AN MSP will bid to bring in a new law which would cap the amount of Scottish land the super rich can own.

Mercedes Villalba, who represents Labour on the North East list, has unveiled plans to put a “presumed limit” of 500 hectares (five square kilometres) on how much land a person can own, sell, or transfer without triggering a public interest test.

The MSP said that currently just 432 landowners own 50% of all Scotland’s privately owned rural land. Villalba further said the 500 hectare limit meant crofters, the vast majority of farmers, allotment holders, and other small scale land-owners will not be affected.

Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen, Scotland’s largest private landowner, owns some 89,500 hectares.

READ MORE: Scotland's largest private landowner caught speeding in BBC documentary

Villalba argued that the "extraordinarily high concentration of land in the hands of so few" is severely limiting access to affordable homes, stifling job creation, increasing land prices, and harming the environment.

The Community Land Scotland annual conference, which is taking place on Skye from June 2-3, will see Villalba announce her proposals.

She will then launch her Member’s Bill – the Land Ownership and Public Interest (Scotland) Bill – on June 7. A consultation will run for 14 weeks after that.

Separately, Villalba (below) has put a motion into the Scottish Parliament asking MSPs to note that “there is a need for stronger action to disrupt the concentration of land ownership in Scotland”.

It has achieved cross-party support including from SNP MSP John Mason and Ruth Maguire and Green MSP Mark Ruskell.

The National:

The motion, which does not explicitly mention the Land Justice Bill but deals with similar themes, has been placed in order to allow a debate on the topic soon after the consultation opens.

Last year, the Scottish Government launched its own consultation on land reform, but Villalba called it “timid” for only looking to apply to purchases above 3000 hectares.

The MSP said: "The extraordinary high concentration of so much land in the hands of so few is the foundation of the inequality that has blighted Scotland for centuries.

"The super-rich are hoarding land that should be run by community representatives and co-operatives for the benefit of everyone.”

She added: “This Land Justice Bill is an opportunity for Scotland to end the hugely iniquitous and archaic land ownership arrangements that date back to medieval times.

"Humza Yousaf's SNP and the Scottish Greens must work with Labour to deliver meaningful 'Land Justice', rather than join with the Tories to protect the privilege of the wealthy."

The proposal for the Land Ownership and Public Interest (Scotland) Bill reads: 

A proposal for a bill to address the centuries old, concentrated pattern of land ownership in Scotland and to restore land for the many by introducing a presumed limit of 500 hectares on individual sales or transfers of land and on the aggregate amount of land any person can own, and by strengthening the regulation of Scotland’s land market by making land transfers over the 500-hectare limit subject to a public interest test.

In 2013, in a briefing to the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, it was reported that just 432 landowners own 50% of all Scotland’s privately owned land. There is no more current figure available, but there is no indication that there has been a significant shift in this pattern of ownership. Increasing transparency on this is urgent, if concerns over patterns of land ownership are to be discussed openly.

Common Weal cites research by Scottish Land and Estates showing that Scotland’s private shooting estates create just 2640 jobs (including indirect jobs) with an average income of £11,401, below minimum wage levels. Around a seventh of Scotland’s rural land area is used for grouse shooting.

The Scottish Land Commission’s 2022 market report showed land value jumped 61% in 2021 alone, in part due to the increasing purchase of Scottish land for carbon credit schemes.