The Scottish Daily Mail, Sat. March 16th. 2002

Comment, page 12.

Another Sinister Lurch to the Left.

If you wondered what the New Scotland created by devolution would be like, the answer is now clear: like the Soviet Republic of Outer Mongolia, circa 1932.

The latest legislative proposals on land reform from the Scottish parliament have only one template recognisable in recent memory: Romania under Ceausescu.

Not only has the inappropriately named justice 2 committee rejected landowners' pleas that open access to their property should not apply during the hours of darkness, a clear invitation to rural crime; not only has it refused to safeguard the vital ecology of inland waterways and the livelihoods dependent on them; it is also trying to prevent country dwellers from passing on their own property to their children.

Nothing remotely resembling this Marxist extravagance has been seen anywhere in Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The New Scotland is diametrically opposed to the political culture of the New Europe. Already compromised by its anti-hunting legislation, Holyrood is now headed for an outright confrontation with the European Convention on Human Rights - the flagship legislation which, only two years ago, it was so eager to incorporate into Scots Law.

It would be easy to make a huge joke of the Land Reform Bill at Holyrood, to laugh it off as a piece of extravagant nonsense. But this law could kill off the rural economy. Properties would be panic sold at tumbling prices. Employment, and with it villages and schools, would disappear. This is not even class war legislation. The informed, economically active rural workers and crofters are opposed to it. Crofters' leaders are afraid that this Bill will unravel the whole precarious fabric of crofting. It is a law to oppress the whole of rural Scotland.

Its only supporters are a few people who scent a killing if they can pass themselves off as 'community interest groups' and some urban-based ramblers. There is vested interest at Holyrood too. Last month, we revealed that George Lyon MSP [also former president or vice president of Scottish NFU..Joyce] one of the chief promoters of this Bill and the tenant of a 1,350 acre farm on Bute, could benefit financially if the compulsory purchase rights for tenants is enacted.

Although we can almost certainly rely on the protection of the European courts, the dismaying fact remains that we have a parliament that wants to do these things. What kind of political standard-bearers are these to lead Scotland throught the 21 st century?