Levellers: Birnam wall posters

Levellers | A wiki for collaboratively developing left-wing policy for rural Scotland.

Wall posters from Birnam

Participants at the Birnam Workshop were invited to put one page of ideas on the wall. Then, each participant was given five votes. This page transcribes the content of the posters, in descending order by votes.

I would like to see a proposal for local taxation that is coherent, progressive, under real local control (community council areas as well as counties) and takes into account all the technical problems (eg valuation, capacity to pay).

21 votes

The biggest and most profound change for Scotland would be the end of the feudal  minority who have the power, means and control over entire communities.

This imbalance must be addressed as a matter of urgency as it is proving to be destructive, oppressive, retrogressive and stagnant. The population of rural areas is kept artificially low and the human potential to thrive becomes disempowered.

Our land needs investment, hands-on human input, local knowledge and an acceptance for a broader outlook - none of these positive qualities have been forthcoming from the existing system of the feudal Scottish Laird.

18 votes

Scotland did not emerge from the ice with title deeds attached. The default state of land is not that it should be property but that it should be common. Property in land creates wealth and privilege, and the heritability of land from one generation to the next further concentrates these things, to the great detriment of the community.

Agriculturalists need security of tenure if they are to manage land well, but that can be provided by liferent. Owners of buildings and industrial plant need security of tenure as these assets cannot easily be moved. So some land must be held for longer than the lifetime of a particular individual.

But heritability of land is so contrary to the public interest that heritable tenure should be taxed highly and progressively, so that at any scale larger holdings pay significantly more per hectare than smaller ones.

16 votes

I am really keen that we have a thorough register of all the Common Good land in Scotland and that it is thoroughly monitored and managed by committees made up from local people in the area and not by the local councils. I read about the fiasco re the Waverley shopping centre in Edinburgh and wonder if this is happening all over with our common national assets.  Yet again the land being stolen from underneath our noses. I must find out about the Common Good land in Perthshire as I don't know anything about it.

15 votes

The idea is to offer a positive approach to promoting sustainable development which overcomes current barriers imposed by current land ownership and control patterns, and thereby contribute to meeting the Scottish Government's land reform aims.

**The key steps/ processes:""

Land owners become required in law to produce land use and development statements for submission to the SG, (for now, I'll call this a "Land Plan")

The aim of each Land Plan would be to identify what current land use practices and possible future developments conform to SG aims, or exist as barriers to those aims. They would give land owners a positive opportunity to be a constructive part of the way forward, failing which they would assist others in pursuing their sustainable development aspirations.

Public / community engagement would be legally required in the creation of the Land Plans. Land owners would have to report in the Land Plan on any representations or sustainable development proposals received during preparation of the Plan and show how they had regard for them. The better the public and local community engagement in Plan formulation, the more likely that this approach would become more bottom up than top down.

That the SG considers the Land Plans and ranks them with a traffic light system - green indicating SG satisfaction that current practices and future proposals contribute positively to SG land reform aims, amber indicating that the Plans contain some positive elements but have shortcomings as well, and with red indicating that little or no contribution to SG reform aims is contained in them.

Land owners would have opportunities and guidance to alter their Land Plans to better contribute to SG aims. Where they did not, the shortcomings would identify for third parties interested in sustainable developments, including local communities where they might direct their energies in a way likely to garner SG support.

A clear basis then emerges for the circumstances in which a direct intervention may be made by the SG, what its purpose would be as well as the possible nature of that intervention, and timescales. That basis would be a failure of the land owner to act to facilitate sustainable developments, or enable others to do so by providing land to lease or purchase. These interventions would typically be to require land to be sold or leased to enable identified sustainable developments likely to be realisable. The process of creating the Land Plan would likely throw up new ideas for sustainable developments.

For local communities development support may be required to help them plug any skills gaps and more generally negotiate their way through inevitably rather tortuous processes. It becomes an essential part of this approach to resource development support where required.

My main inspiration for the suggestions here comes from various legal and other measures taken in Scottish housing over the last 25 years or so, in which I have direct experience.

14 votes

I would like to see Estates excluded from Charitable Status. It is a misuse, if not an actual abuse of the true meaning of CHARITY. These people are having there cake and eating it. This situation is a burden on Society.

13 votes

After reading through several documents and feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the breadth of the topic of Land Reform, I am holding onto one key element that Land Reform should be a commitment to a long and thorough process. As such it is essential that this should be grounded in participatory democracy acknowledging both rights and responsibilities.

The process will need some kind of route map to stay focused on social and environmental justice through community involvement leading to redistribution of wealth and greater sustainability across urban and rural Scotland. I imagine it will be important to set both short-term and long-term goals, and not to be distracted by this colossal project. Throughout the process the language and findings should be clear and accessible to all.

11 votes

What does Scotland need to do to ensure full and fair Land Reform?

Scotland needs the Crown Estates, estates, landowners (absentee or not), corporates, companies and councils to pay into the Scottish economy a fair and appropriate amount of TAX. It should be a criminal offence to hide who owns what behind nominees, legal and accounting devices to the benefit of the few. Using Scotland's land and property for this purpose with little or no regard for this nation or its people and seeing it as a means to an end to bring yet more wealth t those who benefit is immoral. To ensure a fair charge on the land and property a legally binding decision from an expert arbitration panel made up of people with integrity and common sense and NOT drawn from the 'Establishment' needs to be appointed. Hopefully not beyond the wit of Scottish men and women! The TAX raised from this re-adjustment should be used to set up small communities of eco-friendly, sustainable and modern villages/hamlets. Local knowledge combined with today's technology (and tomorrow's) should make it possible to find areas with the best mix to allow for such development in keeping with today's needs and aspirations. Farmers and Tenant Farmers have their own needs which should be addressed by an appropriate group.

