Charity demands greater scrutiny over Danish billionaire land grab

Hard questions are asked over land purchasing power as campaigners await the formation of land commission

COMMUNITY LAND SCOTLAND (CLS) have expressed concern over the degree of scrutiny that private landowners are placed under when making purchases or plans with land.

The appeals were made in response to reports that fashion magnate Anders Holch Povlsen is on the verge of becoming Scotland’s biggest private landowner after an £8m double estate swoop, meaning he will own 200,000 acres of Scottish land.

The organisation has also stated that there is an imbalance in the way consultation proceedures and purchasing of land is done in Scotland, with current arrangements benefiting big landowners.

“This is an issue that requires greater scrutiny and consideration by the soon to be formed Scottish Land Commission.” Lorne MacLeod

Speaking to CommonSpace Lorne MacLeod, chairman of CLS said: “It seems incredible that communities, quite rightly, are required to undertake extensive local consultation about their plans when purchasing land, whilst a private landowner has no such requirement when purchasing large estates.

“Perhaps this is an issue that requires greater scrutiny and consideration by the soon to be formed Scottish Land Commission?”

Worth more than £4.5bn according to Forbes magazine, Povlsen owns more land than the Queen and is the second largest landowner in Scotland, on track to overtake the Duke of Buccleuch, who owns 240,000 acres.

Critics have alleged the billionaire, who also owns major stakes in Asos, is using his Scottish purchases to avoid inheritance tax and The Danish Customs and Tax Administration (SKAT) he would be due to pay at home.

He has invested substantially in wildlife preservation and historic restoration with a £200,000 gift to fixing Castle Varrich overlooking the Kyle of Tongue.

“It seems incredible that communities, quite rightly, are required to undertake extensive local consultation about their plans when purchasing land, whilst a private landowner has no such requirement when purchasing large estates.” Lorne MacLeod

Four hundered and thirty two individuals like Mr Povlsen own more than half of Scotland’s non-public land.

CLS which was launched in 2010 as a way for community landowners to have a collective voice in Scotland and represents half a million people. They have urged that the land commission being set up must have a more robust ability to scrutinise such purchases as Mr Povlsen’s.

The setting up of a Scottish Land Commission (SLC) is a key part of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 recently passed by the Scottish Government. It will review law and policy, and make recommendations to Scottish Ministers on any matter relating to Scotland's land.

This week a ministerial order confirmed its establishment from 1 November of this year and is to be fully operational from 1 April 2017.

The SLC, according to the Scottish Government, will be empowered to look at the effectiveness and impact of laws and policies regulating Scotland’s land and recommend changes to ministers.

Picture courtesy of Community Land Scotland

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