/ 'The Men Who Own Scotland' - BBC1 Sco 08/01/14 22:35

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Douglas Griffin - on 06 Jan 2014
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03jp2fz
"Reporter David Miller goes in search of Scotland's landowners and asks whether it's fair that less than one per cent of Scots own over half of all Scotland's private land. As the government considers radical change, he asks whether big landowners really are the problem, and whether communities will end up owning more of the land they live on."
Douglas Griffin - on 06 Jan 2014
More on this here:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10552030/SNP-ministers-warn-lairds-about-need-for-radical-r...

Andy Wightman made a good point on this on Twitter today; it very much is the 'men' who for the most part own Scotland's landed estates, because the law of primogeniture still holds.

Fergus Ewing (SNP) apparently said in the Scottish Parliament in 2010 that he'd be consulting on proposed changes to the succession laws, but there's been nothing heard since.
Cuthbert on 06 Jan 2014
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

Thanks for the info on the programme. I am in Austria at the moment but will watch on my return.
brianrunner - on 06 Jan 2014
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

Thanks for the tip off, looks interesting.

Brian
Jim C - on 07 Jan 2014
In reply to Douglas Griffin:


> "Reporter David Miller goes in search of Scotland's landowners and asks whether it's fair that less than one per cent of Scots own over half of all Scotland's private land.

As the government considers radical change, he asks whether big landowners really are the problem, and whether communities will end up owning more of the land they live on."

I had better dig out my tweeds, and look my best then, as I am a landowner 'in Scotland near Loch Lomond;) ( But define 'Big')



Does he ask them all if they are in favour of independence I wonder.
Slugain Howff - on 07 Jan 2014
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

Thanks Doug.

I'm currently enjoying Wightman's book, The Poor Had No Lawyers: Who Owns Scotland and How They Got it.



Douglas Griffin - on 07 Jan 2014
In reply to Slugain Howff:
A fantastic book.

If you've not read it, James Hunter's The Making of the Crofting Community is also worth looking out. Gives a further insight into the largely-depopulated state of the Highlands & Islands today.
Post edited at 08:49
Andy Moles - on 07 Jan 2014
In reply to Slugain Howff:
> I'm currently enjoying Wightman's book, The Poor Had No Lawyers: Who Owns Scotland and How They Got it.

I wish I could say I enjoyed it - interesting and informative as it is, I think he could reach a wider audience if he varied the tone a little.

But maybe that's someone else's job - thanks for the heads up on the programme.
Slugain Howff - on 07 Jan 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

I've got in-built tone controls.....know what you mean though.

S
Cuthbert on 07 Jan 2014
In reply to Slugain Howff:

There is a good article in the Herald today about Andy Whightman
Minneconjou Sioux - on 07 Jan 2014
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

I wonder if the program will consider the effect of the very low land quality for a significant proportion of Scotland and how this might skew the results for % area owned?

Also, will it consider that the return on investment might not be that great and that land ownership and land use are considerably different in Scotland with specific regard to crofting law.

Will he raise the fact that most crofters have the right to buy their land for a fixed multiple of their rent and the landlord has no choice but to comply however most crofters choose not to do this?

Unfortunately I can't watch the program.
Jim C - on 07 Jan 2014
In reply to Douglas Griffin:
> "Reporter David Miller goes in search of Scotland's landowners and asks whether it's fair that less than one per cent of Scots own over half of all Scotland's private land. As the government considers radical change.

Do we go close to the the SA "Willing buyer, willing seller" route, or the more direct Zimbabwe reforms , both have had problems

Maybe they should first just legislate to tackle problem owners , (as discussed on this site,) as a priority .eg "- Ledgowan Estate - "Get Off My Land".

Perhaps 'problem ' owners will then get their act together, and start to behave a bit better lest they are put to the top of the list for " Radical Change"

Personally, I am happy for good owners not necessarily being forced to sell, as the "community" buyers they are forced to sell to could be plonkers , ( local or incomer)
'Foreign' owners does not always equal bad owners , even if they do have vast areas.

So there needs to be quality control on any new ownership, not just a redistribution , which could be from good to bad, or even , bad to worse.
Post edited at 19:55
Douglas Griffin - on 07 Jan 2014
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

> I wonder if the program will consider the effect of the very low land quality for a significant proportion of Scotland and how this might skew the results for % area owned?

It might. It might also consider that the very low quality of land in much of Scotland is at least in part a consequence of the present system of land management, rather than being an excuse for it.

> Also, will it consider that the return on investment might not be that great and that land ownership and land use are considerably different in Scotland with specific regard to crofting law.
> Will he raise the fact that most crofters have the right to buy their land for a fixed multiple of their rent and the landlord has no choice but to comply however most crofters choose not to do this?

