Nicola Sturgeon mocks landowning Tory for attack on land reform 


Edward Mountain tells parliament to stop focusing on the concentrated ownership of land 

THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon couldn’t keep a straight face when a Tory MSP and landowner attacked land reform today [Thursday 15 September].

Landowning Tory MSP Edward Mountain, who benefits from a £58,000 parliamentary salary, two business partnerships, and shared in a multi-million pound inheritance, told politicians to stop “worrying” about the deeply concentrated patterns of land ownership in Scotland.

However, his colleagues struggled to contain themselves as Mountain tried to defend his personal financial interests in land ownership.

“I refer members to my register of interests [members begin laughing] where I’ve openly and honestly declared my land,” he told the chamber.

Inviting Sturgeon for a walk in the Highlands, he added that parliament should focus on managing land “rather than worrying obsessively about who owns what”.

Inviting Sturgeon for a walk in the Highlands, he added that parliament should focus on managing land “rather than worrying obsessively about who owns what”.

Scotland has one of the most concentrated land ownership systems in the developed world, with an estimated 50 per cent of private land in the hands of 432 people or firms. Vast tracts, often accumulated through ancient land grabs, remain in the hands of a few aristocratic families or nouveau riche interests.

Criticism of the ongoing land reform process, which initially seeks to provide a foundation for future reform, has come from groups with financial vested interests in the current system – including through lobbying and legal threats. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also opted for a joke at Mountain’s expense, implying that his opposition to land reform was grounded in his own financial interests.

“I would also like to refer people towards Edward Mountain’s register of interests. I think it would explain rather a lot,” jibed Sturgeon. 

“While I would normally take up almost anybody’s offer of a walk in the Highlands, I think if I can use the usual terminology that ‘due to considerable diary pressures’ I may just have to decline for the moment.”

Key moments in a movement: The path to the current #LandReformBill debate

Mountain failed to win election in his home constituency – but was elected via the regional list.

His register of interests reveal he is a partner in Delfur Farms Farming Partnership of Moray. He receives “£35,001 and £40,000” through home “utilities and insurance”.

He is also a 50 per cent shareholder and partner in Delfur Fishings, which has a total market value of between £8,200,001 and £8,300,000. 

He shared in a £14m inheritance from his father, who chaired insurance giant Eagle Star.

Mountain is not the only Tory MSP with extensive landed interests. Alexander Burnett, of aristocratic Burnetts of Leys lineage was elected for Aberdeenshire West.

The Burnetts have owned land in West Aberdeenshire dating back to 1323, when they received a royal land charter from Robert the Bruce. The family built Crathes Castle, where the surrounding lands are still owned by the estate.

Campaigners are continuing their efforts to see a redistribution of land ownership to boost rural economies, small scale development, and the social vibrancy of local communities.

Picture courtesy of Scottish Parliament TV

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