Last Wednesday, 17th June, East Renfrewshire Greens, in partnership with Women for Independence East Renfrewshire and Common Weal East Renfrewshire, hosted a talk by Andy Wightman, expert on Land ownership in Scotland. At a time of increased public awareness about the impending changes at Scottish government level, and local interest over various land planning and FOI discussions on the East Renfrewshire Council agenda, the local audience came to hear why a change to our antiquated and opaque land management system is now imperative. Andy Wightman first set the scene by explaining the various historical “Land grab” waves, from feudal times until the very recent past. He went on to explain, with specific examples, how the current system shortcomings have affected Scottish communities and society at large, before recommending corrective changes, mainly in the way of fiscal reforms that would undeniably have a massive and positive human and economic impact on our society.
In Scotland, our land management system differs from most prevailing arrangements in Europe, where land ownership is transparent
In Scotland, our land management system differs from most prevailing arrangements in Europe, where land ownership is transparent, resulting in information being fully and easily accessible, land more fairly taxed, and estates being transferred more equitably. Ours perpetuates opacity and territorial oligarchy, encourages speculation to the expense of common good, exempts landlords from public interest accountability, and exonerates them from fair financial contribution to public life: a win-win for the few powerful people controlling the land and, inevitably, an absolute deficit for everyone else, on many important levels.
Andy Wightman gave various examples of often unforeseen adverse effects this flawed state of affairs has had, and still has, on many communities all over Scotland, such as the extinction of a language – Deeside gaelic, the fraudulent annihilation of historical community buildings – even whole town centres – by large corporations hiding behind seemingly impenetrable fronts. The public cost of rescuing empty property owned by private landlords – who pay no rates whilst a property is empty – resulting in a highly advantageous fiscal system and leads to an appalling gap between the speculative gains of an unaccountable few, and the cost massive burden to the general public.
He outlined possible solutions, already within the powers of the Scottish Parliament
He outlined possible solutions, already within the powers of the Scottish Parliament, which included a move towards land value tax – a fairer system than council tax, one that could make housing more affordable to future generations and ensure everyone contributes more accordingly to the common goods. He proposed the further decentralisation of our rather unwieldy Scottish local government institutions to allow more community involvement, improved efficiency in decision-making and increased accountability and transparency. His straightforward suggestions for legal and fiscal reform could, over time, be the linchpin that turns the Scottish economy around, shrinking the wealth gap and delivering more equitable and desirable communities for everyone to live in.
As they left, attendees openly expressed their gratitude for the friendly and efficiently organization of this event, with sound and production equipment and services supplied by Apache Alba, welcoming atmosphere by the Traveller’s Rest, and delicious home-baked cakes by the East Renfrewshire Greens volunteer bakers…and, last but not least, for the brilliant Andy Wightman for his fascinating presentation.
Watch this space for another interesting event near you, or to catch up on a live stream of this now unmissable event, courtesy of Independence live.