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Friday, 24 August, 2001, 05:50 GMT 06:50 UK
Land reform splits Lib Dems
Achamore House
The current owner lives in Achamore House
An MSP representing the isle of Gigha has attacked a draft land reform bill for not giving individual tenants the right to buy their land.

The island off the Kintyre peninsula has been put up for sale, leaving its 110 inhabitants with an uncertain future.

Speaking on the BBC's Newsnight Scotland programme, George Lyon accused his party's leader of not going far enough with the legislation.

The current draft of the bill would give tenants the right to purchase the estate through a community buyout, but would not allow individuals to buy their own land.

George Lyon
George Lyon says current plans do not go far enough

The Liberal Democrat MSP said that without this right, the bill will not tackle the land problems on Gigha.

He said: "I certainly believe it doesn't go far enough and it won't solve the problems, such as we find here in Gigha.

"Gigha is a microcosm of everything that is wrong with the land legislation currently in Scotland.

"If we are going to tackle this and give communities and individuals the power that they need to try and shape their own destiny and to generate economic activity in much of rural Scotland then we have to introduce this right."

Mr Lyon added: "I think it would liberate economically much of rural Scotland which has suffered and is in decline at the moment."

But Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace, who is drafting the bill, said that the individual right to buy would be counterproductive.

Jim Wallace
Jim Wallace dismissed George Lyon's stance

He said: "If it meant that landlords were then withdrawing land from the opportunities for tenants to take over land and farm it, then that would be less opportunity for young people who want to pursue farming as a career, who want to settle in the rural areas with their families.

"We felt that it would, in fact, be counterproductive to the idea of trying to encourage people to stay in the countryside."

The current landlord, who is selling because of ill health, said he will accept a community bid - but only if it is competitive.

Residents do not want to be at the whim of a new landlord, but are also concerned about the costs and complications of a buy-out.

See also:

18 Aug 01 | Scotland
Islanders consider community buy-out
13 Aug 01 | Scotland
Call to help residents buy island
10 Aug 01 | Scotland
Isle be yours - for 3.85m
16 Jul 01 | Scotland
Land reform warning to ministers
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