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Taxation and Community Empowerment

"many landowners and particularly land agents expressed doubts about the propriety of public funding going to benefit a small number of individuals and about the longer-term financial viability of some/all of such ventures"

From Scottish Office: Identifying the solutions 4.1:

"However, many land agents and landowners were concerned that smallholdings and crofts could not be sustainable and would be dependent on subsidy;"

From Scottish Office Identifying the solutions 9.1:

The irony is too rich to believe! The comments come from those who constitute 'a small number of individuals', already in receipt of considerable public funding under present subsidies to present practices in farming and forestry, which are demonstrably un-sustainable and totally dependent on subsidy!


While recognising the difficulties and complexity of establishing a system of valuation for taxation purposes, I believe the option of Land Valuation Taxation (LVT) should be pursued with the greatest possible dispatch.

LVT would correct the ludicrous status quo, where ownership of land confers a right to draw on the public purse, without any corresponding obligation to contribute to that purse. The attitude engendered by the status quo is revealed in the opinions of existing landowning interests referred to above.

Any taxation would ideally be locally (community level, with advice) determined and revenues would accrue locally, enhancing local accountability and empowerment. It is most undesirable for LVT to become a revenue channelled through central government. Neither should central government be unduly prescriptive as to levels and bases, e.g. a 'Uniform Scottish' rate of levy.

Taxation on 'bare land' value would not discourage improvement, but could take account of locational value and increases in value due to infrastructure and other publicly funded improvements.

I hope I represent a section of the landowning interest (not exclusive to rural Scotland but including many urban and suburban owner-occupiers (one of the declared principles in the 'framework' paper)). We are those who accept that the value of the land on which we live and/or from which we derive our living, our 'homeplace', is in no small way related to "neighbourhood" value, and that it is quite reasonable and desirable to contribute to the cost of increasing and maintaining such value.

If this local value is to be enhanced in a sustainable way, it will most likely be that it occurs organically. That is, from the roots, according to our local nature.

The rural development paper (Scottish Office: The Framework) cites the need for and value of variety (Indeed it is another of the declared principles). This is related to Biodiversity. It is, in fact, properly only a subset of Biodiversity. More distant levels of government might wisely restrict their contribution (via an integrated approach, yet another of the declared principles) to nourishment, rather than to genetic engineering.

Locally raised taxation, without a round trip through central government, at levels determined by locally accountable and locally elected community members would ensure an increased and natural diversity of empowered communities.

In the short term, continued nourishment (central funding) will be required, but the long term goal here, as everywhere, must be sustainability.

This implies reduced income taxes, and a contribution more relative to value(benefit) enjoyed.

It is interesting that a reduction in land prices is counted as an advantage under LO5, but a disadvantage under LO7...

It is certain that the introduction of Land Value Taxation (LVT) will reduce land prices.

It is also certain that it will be vigorously resisted by those whose net worth (and borrowing!) is based on the value/price of
their land.

The effect on us, the fortunate, for whom our land (however small or vast) is our homeplace, will be negligible. House prices may decline, but a HOME is rarely for sale.

For those still in search of a home, and those yet to be born, decreases in land prices will be empowering indeed. Isn't that the task in hand?


In order to increase the active involvement of local people (The final main principle declared in the 'framework' paper), with our local natural environment, it is necessary that we recognise a proprietary interest:

a. It is our common heritage, and we ignore, damage or destroy it at our peril.

b. Our interest, being local and potentially intimate, is not identical to that of absentee proprietors, whether individuals or agencies of 'public' ownership.

c. In the case of private land, resident owners offer the best assurance of good management practice.

d. A community is the local manifestation of "the public", and as such, has a vital interest in the sustainable management of its local environment, including both public and private land.

e. With rare exceptions, local benefit (social, economic, amenity, environmental health...) must become the prime consideration in environmental management policy, including land use, and particularly in the case of publicly owned assets.

f. It is a source of great social & economic value, THE source, Our home! Above all, we must not allow ourselves to feel intimidated or excluded from full and active participation through lack of 'expertise.'

g. The management of environmental assets, including forest, is likely to be best done through the direct involvement of persons and/or communities resident in the immediate locality.

h. Where work is to be carried out, it is most likely to be well done by suitably qualified local workers.

i. The provision of local employment is a valid goal of environmental management, even when this may not be the quickest or least expensive in money terms.

j. Good management decisions are more important than quick or easy ones. Forests are rarely in a hurry, especially when managed under principles of sustainability.

k. The prime source of fertility and health in soil is forest cover. For this reason and others, it is important to restore more of Scotland's depleted native forests to renew soils depleted by millennia of overgrazing and decades of monoculture.

