A senior Scottish Tory has backed a call for management not ownership to be central to land reform.
Earlier this week, Allan Bowie, president of NFU Scotland, said the core of the debate must recognise that agriculture is the primary land use over much of Scotland, underpinning the rural economy and landscape.
“This means management of land, rather than who physically owns the land, should be the key element of discussions on reform, particularly if we are to take forward our ambition to grow our food and drink sectors,” he said.
Last year First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised a “radical programme” of land reform including the removal of tax breaks for shooting estates in order to boost the community land buyout fund to £10million.
Concerns have been raised that the proposals to provide wider ownership are overly bureaucratic and potentially dangerous to rural jobs.
Scottish Tory land reform spokesman Murdo Fraser said the Scottish Government must properly engage with the NFU as it best understands what is good for Scottish agriculture.
“Yesterday’s comments from Allan Bowie underline what we believe is central to the land reform debate – not who owns the land but how it is used. I would urge the Scottish Government to take on-board their advice,” he said.
Mr Fraser said within his own electoral area of Perth and Kinross, Fife, Stirling and Clackmannanshire there were countless examples of landowners and sporting estates that provide well-paid jobs and were central to rural communities.
“Any threat to their continued existence should be seen as a threat to rural jobs,” he said.
“Slow broadband, substandard road links and limited public transport services are the real inhibitors to growth in rural Scotland, not land reform.
“I would urge the Scottish Government to drop this ideological pursuit and provide a legislative agenda that meets the challenges of rural Scotland head-on.”