Andy started with a quick summary of his book “The Poor had no Lawyers” and its 6 land grabs:
- Robert the Bruce – a murdering medieval warlord
- To spoil the Kirk of Christ of her Patrimony – theft of lands of the Church
- The Palladium of our Land Proprietors – involving the lawyers
- A State of Possession beyond the memory of Man– theft of commonties
- Mere miserable starved caricatures – theft of Burgh commons
- I hereby take possession of this island of Rockall – Colonial adventures
He then covered the economic importance of land, and how allowing prices to get out of control led us into the crash of 2008.
He noted the lack of information on land ownership and value – the comprehensive survey of 1910-11 was only made public in 1994.
That led on to the importance of land prices in house prices, and how self-build is far more “normal” in Europe. This is largely due to the massive concentration in ownership of Scottish land.
Andy then compared the extent of local democracy in Scotland compared to the rest of Europe – for example, French communes on average have a median population of 380, against 115,000 in Scotland.
He looked at Fiscal policy on land, noting how exemption from non-domestic rates loses millions of pounds per year to local councils.
Finally, he noted the 62 recommendations in the 2014 report of the Land Reform Review Group and his motion to endorse the report which was debated in Holyrood on 30 November. Disappointingly, government support for the report seems to have weakened.
There followed a useful opportunity for attendees to quiz Andy on various aspects of tax, environment, the law, the Land Registry, tenant farmers, ethical landlords, Our Land activism and the concentration of subsidies.
Andy’s command of the whole range of issues is deeply impressive, and his presentation was greatly appreciated by all in attendance.