…but just like so much of this beautiful land, the underlying decay and centuries of wasted opportunity becomes clear when you look a little closer. Just 432 families own half of Scotland, few are Scots and many are absentee aristocrats, bankers or oligarchs who visit their Highland playgrounds for just a week or two a year. Or, in some cases, never.
Our history of land ownership has been so wrong for so long we’d almost given up hope of change. But this week the Scottish Government finally announced plans for radical land reform. Legislation is on the cards to improve the transparency and accountability of land ownership. And there will be new Government powers to intervene where a landowner acts as a barrier to development.
There are plans to establish a Scottish Land Reform Commission. New taxes will require to be paid by shooting estates and used to pay for an increase in the fund that supports community land ownership.
It won’t be enough to change everything that’s wrong with land ownership in Scotland overnight. It won’t break up the vast estates that are in the hands of foreign investors or give young farmers access to land and the opportunities they need. But for future generations there is now a chink of hope that Scotland’s land will eventually be returned to its people. And that is something to celebrate.