You are talking about crofting; I get the impression that the programme will be talking more about community buy-outs. These are not the same thing. Hopefully it will highlight the drastic turn-around in the fortune of areas like North Harris, Gigha and Eigg since they were bought out by the local communities.

Incidentally, I've just been reading a very long and detailed post by Andy Wightman on the consquences of Scotland's system of land ownership in Langholm - a very long way from the Crofting Counties. (It's here, if you're interested: http://www.andywightman.com/?p=3354 )
Douglas Griffin - on 07 Jan 2014
In reply to Jim C:
There's no doubt that community ownership isn't an end in itself. Look at the Uists - from speaking to (admittedly just a few) people in North Uist, there doesn't seem to be a great deal of appetite for it there, as the landowners (descendants of the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland!) seem to be fairly well-regarded and let people get on with things. In South Uist, the feeling was obviously different - it is now community owned.
Post edited at 20:30
Cuthbert on 07 Jan 2014
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

You could argue, with some justification, that community confidence, ability, mentality is often as result of the landownership and in particular where access to housing and land based occupations are prominent.

For example, a relatively rich, well connected community would be more likely to take advantage of opportunities before a community with a long history or disengagement and so on.

Interesting to note that voices are now being raised with regards to Tiree.
Douglas Griffin - on 07 Jan 2014
In reply to Saor Alba:

> Interesting to note that voices are now being raised with regards to Tiree.

Very; hadn't heard that!

Cuthbert on 07 Jan 2014
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

I was doing an informal community survey in the summer and made sure two questions were asked 1) interest in a causeway to Coll and 2) interest in community buy out. In my totally unscientific study, carried out by children, both came back quite negative but the Tiree trust has a different view :-)
Jim C - on 07 Jan 2014
In reply to Douglas Griffin:
> Incidentally, I've just been reading a very long and detailed post by Andy Wightman on the consquences of Scotland's system of land ownership in Langholm - a very long way from the Crofting Counties. (It's here, if you're interested: http://www.andywightman.com/?p=3354 )

Very interesting article, here is another story of stupid councils, and people power, and a win but lose outcome.

We had a local council , in 1996, who tried to take common land to build a public building, they would not listen to the locals ,( or the clear evidence that it was not theirs to use,) locals then , having suggested more obvious alternatives, had to take the council to court ( and raise the funds to do so) the council simply used the same local taxpayers money to defend it , and the council lost .
But whilst officials were clearly in the wrong , it personally cost them nothing financially, or otherwise. The locals paid twice, to raise the action , and the council's rediculous defence.

They are now this very year trying to missappropriate yet another local recreation area, this time to build a school( even against their own local plan!, geology etc.)

Locals may be , again , be forced into raising yet more cash to challenge this new attempted missappropriation of common land, and the council officials could yet again just use taxpayers money to defend it.

We need some protection from these incompetent council councillors/officials who with no personal risk of loss (even when they are proven to do their job badly and make mistakes . )

There should be a way to personally hold these people to account. As it is, they lose , we win, WE pay.
The councillors we can vote out, the officials are untouchable. ( and often not even locals)

"Campaigners halt court plan David beats council 'Goliath' as judge rules in favour of preserving Common land
By BRUCE McKAIN Law Correspondent Friday 12 July 1996

CAMPAIGNERS who have been fighting plans to block the building of a new court on Common land , won a David and Goliath legal victory yesterday."
( the article in full in not available, headline only.)
Post edited at 22:32
Minneconjou Sioux - on 08 Jan 2014
In reply to Douglas Griffin:
> It might. It might also consider that the very low quality of land in much of Scotland is at least in part a consequence of the present system of land management, rather than being an excuse for it.

Hmmm. I'd say the other way round. That much of the reclaimed in-by and hill pastures are on land that is not fit for purpose and the current system of support for crofting communities which includes re-seeding grants perpetuates some inappropriate land use.


As an aside, I'm not necessarily a big fan of the huge Estates nor, though, am I necessarily a fan of the community ownership schemes. Often the poor Estate management is a result of tosspot Factors who all seem to take a special course on how to be utter cnuts
Post edited at 04:08
Cuthbert on 08 Jan 2014
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

What's the problem with community ownership?
Slugain Howff - on 08 Jan 2014
Slugain Howff - on 08 Jan 2014
Minneconjou Sioux - on 08 Jan 2014
In reply to Saor Alba:

I don't have a problem with the concept but I have seen the reality behind some of the presented face of these communities.

I'm not convinced that management by comittee creates the best economic use of land but I do understand how, for some communities at least, there is a need to pull together and that this might be the only chance for ownership.

