HC Deb 21 June 1978 vol 952 cc443-4
3. Mr. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is satisfied with the effectiveness of present legislation on land reform.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Harry Ewing)

The Conveyancing and Feudal Reform (Scotland) Act 1970 and the Land Tenure Reform (Scotland) Act 1974 have operated well.

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 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.