Hopes of SNP-Green cooperation emerge on land reform agenda
LEADING LAND REFORM CAMPAIGNER and newly elected MSP Andy Wightman is aiming to build a consensus for further legislation to change Scotland’s relationship with its land.
Speaking to CommonSpace at today’s [Tuesday 31 May] Scotsman land conference in Edinburgh, Wightman welcomed signals from senior SNP MSP Mike Russell that he wanted to work with the Scottish Greens on specific land reform policies.
Land reform surged up the political agenda following the independence referendum, which led to the Land Reform Act 2016. However, campaigners point out that the act fell short of ambitions to deal with the concentration of land ownership in Scotland, as well as issues surrounding housing, derelict land, and land tax proposals.
“That would be a clear ambition: another Land Reform Bill coming forward in this parliament.” Andy Wightman MSP
Wightman told CommonSpace that the first years of the parliament will focus on implementing the 2016 Act, which includes ten parts which build a foundation for future land reform. After that process, Wightman would want a further bill introduced to parliament.
“I think the priorities will be the implementation of the 2016 Act [Land Reform],” Wightman said.
“But also – in tandem with that – building support and alliances in the parliament for more work on this topic. And I would like to see another Land Reform Bill in this parliament. Not soon, but perhaps in 2018/2019 because there are a lot of things that need to be done.
“Not least of which are all the measures that were contained in the Land Reform Review Group that haven’t been taken forward yet. There are proposals in most parties manifestos for further work in this area. So that would be a clear ambition: another Land Reform Bill coming forward in this parliament.”
Wightman welcomed overtures from Mike Russell, ex-government minister and SNP land reform campaigner, that he would want to work with the Greens and other parties on issues that were missing from the 2016 Act.
Russell specifically mentioned the Green proposal to modernise the 1919 Land Settlement Act, which Wightman has argued could be used to redistribute land for a variety of economic and socially beneficial uses.
Russell also broached the issue of land values, including taxation, which the Greens have emphasised in their proposals.
“This is a parliament of minorities where a number of different parties can have discussions, and we can move forward on collaborative projects,” Wightman added.
Together, Green and SNP MSPs form a majority in parliament.
Wightman has campaigned on land reform for decades. He has published several key texts on the issue including ‘Who owns Scotland?’ and ‘The Poor Had No Lawyers’.
In the past week community right to buy land reform spread to urban Scotland for the first time. The community of Barmulloch in North Glasgow won funding to buy a local community centre, which will soon be owned to the benefit of the community.
Picture courtesy of Eloise Smith-Foster