When the Scottish Parliament passed the Land Reform Act earlier this year I made it clear that I did not see this as the end of the road. As Nicola Sturgeon announced today, the next step in Scotland’s land reform journey will be to improve transparency on land ownership.
We want to end the practice revealed in the infamous Panama Papers of anonymous ownership of major tracts of Scotland’s land. The public shouldn’t have to rely on leaked documents to know who owns Scotland.
That’s why, if re-elected, one of the first acts of an SNP government will be to take forward a consultation on a new Register of Controlling Interests, to shine a light on land ownership in Scotland.
The plan for the register is that the name and contact details of any person having a controlling interest in major landholdings and tenancies will be disclosed and kept up to date on the register whenever it changes.
We will also consult on how to enforce this high level of transparency through measures that could include civil penalties or criminal sanction for owners unwilling to comply.
As well as increasing transparency, we will set up a Scottish Land Commission to ensure land reform is an ongoing process. We will continue to support a substantive growth in community land ownership through the £10 million Scottish Land Fund, and the extension of the Community Right to Buy too.
In government we have taken substantive action on land reform. Today, there are more than half a million acres of land owned by communities. But there’s much more we want to do. The next steps in Scotland’s land reform journey, including increasing transparency, will be at the heart of our plans to transform Scotland and deliver social justice for all of our communities.