Donald Trump’s controversial Aberdeenshire golf course will be able to dodge “timid” SNP reforms to land ownership in Scotland, it’s been claimed.
Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba has accused Scottish ministers of bowing to super-wealthy landowners with watered-down plans that won’t break the rich’s stranglehold on Scotland.
It comes as it emerged a group representing the biggest posh estates has lobbied the government about its proposals more than half a dozen times in the last year.
Scottish Labour’s Villalba wants to see a “presumed limit” of 500 hectares on large landholdings set in the upcoming Land Reform Bill.
That would mean any area bigger than this would be subject to a “public interest test” - to check if there’s a good reason for the land to be held in a parcel that size or if it would be better to break it up or transfer it to community ownership.
At 560 hectares, the Trump International Golf Links in Menie would face the test under Villalba’s counter-proposals.
The course, built by the former US president’s company in 2012, has been accused of wrecking the surrounding environment, including protected sand dunes.
However, the Record understands the Scottish Government will push ahead with plans for a 3000-hectare limit - far larger than recommended by many conservation and community groups.
North East MSP Villalba hit out: “The Scottish Government’s proposals for land reform are far too timid and will have little impact.
“They’ll only apply to land over 3000 hectares – that’s almost six times the size of Trump International - and they won’t apply to existing holdings, like his.”
Villalba last week wrote to Rural Affairs and Land Reform Secretary Mairi Gougeon to demand “clarity” on the government’s plans - after Humza Yousaf said in July he would “seriously consider” a lower threshold.
Scotland has some of the most concentrated land ownership in the western world with half of all private Scots land owned by just 400 people.
A Holyrood consultation on the Bill last year found just 34 per cent supported a proposed 3000ha threshold, with 55 per cent opposed. Most respondents who suggested an alternative limit called for a lower figure.
They included groups like Community Land Scotland and Scottish Rural Action, which recommended a 500ha limit, while the John Muir Trust called for 1000ha.
However, Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) - representing Scots landowners - doesn’t support any threshold and has voiced opposition to the wider Bill.
It has lobbied Scottish ministers and officials on land reform seven times since last September, more than any other group, data from the lobbying register shows.
Villalba continued: “Currently, just 0.027 per cent of Scotland’s population own 67 per cent of Scotland’s land.
“Yet it’s this extremely small and vocal minority who are being heard loudest by the Scottish Government.
“SLE has vehemently opposed proposals to deconcentrate land ownership, so it is all the more alarming that it is this organisation, more than any other, that appears to have the government’s ear."
A spokesman for the SLE said: "We meet with politicians from all parties as well as civil servants to discuss a range of issues affecting rural Scotland, not just land reform.
"All face-to-face meetings with politicians are regularly recorded on the parliament website.”
He added: "We do not support the introduction of a Public Interest Test and Ms Villalba fails to note that her proposals would bring a huge number of Scotland's family farms under the auspices of a test.”
The Trump Organisation has claimed its environmental approach at Menie is “first-class”.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Land reform is a vital part of this Government’s aspirations for a fairer, more equal and socially just Scotland.
“We remain committed to tackling the adverse effects of scale and concentration of land ownership, by continuing to improve transparency of ownership and control of land, and empowering communities in the process.
“This work is ongoing as we ensure that our land is owned and managed in a way that benefits communities across our nation.”
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