A CARBON land tax on Scotland’s largest landowners has moved a step closer after the Scottish Government included a promise to consider the proposal in the Budget.

One of the UK’s leading wild land charities welcomed the commitment in the Scottish Budget to “include consideration of a proposal for a Carbon Emissions Land Tax (CELT), as has been suggested by the John Muir Trust”.

The John Muir Trust previously told The National that the tax would apply only to landholdings over 1000 hectares with an exemption in place for community-owned land.

It is based upon a “polluters pay” principle with landowners seeing a reduction in their tax burden if they take action to sequester carbon by, for example, creating more woodland and restoring peatlands on their property.

Shona Robison included the promise to consider the policy in a Budget which saw increased funding for the environmental sector.

Funding for NatureScot, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), and the National Parks programme all increased.

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Mike Daniels, head of policy for the John Muir Trust, suggested this joined-up approach will help make ecological land management work for local communities and local economies.

He said: “If our model for an emissions-linked land tax is implemented it will be a world first, an entirely new form of taxation designed to encourage landowners of Scotland’s biggest estates to reduce carbon emissions.

”The tax as envisaged by the Trust would not apply to ordinary homeowners, tenants or smaller business properties but focus solely on the very largest landholdings in the country – areas that could accommodate more than 1,500 Hampden stadiums.”

The Trust has said it wants the power to introduce the legislation to be left to local authorities, with any revenues raised locally retained and spent on actions related to reducing emissions, such as public transport and nature restoration.

The National: Landowners would reduce their tax burden if they take action to restore peatlands on their propertyLandowners would reduce their tax burden if they take action to restore peatlands on their property

“If the final legislation aligns with the John Muir Trust proposal landowners can minimise their carbon emissions and potential land tax obligation through ecologically sound land management practices such as native tree planting, restoration of peatlands and a range of other initiatives,” said Daniels.

“Our focus is to change behaviours amongst the biggest, most environmentally damaging landowners in Scotland, no matter where they reside.

“That’s why our model is intended to apply only to holdings over 1,000 hectares and so exempt crofters, small farmers, and other community landowners.”

“Under the Trust’s proposal local authorities would have the power to introduce the tax at their own discretion, with all revenues retained by councils.

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“Councils could then elect to spend the money raised to foster biodiversity, protect nature, or reduce impacts on climate – like projects to extend concessionary public transport, cycling infrastructure, energy efficiency, and community nature restoration.

“That’s why we’re heartened to see the Government committing to serious consideration to our innovative model.

“CELT has the potential to focus and help regulate a range of initiatives to improve land management, and help Scotland fulfil its Net Zero pledges to reduce carbon emissions.

“And that’s good news for local government, local communities, Scotland, and the world.”

The John Muir Trust has already launched a public petition in support of the tax.