'Pay your tax': MSPs call time on special treatment for posh shooting estates #LandReformBill

Money from taxing shooting estates will help communities buy land

RURAL SHOOTING ESTATES are a step closer to losing their right to avoid paying non-domestic rates after MSPs backed Scottish Government plans to reintroduce a more equal tax system.

The Land Reform Bill will remove the tax emption for estates, meaning that some of the country's biggest landowners will pay rates for shooting activities like other rural and urban businesses.

Income raised, much of which will come from Scotland's aristocratic families, will then be used to boost the Scottish Land Fund, which supports communities to buy land holdings in the common good.

Shooting estates owners who are now likely to pay more tax include the UK's largest landowner the Duke of Buccleuch, as well as the Duke of Northumberland, Baron Ferdinand von Baumbach, Marquess of Linlithgow, and the Earl of Seafield.

Land reform minister Aileen McLeod, speaking today [Wednesday 3 February] to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment (Racce) committee said the change was justified "to fund public services and reflect fairness, to return shooting estates to the same payments as other businesses".

She added that equal non-domestic rate payments would be "sustainable, as it was for over 100 years before the exemption".

Racce committee member Graeme Dey MSP spoke up for the tax change on economic grounds, arguing that the funds would be vital to supporting a more diverse structure of land ownership and provide community groups with support to establishing more successful rural businesses.

The Tory Government granted shooting estate owners a special tax cut in 1995, in a nod to some of its more consistent supporters amongst aristocratic families.

Shooting estates owners who are now likely to pay more tax include the UK's largest landowner the Duke of Buccleuch, as well as the Duke of Northumberland, Baron Ferdinand von Baumbach, Marquess of Linlithgow, and the Earl of Seafield.

Over a million acres of land in Scotland is used to shoot animals for sport, including grouse, deer and pheasant.

"We are leaving a poisoned land all to preserve the private profits of the estate owners." Kenny MacLaren

An investigation into grouse shooting , published last October, criticised the practice on environmental, economic and public interest grounds.

Published by the League Against Cruel Sports, the findings warned that the burning of heather and use of lead bullets were destroying landscapes. The report also concluded that workers on shooting estates were receiving pay below the minimum wage - despite a PS300,000 taxpayer subsidy to the sector.

At the time councillor Kenny MacLaren warned: "We are leaving a poisoned land all to preserve the private profits of the estate owners."

Racce committee convener Rob Gibson MSP asked McLeod if further information was available on the pay and conditions for workers on shooting estates. The minister promised further evidence to be presented in writing.

Tory MSP Alex Fergusson defended the estates in the committee hearing, alongside Liberal Democrat Jim Hume.

Hume described the new tax proposals as part of a "political move targeted at the landed gentry".

Scotland has one of the most concentrated systems of land ownership in the developed world, with just 432 people in control of 50 per cent of all private land.

CommonSpace journalism is completely free from the influence of advertisers and is only possible with your continued support. Please contribute a monthly amount towards our costs . Build the Scotland you want to live in - support our new media.

Picture courtesy of NHC_UKI

Comments

Mark Harper's picture

Mark Harper

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 13:42

A step in the right direction but only a step

Mark Harper's picture

Mark Harper

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 18:08

So you reckon they should not pay a fair tax because your pals go shooting? It does say #Posh shooting estates, maybe the #common ones will get a pass?

Gordon Wright (not verified)

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 17:51

I know a good few places that shoot over farm land and other leased in land that are anything but "posh". Shooting is a sport that is enjoyed by thousands of people right across the social spectrum and employs thousands of working men and women. Sure, a number of big estates have shooting interests and some of them have owners with titles, but by far the majority of shooting across Scotland is done by groups of normal folk who come together in groups or syndicates to shoot. They will all be impacted by this - where's the "fairness" in that. From what I read no studies have even been undertaken to understand the impact of this on the people and businesses who will be impacted - that is surely just bad practice. Who makes such a decision without looking at the impacts - clearly not someone who has ever run a business! Your article clearly is more about your dislike of large estates, shooting and titled owners than the subject you attempt to deal with.

Tim Baynes (not verified)

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 22:52

Sporting estates no more "avoid" paying non-domestic rates than farming or forestry does - all have a longstanding exemption designed to support the rural economy. Moreover, the exemption for sporting rates was brought in because they were proving too expensive to administer. The Scottish Government is trying to impose the same system again, which did not work before. This will bring any land on which there are sporting rights onto the rating roll, from the biggest estate to the smallest croft. It is not a tax on "aristocratic families" as some might think but a charge on almost all rural land holdings. If it operated in such a way to single out only larger landholdings that would clearly be unfair and potentially open to legal challenge.

The report by League Against Cruel Sports alleges that there is a PS300,000 subsidy to the sporting sector. That is simply incorrect. Sporting enterprises cannot and do not receive any public subsidy - only farming businesses are eligible. It also tries to imply that workers on shooting estates receive pay below the minimum wage. The data that allegation is based on covers both full time employees (keepers etc) and the many part time employees, some of whom only work a few days per year beating in the season. So an average figure is meaningless. Keepers are relatively well paid and usually receive a package which includes a house and vehicle so again a monetary comparison of that type is meaningless. It is not clear the Minister has been asked to provide more written information on this non-issue, as if she was not already busy enough.

fred flint (not verified)

Thu, 02/04/2016 - 18:06

As a rural worker my livelihood is reliant on sporting estates. I question the current drive in the land reform bill which raises taxes
for sporting estates, while there are some estates with very wealthy owners there are many more that need the help of the current
way estates are taxed in order to sustain employment in areas that would otherwise not provide much chance of work. As for the LACS attack on Grouse moors its plainly another body jumping on the band wagon. It seems to be very fashionable at the moment to attack Grouse shooting, and is usually based on very flimsy evidence that it has a detrimental effect on the environment.

Daniel Parker (not verified)

Fri, 02/05/2016 - 17:59

(for WDM of Abercairny Estate) The re-introduction of sporting rates here in Scotland will inevitably result in more and more people who have been renting stalking, shooting, or fishing, having to go south of the border to England or Wales where sportings will be cheaper. Yes, estates will notice the drop in revenue as they will be at a competitive disadvantage while bearing the additional cost of rates (which will have to be passed on to the client) - on top of overheads and wages - but so too will all the ancillary industries such as shops, country hotels, and golf courses. Hardly a step in the right direction.

CommonSpace journalism is completely free from the influence of advertisers and is only possible with your continued support. Please contribute a monthly amount towards our costs. Build the Scotland you want to live in - support our new media.