Also, the succesful community buy outs ususally have some very strong leadership which I'm not sure is repeatable. I'm not sure that these communities can put in place the governance structures and communication processes which will survive transgenerationally.
Cuthbert on 17 Jan 2014
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

I see the owners of the estates proposing to put a windfarm in at the north end of Strath Glass are:

Owner Hatfield Farms Ltd.
Owner Address Imperial Hotel
61/66 Russell Square
LONDON
WC1B 5BB

Owner Robin JK Short & Katherine AM Short
Owner Address Breakachy
BEAULY
IV4 7AE

Owner Erik Maurice W. Robson
Owner Address Kiddington Hall
Woodstock
OXFORD

http://www.inverness-courier.co.uk/News/Protest-meeting-against-planned-wind-farm-09012014.htm

That there is even consideration given to not reforming the land owning system is bad in itself.
Lamb - on 17 Jan 2014
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

> Also, the succesful community buy outs ususally have some very strong leadership which I'm not sure is repeatable. I'm not sure that these communities can put in place the governance structures and communication processes which will survive transgenerationally.

I would agree wholeheartedly with your initial point there. Unfortunately it would seem that there is not enough of these strong voices in Scotland, if there was then things may be quite different to how they are now. A reason for this must surely be down to the generations of people who have been suppressed or cleared from their land over time in Scotland. With vast amounts of these talented pioneering people ending up having to leave Scotland for life and set up lives in the 'new colonies', Canada etc. The loss of these people from these lands and the damage that this must have caused Scotland since is surely immeasurable. You could argue that the abject apathy we see throughout communities in general in Scotland is at least somewhat related to this. A community with no control over its own destiny is a dangerous thing and is never going to improve anyone's life. I don't understand why people doubt individual communities' abilities to help themselves. Why do they need some centralised or in some cases entirely foreign power telling them what they can or can't do? Surely the people who live on those lands, know those lands best, and know what is best for those lands and for themselves?

llechwedd - on 17 Jan 2014
In reply to Saor Alba:

> I see the owners of the estates proposing to put a windfarm in at the north end of Strath Glass are:

(OTHERS &)

> Owner Erik Maurice W. Robson

> Owner Address Kiddington Hall

> Woodstock

> OXFORD

That's his old address. I thought I'd heard that name/address before, so googled it. Someone called Jemima Khan owns it now.

Mikkel - on 17 Jan 2014
In reply to All

Do any of you know what land is owned by the Danish guy Anders Holch Povlsen?
This just reminded me of an article i saw in Danish back in 2012 about him being the second biggest landowner in GB.



Cuthbert on 17 Jan 2014
In reply to llechwedd:

OK thanks, inform Andy Whiteman as that is where I got in the info from.
Cuthbert on 17 Jan 2014
In reply to Mikkel:

Various. Glen Feshie is one:

The beneficial owner of Glen Feshie Estate iunderstod to be Anders Holch Povlsen who purchased the shares in Glenfeshie Estate Ltd. on 31 December 2005.
See also Braeroy & Tulloch, Kinloch, Ben Loyal, Killiehuntly, href="http://www.whoownsscotland.org.uk/property.php?p=2769">Hope & Melness
Dave Cumberland - on 17 Jan 2014
In reply to Lamb:

>these talented pioneering people ending up having to leave Scotland for life and set up lives in the 'new colonies', Canada etc. The loss of these people from these lands and the damage that this must have caused Scotland since is surely immeasurable
>Surely the people who live on those lands, know those lands best, and know what is best for those lands and for themselves?

Implicit in your analysis is that for Scotland and Scots to evolve happily, overseas Scots with money, management ability and talent must become an integral part of a "new" Scotland. (Rather like Ukrainians in Canada and Estonians in the USA returning to support their home countries).

ads.ukclimbing.com
Mikkel - on 17 Jan 2014
In reply to Saor Alba:

Thanks Donald.

Back then he said he bought it to do ecological restoration to the land
MG - on 17 Jan 2014
In reply to Mikkel:

Rumour at the Crask Inn last year was he bought several estates to plant trees to offset CO2 emmission elsewhere. Pub-talk so could be way off.
Trangia - on 17 Jan 2014
In reply to Jim C:

> , or the more direct Zimbabwe reforms , both have had problems

>

Scotland may be a bit short on "War Veterans" or if there are any they are going to be a few hundred years old....though come to think of it most of Mugabe's storm troopers were too young to have fought against Smith's regime.
Lamb - on 17 Jan 2014
In reply to Dave Cumberland:

No. That is not what I am saying. What I am saying is, that the loss of all those talented people way back then only damaged Scotland and that we are still effected by that today in some indirect way. I am not stating that all those people must return to Scotland, that by the way would be no bad thing, but it is possible for Scotland to start developing again on its own, given enough will from the people and politicians.
Cuthbert on 17 Jan 2014
In reply to Mikkel:

He has been doing good work in Glen Feshie certainly but again it's down to chance. It could have gone the opposite way. I favour legislation on land purchases over a certain size.
Mikkel - on 17 Jan 2014
In reply to Saor Alba:

I think i am with you on that one.
The reason why i remember the old article about this guy was due to it saying he is the biggest landowner in GB only second to the Queen.

