§ 3. Mr. Henderson
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is satisfied with the effectiveness of present legislation on land reform.
§ Mr. Henderson
Has the Minister been following the articles in The Scotsman about the purchase of Scottish land by other interests, particularly Dutch interests? Do the Government, in general, favour this or disagree with it?
§ Mr. Ewing
I have been following with great interest the articles in The Scotsman, not only those written by journalists on the paper but the contributions made to the discussion by various members of the SNP. I noticed that the SNP has claimed that Scotland is the only country in Europe which allows what they describe as the indiscriminate purchase of land and that a nationality qualification should be attached to the ability to purchase land. In fact, there is only 444 one country in Europe with a nationality qualification for the purchase of land. That is Southern Ireland, which is reconsidering its position.
§ Mr. Buchan
On the question of ownership of land, would it not be helpful if we distinguished between land that belongs to the people and land that belongs to those who are prepared to exploit the people? If we look at it in this light, is there any difference between exploitation by a Dutchman and exploitation by the wealthy landowners, Scottish-born and with strong Scottish traditions and names? Is not the solution, particularly in regard to these large estates in the Highlands, a policy of public ownership and proper land reclamation?
§ Mr. Ewing
In the not-too-distant future—I am not sure of the date—the Highlands and Islands Development Board will be publishing its views on what should happen to land in the North and North-East of Scotland. I agree that exploitation by anyone, whether, as my hon. Friend has said, he wears a kilt or clogs, is exploitation of people, and it always surprises me that the SNP is prepared to defend those who wear the kilt and attack those who wear clogs.