The Scottish Affairs Committee is in Inverness this week taking evidence in two inquires: A follow up to its report earlier this year on the management of the Crown Estate in Scotland, and the start of oral evidence in a new inquiry into Land Reform in Scotland.
In July the Committee launched a consultation into land reform calling for an end to “tax avoidance and subsidy milking” by landowners in Scotland.
The Committee had commissioned a briefing paper from four notable land experts how almost half of all privately-owned rural land in Scotland is owned by 432 landowners. Under current law those landlowners receive large public subsidies but are liable for low levels of taxation on land.
The move followed an assurance by the Prime Minster that: “Having all countries sign up to an action plan for putting together registers of beneficial ownership by companies ... will help tax authorities make sure that people are paying tax appropriately.”
In the first oral evidence session today (Monday) the Committee will hear from Community Land Scotland at 2pm at Inverness Town House.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) the committee will discuss the Crown Estate. In March this year the Committee published a critical report which identified major issues in the Crown Estate Commissioners’ management of its responsibilities, particularly in relation to the seabed and the foreshore, including: lack of accountability and transparency; lack of communication and consultation with local communities and a cash leakage from local economies and other adverse impacts arising from the way the CEC operates.
The evidence did not identify such problems with the CEC’s management of its urban and rural estate.
The Committee was disappointed with the Government and CEC’s own response to the report and returned to Inverness in September for meetings with interested groups and organisations to discuss and how matters of rural land ownership and development could best be progressed.
On Tuesday at 8.30am the Committee will hold a formal follow up session at the Inverness Town House with the Crown Estate to clarify how they intend to operate in future.