And for me it seems very wrong that so much land is treated as a simple investment for someone living elsewhere.
Minneconjou Sioux - on 17 Jan 2014
In reply to Lamb:

> I don't understand why people doubt individual communities' abilities to help themselves.

Well, as I said earlier, I don't really like communal ownership of land as I don't think it results in better management. I guess one of the key discussion points is that it depends on how you define "better" or good management and this depends on what you are trying to acheive.

Again, I have nothing against communal ownership as a concept for harmonious (sp?) living with everyone working for the common good but the reality is often different. I think Nepotism and Cronyism are the destructive elements that creep into the governance models of these communities, especially in the transitional phase from one generation to the next. Perhaps this is simply a mirror of normal political process?


> Surely the people who live on those lands, know those lands best, and know what is best for those lands and for themselves?

I think this is a common misconception. Good stewardship does not necessarily result from ownership.

Douglas Griffin - on 17 Jan 2014
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

> Well, as I said earlier, I don't really like communal ownership of land as I don't think it results in better management.

It's early days, of course - but the evidence from places like Assynt, Gigha, Eigg and South Harris suggests that it does.
Minneconjou Sioux - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

> It's early days, of course - but the evidence from places like Assynt, Gigha, Eigg and South Harris suggests that it does.

On what basis? Are you suggesting that land use has changed dramatically, post community buy out?
Lamb - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:
Well on the Isle of Eigg, the place was run for years by a guy from the Yorkshire area(?) before being transferred into the ownership of some mad German contemporary art fiend. During the tenure of the Englishman, the residents lived with short term lets, meaning they could not plan anything long ahead i.e. develop land, had to ask permission to use even the most basic of things like tractors, lived in substandard accommodation as they were not allowed to develop their properties as they were only tenants, get by without a proper power supply on the island etc etc. I think the local GP committed suicide on the island as well - whither or not that was of direct relevance to this debate I am unaware and not attempting to connect the two. But clearly there was serious problems for the community. The tipping point for the islanders was when they organised a traditional music festival on the island, with talented fiddle players coming from all over. They then asked the laird (not sure if that was his correct title) to use the town hall for it, he refused, so rather embarrassingly for the islanders they had to cancel the festival.

After gaining community ownership the island hasn't looked back. Sure it still has problems and is not a land of milk and honey, but they are now able to deal with their own problems themselves and are in control of their own futures for the first time. The community has been able to develop the local economy, infrastructure as well as housing. New residents have even been attracted to move to the island to begin crofting I believe. They are in fact now the first community in the world to have an entirely wind, sun and water powered electricity grid, moving away from the reliance on diesel generators.

So clearly, there are massive improvements on the island, still I am sure there are massive improvement they have still to make, but they can now make these improvements whereas previously they were unable.
Post edited at 07:43
Lamb - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

> Well, as I said earlier, I don't really like communal ownership of land as I don't think it results in better management. I guess one of the key discussion points is that it depends on how you define "better" or good management and this depends on what you are trying to acheive.

> Again, I have nothing against communal ownership as a concept for harmonious (sp?) living with everyone working for the common good but the reality is often different. I think Nepotism and Cronyism are the destructive elements that creep into the governance models of these communities, especially in the transitional phase from one generation to the next. Perhaps this is simply a mirror of normal political process?

> I think this is a common misconception. Good stewardship does not necessarily result from ownership.

I would like to hear of these examples in Scotland where community ownership has led to a negative effect on the land and the community as a whole? As I am unaware of any such example. As I have mentioned above, community ownership doesn't transform areas overnight, it is a long process. But the key point is that they are now in control of their own futures and are able to solve their own problems.
Douglas Griffin - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

> On what basis? Are you suggesting that land use has changed dramatically, post community buy out?

OK, take Gigha. The following is taken from the postscript of The Making of the Crofting Community by James Hunter (2010 edition).

Bought by Mr Horlick (of the malted drinks company) in 1944. He died in 1972. Then the island changed hands 3 times in the next 20 years.

The first one was Malcolm Poitier - a property developer, he lasted 3 years then went bankrupt and was subsequently jailed in Australia for ordering a hit on the boyfriend of his ex-partner whose 2-year old daughter he had earlier abducted. Apparently Poitier outbid Mick Jagger for the island. The latter had visited it for a holiday and said that he dreamed of owning the island for years, 'much as a child yearns for a train set'. So here we have entire localities being regarded - quite literally - as playthings.

