In terms of the Scottish blogosphere, I am well aware I am still something of a start-up. Or perhaps that should be an upstart. Either way, I was delighted that the well respected blogger @burdzeyeview was happy to host a guest post by me that veered just a little bit towards the politics of the timing of land reform and how it might play into the independence referendum debate. To summarise my already simplistic argument, I think it might be very shrewd indeed for the SNP to aim to have legislation on community empowerment and renewal appearing on the statute books in the summer of 2014. This will allow a certain amount of plaudits to be won for the legislation in and of itself, but before any stress-testing of its provisions can take place.
Now, would it not be cunning if the Land Reform Review Group (LRRG) were to aim for a similar timescale in terms of the recently issued Call for Evidence? You can check the timescale for yourself on the new website.
Politics aside, clearly the timing of any land reform is crucial. To look at what many would regard as the perfect storm in this northern part of the British Isles, the worst of the excesses of the Highland Clearances could not be reversed by later legislation in 1886. As important as those reforms were, they were simply too late for some of the inhabitants of the Highlands and Islands to benefit. No reform of any sort will always favour the status quo. That truism is of course not a problem when the status quo is working perfectly. Those who think that is the case are perfectly entitled to make that case, plus they can rely on the state not engaging in the arbitrary deprivation or control of any property rights, in accordance with the European Convention of Human Rights.
Of the twelve (increased from the initial eleven) advisers to the LRRG, two come from Scottish Land & Estates. Without any hint of facetiousness, I am delighted they are there as their views are as vital and as valid to any land reform process in a civilised society as views held by anyone else. All I would say to all the advisers is that the land reform process must be engaged with meaningfully. Rhetoric that suggests reform of any sort is simply not desirable should not be deployed just for the sake of it.
With that backdrop, I offer the following (grainy) news headline from a 1999 edition of The Scotsman with no comment. The report draws on comments from the Scottish Landowners’ Federation, the predecessor body to Scottish Land & Estates.
You never know when a horded newspaper clipping might come in handy.
Timing, as they say, is everything. 11 January 2013 is the important date for responses to the Call for Evidence. The date is in my diary.