THE Queen will be among Scotland’s landed gentry who will have to start paying business rates from next year on their lucrative sporting estates following the passage this week of the Land Reform Bill.

The Queen – who is expected to give the Bill final approval later this year – will face an annual levy of thousands of pounds on her Balmoral property. Others who face paying the new tax include the Duke of Buccleuch, who is in charge of a sporting estate at Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries and Galloway.

Civil servants are yet to carry out the valuation processes to set the business rates, but documents accompanying the Bill suggested the amount raised across all the properties would be around £4 million a year. The money will go towards a new Scottish Land Fund to help promote community buyouts and force landowners to sell land if they are deemed a barrier to development.

According to the most recent data, sporting estates in Scotland made £200m in 2014 yet have not had to pay business rates since 1994 when John Major’s Conservative government granted an exemption from estates with shooting and deer stalking rights.

The Scottish Government reintroduced the rates to bring in a more equitable system of land ownership after the First Minister said it was not right just 432 owners have possession of half the country’s private land. The SNP has set a target of having a million acres in community ownership by 2020.

Last night, campaigners welcomed the news that landowners such as the Queen would have to pay the rates already paid by small businesses such as hairdressing salons, village shopkeepers and publicans.

“The exemption enjoyed by landowners like the Queen and Buccleuch Estates perpetuated existing inequalities in wealth and income for years,” said Andy Wightman, land reform campaigner and Scottish Green Party candidate.

“We are clear that shooting estates are money making businesses and should be taxed as such. For some of the wealthiest individuals and businesses in the country to object to paying what is a tiny proportion of their vast wealth in tax is utterly ridiculous.”

Cat Boyd, the top candidate for Holyrood in Glasgow for socialist alliance Rise also backed the development.

“We’ve very pleased that the Queen is now no longer exempt from paying business rates on some of the land she inherited in Scotland,” she said. “We look forward to a future in which Scotland has both a fully democratic constitutional system and a radically democratic system of land ownership. Neither of those are likely be achieved as part of the UK.”

The Queen’s Balmoral estate on Royal Deeside covers 45,000 acres. It has been the summer and holiday home of the royal family for more than 150 years since it was bought by Queen Victoria, and attracts 80,000 visitors a year plus 180,000 hill walkers. A spokesperson for Balmoral said last night: “The estate pays all business rates levied by local and national government.”

Organisations representing sporting estates lobbied against the reintroduction of business rates when the Bill was being examined by MSPs.

The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association cast doubt on the £4m estimate for revenue collected from the rates, saying the figure was based on government receipts of £2m when the rates were last collected in 1994, and that the estates’ income had since fallen.

Douglas McAdam, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, which represents sporting estates, said: “The Scottish Government has attempted to portray its objective as one of fairness and in doing so they have sought to compare land with sporting rights to local businesses such as garages or shops. This is a flawed comparison and is comparing apples with oranges. A more direct comparison would be with other land management operations such as forestry or agricultural, both of which still enjoy exemption from non-domestic rates.”

Rob Gibson MSP, convenor of the rural affairs, environment and climate change committee said: “The removal of the business rates exemption for shooting estates will bring them into line with other rural businesses who already have to pay rates.

“This move is about fairness and equality for rural businesses and the revenue raised can be put to good use to improve our rural communities.”

The National View: Business rates for the Queen and her ilk are long overdue