Gigha was purchased by another businessman (Derek Holt) and then put up for sale in 2001. At this time its population had dipped below 100. Housing conditions were amongst the worst in Scotland - 75% of the 42 estate-owned homes were below the official tolerable standard. Of the remainder, all bar one were in 'serious disrepair'.

With the help from a grant from the Scottish Land Fund and another from the National Lottery, a community buy-out took place.

Since then, the estate-owned houses have been refurbished to a high standard, 18 homes have been built for rent and in a place where previous lairds refused to sell home sites to prospective buyers, several privately-owned homes have been constructed.

Farmland has been re-organised. The management trust operates a community-owned hotel, and a grid-connected windfarm.

As of 2010, the population is 151. The school population - 6 in 2002, is now 22.

Will that do?
Rob Parsons on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Douglas Griffin:


> "Reporter David Miller goes in search of Scotland's landowners and asks whether it's fair ..."

I watched this programme - and was disappointed. For example, the interview with the owner of the Cabrach Estate was as soft as it's possible to imagine.

I look forward to the report of the Land Reform Review Group, I do hope that we can make progress.

Lamb - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Rob Parsons:

You'd be kidding yourself to think that we will make the radical changes necessary under the current political setup. Only these changes are only radical in this country, pretty normal and done a long time ago elsewhere.
Rob Parsons on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Lamb:

As I wrote: 'I do *hope* that we can make progress'.

We have to start somewhere; and, at least, the forthcoming report formally gets the entire question on the political agenda. But we are ranged against very powerful forces. My criticism of the telly program is that the representatives of those forces were given a *very* soft ride.
Douglas Griffin - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Lamb:

I think a lot of changes could be made under the present set-up. The powers to do so are not reserved to Westminster.

The current Holyrood administration seem to be very focused on enabling community buy-outs but less keen on other aspects of land reform (for example, tackling the highly-concentrated land ownership pattern). As things stand, huge tracts of Scotland are left as depopulated 'sporting' estates. For a community buy-out to happen, there needs to be a community there in the first place.

Worth looking up Lesley Riddoch's Blossom (the section on Eigg is particularly interesting) and of course Andy Wightman's work in this respect.
Adam Long - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

I've seen some of these changes first hand and the improvement is obvious.

But what I'm guessing MS is driving at is what happens to the wider estate lands when they pass into community ownership?

I visited Sron Ulladaihl a couple of times, before and after the transfer to community/ JMT ownership. The first time, we spoke to the laird and head ghillie, got the key for the road and checked where the eagles were nesting. The second time the laird rather dolefully informed us it wasn't his anymore and directed us to the trust office. They were pretty reluctant to give us the key and phoned an RSPB man on Lewis to check on the eagle situation. Eventually we got the go ahead and went in. The following day the ghillie turned up out of the clag, rather pissed off, told us we had been misinformed and were camped in line of sight of the nest and were keeping the parents off.

Whilst I remain in favour of the changes (and this was in the early days) it suggested that at that time the estate were still better abreast of things on the ground in the wider landscape.

From the conservation work I've done south of the border it's often clear that the best areas for biodiversity are those which survived the agriculture act due to benevolent single ownership, whether public or private. Ironic that nature is more resilient to use as an MOD firing range than being farmed for food.
Douglas Griffin - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Adam Long:

Interesting points - thank you.
Minneconjou Sioux - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Lamb:

> I would like to hear of these examples in Scotland where community ownership has led to a negative effect on the land and the community as a whole? As I am unaware of any such example. As I have mentioned above, community ownership doesn't transform areas overnight, it is a long process. But the key point is that they are now in control of their own futures and are able to solve their own problems.

I don't suspect there are any at this stage. But we haven't got to the next generation yet. So, as I have said earlier, I'm sure the concept and the initial experience is all positive. However, there is often a reluctance to reveal some real challenges that these communities are faceing in favour of placing a positive spin on any analysis.

When we talk about improved land use it is an entirely subjective assessment depending on who you talk to. For example, is improved agricultural production necessarily better in what is typically very marginal land?

Lastly, what is the true economic viability given that most buy outs have had significant funding at the start and continue to recieve financial assistance? That, by the way, is a genuine question rather than an accusation.

Again,I will revert back to my original post. I think initial strong leadership has made the successful projects what they are but I fear for the long term, transgenerational sustainability.

Douglas Griffin - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I'm not sure what your point is. Community buy-outs have so far been an unqualified success. You appear to be saying that this is no guarantee that they will continue to be in the future since a lot depends on a continuing supply of motivated, competent individuals living in the communities. Hard to argue with that. But surely it's also true that having a well-intentioned private landlord now is no guarantee of having one in the future?
Doug on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Douglas Griffin:
Wealthy foreigners buy up swaths of UK farmland and country estates
Estate agents report rising interest from China, Middle East and Scandinavia with sporting estates 'top of Christmas wish lists'
...
Evelyn Channing of Savills' rural office said sporting estates had been "at the top of Christmas wish lists" for international businessmen and women. Channing is in the midst of selling a nine-bedroom castle set in 10,000 acres of deer-stalking woodland. She said the Cluny estate, which dates back to the 1600s and is on the market for 7.5m, was very likely to be sold to a foreign buyer. Two-thirds of potential buyers had been from Scandinavia, particularly Denmark.

