Highlands and Islands Regional MSP Challenges Environment Minister Over Future Funding for Land Purchases

A Highland and Islands Labour Regional MSP is pressing the Scottish Government for assurances after it failed to guarantee future funding for land purchases in Scotland.

Following a debate in Holyrood on the Land Reform Act MSP Peter Peacock, who hailed the progress the act had brought to local communities, said it was ominous that the Minister for the Environment Mike Russell had refused to answer when pushed on future funding.

"Labour Administrations since 1999 have ensured a growing supply of cash to allow communities to buy land.

"However, that funding comes to an end within 18 months and needs to be renewed. It is vital that funding continues after March 2009 and I will continue to press the minority SNP government on this," said Mr Peacock.

During the debate Mr Peacock highlighted the importance of the Land Reform Act.

"The 2003 act was symbolic of the power of the new Parliament and of devolution. It reflected and took inspiration from earlier struggles for land reformóthe land raids of times past and in more recent times, the struggles of the Assynt crofters and the people of the island of Eigg who, before the legislation was passed, were successful in their efforts to buy their own land.

"The act also reflects the acts and campaigns of the campaigners over many years who felt that they had been denied access to Scotland's land."

The MSP commented that a transformation in the local economy is evident in many localities where people have been successful in purchasing their land.

"Such communities now have more economic activity, more land available for housing and an increased populationówe need only look at what has happened in Gigha.

"In some of those communities, people also now have more liberal access to the land than was ever the case previously.

"The aspirations of communities are being better met, opportunities are being created and life has been put back into many communities."

He called for the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee to carry out a post-legislative scrutiny during this parliamentary session.

He wants Parliament's intentions on access and on a range of other issues, including timescales to buy land, court interpretation of interposed leases, rigid definitions of the legal difference between a crofting community body and a community body to be examined.

"Important questions also need to be asked about access following the Kinfauns decision recently involving Mrs Anne Gloag and public sector accounting conventions which could make purchase of public land more difficult than private land." said Mr Peacock.


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