AN independent think tank is calling on Scotland’s policy makers to use Brexit as an opportunity to design a land-use strategy that is fit for the 21st century.

Reform Scotland says many of the rules and regulations within the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy are now “outdated, counter-productive and even harmful in a nation where 98% of the land mass qualifies as rural”.

In a new discussion paper – Land of Opportunity: Towards a New Land Use Strategy for Scotland – land expert John Glen outlines where such change is required.

He additionally proposes a series of next steps, and calls for a mature and inclusive debate involving the policy makers and all interested parties.

Glen suggests that such a debate should focus on areas such as a more balanced and environmentally sustainable use of Scotland’s natural resources and land, which would “inevitably accelerate the decline of some traditional activities”.

He also recommends a rethinking of state intervention and subsidy in rural areas – including variable VAT and changes to property and inheritance tax rules – as the UK leaves the EU’s policy, as well as the creation of a new framework placing a monetary value on the impairment or consumption of natural capital.

And the paper puts forward the idea of adopting a redistributive “rural Barnett formula”, as well as a better balance in the eco-system in which the provision of food and the protection of the natural environment are simultaneous.

Glen commented: “In Scotland we often discuss who owns the land, but seldom discuss what we actually want to use the land for.

“With Brexit and our departure from the Common Agricultural Policy, we must now get serious about how we manage and support rural Scotland to everyone’s benefit.

“There needs to be a wide-ranging national conversation about rural land use and about what works and what doesn’t in the 21st century, including how best to direct taxpayers’ money in a way that benefits the environment, population and economy.

“This will involve some hard decisions, but these can no longer be avoided. We are entering a new world as we leave the EU and become masters of our own fate.

“With one in 10 Scottish jobs tied to agriculture, we need to make that new world works for us.”