The estate, near Kingussie in Inverness-shire, is being sold by the Egyptian-born, Norwegian-based telecoms magnate Alain Angelil, 70, who is reported to have bought the estate, which includes 10 outbuildings, for 2.7m in 2001.


http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/jan/17/foreigners-buy-uk-farmland-estates

I think my Christmas wishlist was a few books...
Post edited at 15:28
Minneconjou Sioux - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

I think my point is really quite clear. That they aren't quite the "unqualified success" you say they are, that there is a general reluctance to acknowledge some of the serious issues which lie a little under the surface and that these issues, if unresolved will reduce the long term sustainability of the projects.

Now its been over 6 yrs since I was last involved in any of these so perhaps things have changed significantly. And I only ever worked with one so perhaps my view is skewed, but I was also fairly close to a number of other crofting communities and understand a little of the politics.

As an aside, I am always ammused by the general voice against large scale single ownership on the one hand while accepting large scale single ownership by the JMT.
Douglas Griffin - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

> I think my point is really quite clear. That they aren't quite the "unqualified success" you say they are, that there is a general reluctance to acknowledge some of the serious issues which lie a little under the surface and that these issues, if unresolved will reduce the long term sustainability of the projects.

OK, so would you prefer to see community buy-outs stopped? Or at least less (or no?) public money being spent on them?
Douglas Griffin - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

> As an aside, I am always ammused by the general voice against large scale single ownership on the one hand while accepting large scale single ownership by the JMT.

...or the RSPB.

Eric9Points - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Doug:

> Wealthy foreigners buy up swaths of UK farmland and country estates

> Estate agents report rising interest from China, Middle East and Scandinavia with sporting estates 'top of Christmas wish lists'

Can someone remind me why these estates couldn't be purchased by a community buy out? Is it just that no one lives on them or are the locals just not interested or is there another reason?
Lamb - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Eric9Points:

It is quite simply unaffordable for community buyouts. There is a little pot of money set aside by the Scottish government for such buyouts, I am not too sure how much it is, 28 million rings a bell? But either way, I know it is a drop in the ocean for what is needed. Community buyouts are mostly funded by sympathetic donators rather than public money.
Lamb - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

Yes Douglas, I would agree with you entirely, there just is not, at the minute anyway, the political will for radical reform. This can also be attributed to severe lack of housing co-operatives too and in general empowering local communities. Perfectly displayed by the size of our out of touch councils.

Yes already divulged Lesley Riddoch's Blossom. Fantastically inspiring yet depressing book.
Eric9Points - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Lamb:

Ok so what you're saying is that you couldn't buy this property on a mortgage and hope to make it pay therefore someone else has to buy most of it and give it to the locals.

The Government could do that but chooses not to.

Is that about right?

Lamb - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

> I don't suspect there are any at this stage. But we haven't got to the next generation yet. So, as I have said earlier, I'm sure the concept and the initial experience is all positive. However, there is often a reluctance to reveal some real challenges that these communities are faceing in favour of placing a positive spin on any analysis.

I don't believe that is true. I think everyone acknowledges that these communities have massive challenges ahead of them. So you are saying that we shouldn't empower these communities and they should continue to be governed by foreign owners, just in case they make an arse of it more than their current uninterested and uncaring land owners. I'm sorry but that is just ridiculous and all the evidence from Scandinavia and the continent says otherwise. Sure they will make mistakes, but they will learn from them and move on, but at the minute they don't have any choices to make so nothing to develop.

> When we talk about improved land use it is an entirely subjective assessment depending on who you talk to. For example, is improved agricultural production necessarily better in what is typically very marginal land?

Our current view of the Highlands as a barren wild area of land is false. This land use to be cultivated and worked by thriving communities. There is no reason why it shouldn't continue to be and small projects have shown that the land indeed can be developed positively.

> Lastly, what is the true economic viability given that most buy outs have had significant funding at the start and continue to recieve financial assistance? That, by the way, is a genuine question rather than an accusation.

As I've mentioned above, very little public money has been spent on community buyouts due to the very little amount put forward by the Scottish government - they are mostly funded by private donations. Unfortunately here in the UK we have forgotten that a house is meant to keep you warm and dry - not act as an asset; land is meant to be cultivated and worked for the benefit of the local community - again not be used as an asset to trade. So that is why there is now the financial problem for communities to raise vast sums of money to actually get their land back.

