There has been a strong reaction against proposals to reform the ownership of estates and other substantial land holdings in Scotland.
The Scottish government says around half of all the privately-owned land in Scotland is controlled by just 432 people and it has launched proposals which include ending tax relief for shooting estates and forcing the sale of land if owners are blocking economic development.
Land owners on sporting estates stopped paying business rates in 1994 after being given an exemption by then prime minister John Major's Conservative government.
The SNP-led Scottish government has described this perk as unfair and unsustainable.
Money coming from the new taxes will be diverted into the Scottish Land Fund, a Holyrood-government fund used to help community groups buy-out land.
However, David Johnstone - chairman of Scottish Land & Estates - says the proposal will have a far-reaching impact “on tens of thousands of people across Scotland who own and manage all sorts and sizes of land holdings” and claims to be “very disappointed that in this debate private landownership is pitted against community ownership, and landowners are seen as being against reform.”
He says his organisation welcomes increased transparency and registration of ownership but is starkly opposed to ministers enforcing sales.
“No one would try to justify bad practice when it comes to land management but there desperately needs to be more clarity around the circumstances in which a government minister thinks it will be right and proper for he or she to decide a land owner is a barrier to sustainable development and forcibly remove someone’s property” says Johnstone.
“The proposed end to the exemption of business rates for sporting rates will add an administrative burden and cost to rural businesses which are already delivering significant public benefits” he says.
“After a two-year long debate on land reform, we are now on the brink of an unprecedented amount of land-related legislation” claims Johnstone.