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July 29, 2015

It’s Our Land

Although it’s too early to judge Scottish Government’s intentions on land reform, there are already murmurs that the really thorny issues of affordability and availability of land to support the wider interests of public benefit will be avoided. There will be no lack of pressure applied to the political and legislative process over the coming months to ensure that it does, and much of this will undoubtedly come from Our Land – a new initiative pushing for as radical a programme as possible. Next month sees an extensive programme land action.


Our Land is an initiative created by Common Weal, Women for Independence, Scottish Land Action Movement, Radical Independence, land reform campaigners Andy Wightman and Lesley Riddoch. Administrative help has been volunteered by Laura-May Kennedy of Common Weal Angus.

“Our Land aims to highlight the problems of dereliction in cities and emptiness in the countryside that flow from an elitist system of land ownership that allows a handful of individuals, quangos, insurance companies and trusts based in offshore tax havens to dictate the price, availability and use of land in Scotland – from the remotest islands to the busiest city centres. We will have actions and events across Scotland in the last two weeks of August to illustrate the social problems that stem from land shortage and to showcase the benefits of more diverse ownership and more community control.” Lesley Riddoch

 Why Land Reform Matters

The quasi feudal way land is owned in Scotland affects rural and urban communities. 50% of private land is owned by 432 people, from large sporting estates to empty buildings and derelict land in our towns and cities. It affects everyday lives by pushing up the cost of housing — 40-50% of new build costs are the cost of land. That is very different in most other European nations. The inability to buy means long term residents are turned into short term tenants with very little security or ability to plan or improve their homes — in urban and rural areas. In large parts of the Scottish countryside locals know they will never, ever be able to buy land for a business, community development, affordable housing for their own children or modest weekend hut.

Yet the owners of these sporting estate don’t currently even pay business rates. In cities, the high cost of land – because of its scarcity — encourages dereliction and land or buildings kept vacant for years or decades as a kind of ‘land bank.’ All of this damages Scotland’s claims to social fairness because we are one of the few countries on earth without a fair and progressive form of land taxation and no

transparency of ownership.

Currently only 26% of land is registered and many landowners are based outside of Scotland for tax avoidance purposes. A land reform bill is being introduced to Holyrood this summer but it’s very modest provisions have already been dismissed

as “a Mugabe style land raid” by representatives of Scotland’s large landowners. Political consensus tends to accommodate the noisiest interests – so we think it’s time supporters of land reform made their voices heard and pinpointed some of the biggest problems arising from such a tiny concentration of landowners (private and public) as well as some of the successes of alternative ownership patterns.

The Campaign

• Activities will run for the last two weeks inAugust, with the bulk taking place over the weekend of 29/30th August.

• Events will be held across Scotland – cities and countryside, mainland and islands, on land and beside rivers.

• We’d like your help to post 1000 Our Land signs across Scotland – beside empty land or vacant buildings the wider community needs to use. Signs will be available for you to erect or (legally) attach and we’d encourage you to take selfies/group photos by your chosen places and post them on Twitter using the hashtag #OurLand or post on the Our Land Facebook page https://www.facebook. com/groups/999295353466699/ from the “Glorious Twelfth” (August 12th) onwards.

Take as many as you can.

• We would also love to hear the story of why you have chosen a particular building or piece of land. A bit of research may be necessary and Andy Wightman’s website is a useful tool. You can subscribe to this site for £5

per month or £10 for a year. There will be a discount code available for the unwaged. But for everyone else it is a great way to support Andy who has been a long time campaigner for land reform in Scotland.

To give you some ideas here is a list of events that are already being proposed

• Gathering/festival at Abriachan

• Paddle protest by sea kayakers

• Walk to the deserted township of Grulin, Trotternish, Skye.

• Flash mob and bike ride on an estate in Duns

• Mass picnic on disputed/derelict land in Angus.

• A salmon or brown trout fish has been discussed because most of our great rivers are timeshared into the next century and inaccessible to local people. Some folk want to test the authorities’ appetite for arresting folk who want to demonstrate how exclusive the ownership of rivers has become. Folk may get arrested or the whole action might shame the police and landowners into letting folk fish.

• Members of all political parties are welcome as Our Land supporters – but we didn’t want the campaign to be organised by any single political party. This is a grassroots campaign deploying networks established during the indyref to reach out to Labour and Lib Dem supporters of land reform. We are a group of volunteers, so please help us keep the workload manageable by sending updates to Laura-May.


Contacts –

If you have questions do contact;

Common Weal –

Women for Indy –

Our Land admin – 

To read more about Our Land click here