> Again,I will revert back to my original post. I think initial strong leadership has made the successful projects what they are but I fear for the long term, transgenerational sustainability.

Surely the current setup is what should be feared, although the damage is already done?! Vast depopulation of these lands, employers deserting the lands, creating an endless downward spiral for these communities - how is that going to change with the current setup? And if these communities were to be empowered, why would the current community not pass down their knowledge and skills which they would develop to the next generation?

Lamb - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Eric9Points:

The Scottish government have put forward a pot cash for communities to take to buy back land, as I say I am not sure of its value, I think it is about 28 million. But when estates are being sold for 10 million odd for example, that is just a drop in the ocean.

It is not so much that you could buy it on a mortgage and gamble that you could start making the land profitable in order to pay back that mortgage, it is simply that the land values are so huge, that a small community of say a few hundred people or less, have absolutely no chance of raising 10 million odd to buy it.

So yes, essentially you have to get private donations in order to buy back your land for community ownership. In theory, yes the Scottish government do have the power to provide this, but they do not have anywhere near the amount of cash needed to do so, hence the lack of political interest.

I am not sure about the legalities, but could the law of the land be entirely changed under an independent Scotland's constitution in favour of community buyouts or even forced community ownership? I admit I have no clue on that subject and it is most probably a can of worms.
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Eric9Points - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Lamb:

> The Scottish government have put forward a pot cash for communities to take to buy back land, as I say I am not sure of its value, I think it is about 28 million. But when estates are being sold for 10 million odd for example, that is just a drop in the ocean.

> It is not so much that you could buy it on a mortgage and gamble that you could start making the land profitable in order to pay back that mortgage, it is simply that the land values are so huge, that a small community of say a few hundred people or less, have absolutely no chance of raising 10 million odd to buy it.

Well, if the community could come up with a decent business plan that showed they could cover the mortgage then someone would lend them the money. The Government could help by offering advice on a business plan, underwriting the debt, which costs nothing if there is no default, and perhaps providing free advice in the running of the land after it is purchased. Or the Government itself could buy the land and sell it back to the community on some sort of 99 year mortgage agreement or some such thing. Provided the estate is financially viable after it is purchased then I don't see that the costs need to be that large. I think the key words in that last sentence though might be "financially viable".

Regarding the absolute cost and not having the money. Government spend in Scotland is about 60 Bn per year so the sum you mention is not huge.

I very much suspect though that all this was discussed when the first land reform bill was being drafted, people looked at the economics of it and decided that a more gradual process was the only one that did not place a relatively large and open ended cost on the tax payers, most of whom live a long way from the estates we're talking about and would rather see a few million spent on a new school in their own town, as after all that's about the level of cost we're talking about.

Regarding forced community ownership, unless a land grab was planned then the Government would still have to pay a fair market price for the land if they were going to do some sort of compulsory purchase scheme.
Lamb - on 19 Jan 2014
In reply to Eric9Points:

The Scottish Government budget has been cut to 25 billion this year and will be cut to around 17 billion in a few years once the Barnett is scrapped (should we not show some balls this September). Yes overall expenditure for Scotland is around the 60 billion mark, but this expenditure is money spent 'for' us, not by us, i.e. trident nuclear missiles and unpardonable follies in the Middle East. So in reality, the money would have to come out of the Scottish Government's budget of 25 billion, which they quite simply cannot afford to do. As it is, they a pulling a bit of a worldie running the country at the minute on such a feeble budget. I do think however that they have powers as it is to issue business tax rates on these estates and it is quite inexcusable that they have not already.
Douglas Griffin - on 20 Jan 2014
Adam Long - on 21 Jan 2014
In reply to Lamb:

>Our current view of the Highlands as a barren wild area of land is false. This land use to be cultivated and worked by thriving communities.

I'm not convinced this is true for the vast majority of it - the Flow country for instance, Rannoch moor etc. Sure there a bits that could be better used, and for the rest I'd be in favour of extensive re-foresting with native woodland where possible, but cultivation? Not for the most part.
Lamb - on 21 Jan 2014
In reply to Adam Long:

Prior to the Clearances vast areas of these lands were cultivated. I am not arguing that all the land should be returned to community scale agriculture, simply that there are much more beneficial uses of the land, for the local economy and for the land itself. There have actually been projects, of which I can't remember the names of but can certainly find out for you, which were set up to prove that areas of land such as Rannoch Moor are indeed rich pieces of land. These projects were successful and most certainly prove that apparent barren lands can indeed have alternative uses - such as agriculture.
MG - on 21 Jan 2014
In reply to Lamb:

What sort of agriculture would work on Rannoch moor? Trees maybe at best I would think.
Adam Long - on 21 Jan 2014
In reply to Lamb:

Be great if you could find the references because I've done a lot of reading on the history of the British landscape and this isn't something I've come across before. I was aware that the population was once much higher, but I thought it was concentrated in the glens and coasts. I can't help thinking that if Rannoch moor was really prime agricultural land one of the landowners might have seen some money there and done something?