10 votes

Communities in control of development not a few individuals.

7 votes

*In context of the biology of place and the challenges within the human race. Right, how to get that to 'all needs met' instead of 'all wants'?*

What should a set of a self balancing land reform policies entail? It must be facilitating/ensuring this: commitment to very good and long term land husbandry AND fine compassionate community building and sustaining.

Therefore it has to build, empower and guard 3 interconnected areas of processes

1. Real Vision fire, clearing shared sight: first and foremost a shared SEEING of the hills and lochs, glens and shores and isles as being covered in fertile food bearing and biodiversity life TOGETHER with economically and ecologically sound self built dwellings and SMALL communities with good basic infrastructures

2. Healthy Interconnectedness & Interdependencies: the infrastructures (peoples' educational, artistic/cultural and health needs which are self facilitated/met) AND the ecological communities (vibrant, specific and diverse flora & fauna) are mutually supportive and thus truly economic & sufficing

3. Growing dynamic self governance: participatory leadership training and supported practise, system thinking and wellbeing solution focussed.

All infrastructures such as anything from internet access to roads & energy, work places of all kinds as possible in situ, not just tourism, need to be measured against the above all the time Whilst the formulation of the above might be able to be improved upon, the importance of a formulation at this level is its simplicity esp as the issues are so very complex. Vision and wellbeing-feeling needs to be alive and meaningful in every person who resides on and feeds of the land. Home food production (growing in soon self sustaining forest gardens and good and varied food preserving techniques) are a matter or course. That will inform best decision making and actions then, the timelines of the action, etc. The policies need to bear all that in mind, and empower the learning and sustaining of skills and faculties required for regenerating the land with people who are actually capable of the long term looking after that piece of land. The effectiveness of the looking after this land (measured in wellbeing of land/produce and people/community) should be rewarded with further investment to improve on the balance and strength of both. THAT is key. It will, obviously, take a huge shift in thinking. However, if demonstrated in small communities in practise, measured, celebrated and effectively learned from, most of those not seeing sense yet, will be won over easily.


• Create diverse pilots that show a WORKING model of urban rural regeneration (here and abroad) and adapt and improve as a MATTER OF PRIORITY

• Learn from other countries (Russia's Kinship Domains; Cuba, Sekem/Egypt…) and 'translate' (having identified all factors which enable success)

• Ensure that more and more children grow up in homes surrounded by well looked after self-sustaining land that grows their own food and inspires the community

• Create rural folks schools for people of all ages in Scotland, in many different places

8 votes

The land of Scotland should be owned and managed for the benefit of the people of Scotland.

6 votes

Proper taxation of wealth in land.

5 votes

Duties to enforce sustainable land use

5 votes

A What If? approach to Land Reform in Scotland

What if we started at the beginning? What if, instead of fixing parts of the existing system, we started all over again?

If there are 19,465,000 acres in Scotland, that’s 3.893 acres per person. If we add some foreshore and marine acres, then we could say 4 acres per person.

What if we limited each person to 4 acres—and then allowed each person to have either that much land or receive an annual cash benefit equal to a set value for 4 acres in return for letting someone else have use of those 4 acres?

What if we said the same thing about land ownership in Scotland that we said in the referendum about decisions in Scotland? The ownership of Scotland should be by the people who care most about Scotland—those who live and work here.

What if each right to use the land was matched by an equal responsibility to pay taxes for that right?

What if all land was owned by the nation of Scotland and then leased to people who live in Scotland—with increasing responsibility for paying increasing rates of tax as the person leasing the land seeks increasing rights on the land?

Those rights might include a longer leasing period, the right for heirs to inherit, the right to restrict the use of the land to fewer people, the right to own more land than the average 4 acres, and so on.

What if we believe that the land and water of Scotland—and our decisions about how to use it—belong to all of us?

4 votes

I would like to see State ownership of land. That is all farmland and associated building, vacant and derelict land, hill land and mountains, rivers and lochs, but exclude private homes and gardens and commercial property. Global warming and population pressures will soon make land far too valuable a resource to be in the hands of a few extremely wealthy individuals.

4 votes

Levelling the playing field between tenant farmers and owner occupiers.

3 votes

Land Reform.

The Clachan Project.

There is a lot of talk about the reintroduction of native animals back into wild areas of Scotland, but what about the reintroduction of people? How best do we achieve this so that everyone can benefit? There was a time when people lived and thrived in small self sufficient communities with around 7-10 families that were called clachans in the Highlands and fermtouns in the Lowlands and Borders.

These were mostly self sufficient communities albeit part of a greater community, where everyone’s strengths were used to maintain and sustain the clachan or fermtoun creating by default a tight community. By looking into our past it helps guide our future and we can bring people, families and communities back to the Scottish Landscape. The Clachan Project would be guided and implemented by a number of key principles as follows:

1) Small scale. 2) Environmentally considerate (both visually and ecologically) 3) Innovative. 4) Sustainable

With these key principles at its core The Clachan Project will give people the opportunity to create, built and maintain thriving rural communities.

3 votes

It's not enough to simply address land ownership and land use. It is also necessary to address the mechanisms - Public and Private - for the sharing of and investment in the fruits of use (usufruct) of the land. Direct investment in the future usufruct of land is capable - within a suitable form of agreement/tenure - of providing better outcomes for every stakeholder except unproductive middlemen.  21st Century problems cannot be resolved by 20th century solutions: perhaps the solution lies in updating forms of funding and financial instruments which pre-date modern finance?

2 votes

Controls on inheritance of land

1 vote

Prosperous rural areas with diverse economies.

1 vote

I want to be able to live and work in the community I grew up in and love.

0 votes

Ponies for all.

0 votes

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