Edinburgh's post which was about first-time buyers in Germany having houses built for them on land they have purchased. Many first-time buyers will not have much money, and will be going for smaller houses on relatively small plots of land (although probably bigger than a mass developer would provide). If they can afford £100k + building costs they could afford to buy an existing property - assuming they could find one of course, which is the other side of the problem.

Many self-builders are already on the property ladder and aiming to build larger houses to their specific requirements. They will often be seeking larger plots. For larger properties your estimate is probably realistic.
Douglas Griffin - on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to Howard J:

> No doubt the system is not perfect, but how would you suggest this estate should be managed?

I’m nowhere near qualified to answer that question. However, In March 2012 the Scottish Affairs Select Committee (membership: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/scottish-affairs-committe... ) published its report into The Crown Estate in Scotland. The findings are summarised here:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmscotaf/1117/111703.htm
The main concerns identified were in relation to the seabed and the foreshore:
  • the lack of accountability, the lack of communication and consultation with local communities;
  • the inappropriateness of the CEC's statutory remit for its responsibilities in the marine environment;
  • the cash leakage from local economies and other adverse impacts arising from the way the CEC operates;
  • the limited benefits in Scotland from the CEC's involvements.

The specific suggestions for reform are here:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmscotaf/1117/111707.htm

The UK Government’s response (July 2012) is here:
http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/hmt_govresponse__sac_report1012.pdf

So the Scottish Affairs Select Committee says this: "The Crown property, rights and interests involved are public assets which should be managed for the benefit of the people of Scotland."

While the Treasury says this: “In taking this action the Crown Estate must operate within the law. The Crown Estate Act 1961 requires the Crown Estate to manage The Queen’s hereditary property assets professionally for the benefit of the UK as a whole.”

I guess it comes down to whether you believe things are better handled locally or nationally - and that could mean locally v Holyrood as well as locally v Westminster.
Howard J - on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin: The seabed and foreshore obviously presents special challenges, and is a disproportionately large element of the Estate in Scotland, but a tiny part of the Crown Estate's responsibilities in the UK as a whole. Reading between the lines, it looks to me that this falls into the "more trouble than it's worth" category and they're looking for a reason for the CEC to get shot of it and concentrate on more profitable activities.

I am never very clear what "accountable" means in the context of providing specialised professional services. I faced the same difficulty with the recent elections for police commissioners - how can voters be expected to judge the ability of someone they have never met, and probably never heard of, to handle complex professional matters or manage a large organisation and budget? I'm not convinced myself myself that democracy in these situations is preferable to a conventional selection process from suitably qualified candidates with proven experience, who is then accountable to the elected bodies

With any devolution, the question is where do you stop? Will local councils, let alone smaller communities, have the resources and expertise necessary to manage the estate more effectively and cost-effectively than a centralised professional team?
Douglas Griffin - on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to Howard J:

To me accountability comes down to who is directing you. At work I am accountable to my boss - at the end of the year I have to show him what I have done towards the objectives that he has set.

> The seabed and foreshore obviously presents special challenges, and is a disproportionately large element of the Estate in Scotland, but a tiny part of the Crown Estate's responsibilities in the UK as a whole.

That sounds to me like a good reason for local decision-making. Matters which barely register in the interests of the CEC but which may be critical for the viability of coastal communities.

Interesting discussion though, thanks. :-)
jonnie3430 - on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

Does some of this not ring true as being fair?:

I want, for example, to live in a country where a young couple needing a parcel of land for
a home can approach their local council (local - as in municipality, kommune) and be able
to secure (through the exercise of appropriate local political power) this most basic of
needs at minimal cost. I want to live in a country where, as one travels across it, one finds
a well populated land full of energy and optimism.


Unless the council owns the land, how can they sell it? If they do own the land, then surely they can sell it to who they want? If you aren't happy with that, then don't elect them. If you vote has not won, then accept that you are part of a democracy and everyone has a fair shout.

As far as energy and optimism comes in; it's up to the individual. You can choose to be un-energetic and unoptimistic, or not. It's got naff all to do with land ownership.

I want to live in a land where class distinctions are no longer legitimised by the recognition
of aristocratic titles and where the principle of equality underpins access to land rights. I
want to live in a country where the ownership of land is contingent on paying a proper rent
to the community and where speculation and unearned increments are ended. I want to
live in a country where land cannot legally be held in private trusts immune from
inheritance tax or in offshore tax havens beyond the reach of the tax authorities.


Fortunately he does live in a land that is based on equality for land rights. Each person can work for credits and those credits (commonly know as money,) can be exchanged for land (if you have worked hard enough to get them.)




To be perfectly honest he comes across as a socialist who hasn't worked hard enough (or sensibly enough,) to get enough money to pay for what he wants. He seems to be supported by similarly minded people without the means to get what they want so support ideas like this.
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