Further south I know there was a lot of land cultivated during the Bronze Age which is now moorland, but that change is due to a cooling of the climate since. Nor is it at the same altitude or latitude as much of the highlands.
Lamb - on 21 Jan 2014
In reply to MG:

I'm not promoting full scale agriculture on bloody Rannoch Moor for goodness sake, I was simply implying land seen as empty barren heather moorland within glens is indeed very rich and workable.
Lamb - on 21 Jan 2014
In reply to Adam Long:

There was a fairly recent project carried out, I think near the Drumochter Pass although I could be wrong, where a pair grew a plantation of rich vegetation on open peat and heather moorland. I cannot remember their names or the name of the project, but I will find out for you and let you know. Offshore at present so give us a few days.
Eric9Points - on 21 Jan 2014
In reply to Adam Long:

> Be great if you could find the references because I've done a lot of reading on the history of the British landscape and this isn't something I've come across before. I was aware that the population was once much higher, but I thought it was concentrated in the glens and coasts.

Me neither. Subsistence farming in the glens and straths as you mention. The clearances moved people off most of the good land which was then farmed mainly by the factors while the dispossessed were pushed to the uncultivatable margins where they struggled to live and then emigrated. You can still see some of the ruined blackhouses out near the promontory at Reiff for example.
Doug on 21 Jan 2014
In reply to Lamb:

Sounds like Ron Greer's project (see http://www.andywightman.com/?cat=19 for some info).

I don't think the large bog systems such as Rannoch or in the Flow country ever had agriculture but its clear that many of the glens did, the ruins of old sheilings give a hint of former use (although maybe grazing rather than cultivation in many instances)
Douglas Griffin - on 21 Jan 2014
In reply to Doug:

Mentioned in Lesley Riddoch's book too.

Also worth bearing in mind what Frank Fraser Darling did on Tanera Mor - he showed that land previously regarded as unproductive was that way largely as a result of decades of neglect.
Adam Long - on 21 Jan 2014
In reply to Doug:
Yeah sheilings and summer grazing was all I could think of too. I wouldn't call that cultivation personally, nor forestry. But I'd agree there's a lot of land in Scotland that could be better used than for grouse moor or deer forest, even if it isn't rich agricultural land.

Be great to see widespread reforestation with native woodland. Seems like a no-brainier hut I guess the vested interests have some issue with it?
Post edited at 18:35
Douglas Griffin - on 21 Jan 2014
In reply to Adam Long:

> I was aware that the population was once much higher, but I thought it was concentrated in the glens and coasts.

I think it was, but as I'm sure you know, there are ruined shielings on higher ground all over the Highlands & Islands - transhumance was practiced.
Douglas Griffin - on 21 Jan 2014
In reply to Adam Long:

Beat me to it... :-)

...and I've only just noticed what Doug wrote in the second part of his post; sorry.
Post edited at 18:31
Eric9Points - on 21 Jan 2014
In reply to Adam Long:


> Be great to see widespread reforestation with native woodland.

Well perhaps but I can't imagine a community buyout coming up with a business plan based on returning the land to native woodland.
Doug on 21 Jan 2014
In reply to Eric9Points:

Have you seen Abriachan ? (http://www.abriachan.org.uk/ )
Lamb - on 22 Jan 2014
In reply to Doug:

Thanks - that was exactly what I was thinking about!
Robin Shaw - on 22 Jan 2014
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

What is needed is a Land Tax which will make the holding of unproductive land and the denial of the expansion of villages and towns completely uneconomic. This is a tax which could not be escaped and would assist communities. Of course there is no way Westminster with its House of Lords would allow this. Hence the opportunity afforded by Independence
Douglas Griffin - on 22 Jan 2014
Douglas Griffin - on 22 Jan 2014
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

Letter in today's Herald re. the changes that have taken place since the community buy-out in Knoydart:
https://twitter.com/CommunityLandSc/status/426012809042722816
Eric9Points - on 22 Jan 2014
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

Good!

Sounds like Land Reform is delivering then.
Eric9Points - on 22 Jan 2014
In reply to Doug:

> Have you seen Abriachan ? (http://www.abriachan.org.uk/ )

Thanks Doug, interesting, seems like a good place. I'm surprised I didn't know about it if it's been around so long.

Two things do concern me though. Firstly how many Arbriachs could you have in Scotland. They seem to generate their income through tourist revenue in one form or another. Secondly are they financially viable or do they rely on subsidies and grants to keep going, I tried to find their accounts last night but was unable to do so.

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