THE recent publication of a Land Reform Bill by an SNP government should be cause for celebration. Land reform offers the most favourable opportunity to deliver independence. History shows us that land reform has been the dynamo of many a new state. Land reform is the reason that Singapore is the economic powerhouse it is. The World Bank has long cited the relationship between land reform and ending poverty.

You would think that a Scottish Government proudly campaigning to deliver independence would use the legislative powers which it has towards that goal which is so enticingly close. But no! On Thursday last week the Scottish Government produced a mouse of a bill.

READ MORE: Scottish Land Reform Bill introduced to Holyrood

For all the contrived hype about addressing the concentration of ownership of only the largest estates should they be for sale, the Bill will fail to make any significant movement to democratise land ownership or, more importantly, make transformative change to the lives of every Scot.

As a result of this Bill no-one alive today will live to see the day when 50% of our land will be owned by 50% of our people.

As a result of this Bill, a man who inherits 50,000 acres in Deeside contributes virtually nothing in commercial rates on these acres but pays council tax of less than £4000 per annum on his very big hoose.

As a result of this Bill, a Middle East despot can apply for part of a Scottish Government grant of around £250,000,000 to restore his peatlands in his estate of 60,000 acres.

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As a result of this Bill, Scotland’s largest private landowner pays tax to his local authority in Denmark for his land holdings in Scotland while Highland Council gets pocket money.

As a result of this Bill, more than 60% of dilapidated and vacant land in urban Scotland continues to be hoarded by the public sector, denying generations of our citizens the land for decent homes, stimulating town centres and environments and properties to develop businesses and careers.

But above all else, as a result of this Bill the Scottish Government prefers to give the impression that we are “too wee and too poor” by pleading poverty while blaming reductions in the Westminster block grant when our government has the devolved power to eschew the block grant. Instead, it is empowered to raise funds from all public and private-sector land to meet all its financial aspirations and more, and deliver a universal citizens’ income of £200 a week to every adult and child.

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If our government were to make land and property a liability by taxing them, those landowners who are unable or unwilling to pay the charge will soon divest themselves of it. That will open up cheap land for housing and other developments immediately. Instead, this Bill is a tortuous bureaucratic feast for the vested interests. Its salient feature is to pay compensation for those landowners whose mega estates may require to be divided. Why would any government do that when it can tax them instead for owning it?

If we are serious about independence, our government must prosecute it by using the powers which it has to maximise the appeal of independence and set us apart from the rest of the UK. Land reform provides that power. It charges those who fail to steward our most precious national asset but gives confidence to all our people to march with us to independence safe in the knowledge that our land is the source of our prosperity.

Surely the election should be fought on a positive commitment to independence through land reform rather than the quixotic attempt to slay a political minority?

Graeme McCormick