On Integration, Consolidation, Reorganisation, etc...

"We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganised.
I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralisation."

Caius Petronius, AD 66

With the benefit of a almost two further millennia hindsight, your respondent would only add "delay", the bureaucrat's universal friend.

Central Government Agency staff are far too often charged with the care of disparate sites and projects so widely scattered that it is difficult, if not impossible, to become properly intimate with many of them. Many try very hard.

In Central Government Agency culture, environmental assets (including 'communities') are most conveniently dealt with in the abstract, with reference to the details contained in filing cabinets (or magnetic cyberfiles) - at arm's length. Site visits seem rare and even more rarely to involve the carrying out of practical work. Resident care may be exceeding rare. Documents abound and their number multiplies in direct relation to the distance (in miles as well as organisational tiers) between central office and the local asset.

Central Government Agencies generally operate to priorities, policies, & agendas generated and developed at national level, with varying degrees of 'adaptation' to local conditions. 'National' thinking is predominately urban/office/document based. The career structure is largely colonial, with movement towards the centre regarded as advancement.

It is questionable how this can relate to rural realities.

Text of letter received November 3rd 1998: Is this the shape of consultation to come??

(Comments added)
Mr. E Igglehart, South West Community Woods, North Glen, Palnackie, Castle Douglas, DG7 1 PN

Ref: AD2
2nd November 1998

Dear Sir


I write to you as a 'stakeholder' in the activities of the Forest Enterprise arm of the Forestry Commission, to explain our planned organisational changes in the Stewartry and Ayrshire. These are designed to improve our focus on the different types of forests and the aspirations of local people in south west Scotland. (Were local people asked? This is the first we have heard of it!)

Until two years ago the Forestry Commission forests of the Solway, Galloway Forest Park and in the southern part of Ayrshire were managed from three Forest District offices.

To enhance our effectiveness in Galloway Forest Park, the Ayrshire forests were joined with those of the Stewartry and have been managed from our office in Castle Douglas since 1996. These arrangements, and our continuing outstation office at Straiton, have been such a success that we now propose further to reorganise our arrangements as follows: (Can you run that by me one more time?...It's working so well, you want to turn it inside-out?)

The Solway forests around Dalbeattie and west towards Kirkudbright will be managed together with Mabie from Ae, Dumfries. (distance between forest and office: status quo: 11km max; proposed: 40km minimum)

The forests around Gatehouse of Fleet, Laurieston, Corsock, New Galloway and Dundeugh will form part of a new Galloway Forest District based at the existing office at Newton Stewart. This includes The Bennan, Fleet and Clatteringshaws forests. (distance between forest and office: status quo: 15-25km max; proposed: 25-50+km )

Carrick forest of south and east Ayrshire, including the woodlands around Loch Doon, will be managed from our existing Straiton office as part of the Galloway Forest District.

Kyle forest, to the north and east of Dalmellington, will be managed from Straiton as part of a new forest district encompassing the Scottish coalfields.

We hope to be able to demonstrate over the coming months that our staff will be able to focus more clearly on the market and social benefits of the distinct forests in the three areas concerned.

The present intention is that the new Galloway Forest District, which will manage the whole of Galloway Forest Park, will start work in April 1999. Dalbeattie Town Wood (to be managed from 41km distance - some 'town wood'!) and the other Solway forests (even further away) will join with Mabie to be managed from Ae from the same date, whereas the local presence in Ayrshire at Straiton will be strengthened. The Castle Douglas Office will finally move to Newton Stewart during September 1999. (i.e. removed from the heart of the most forested area to its periphery)

These changes will not involve much upheaval for most of our staff (One gets used to it pretty quickly, working for a distant colonial power!)as they will not need to move home.(this time) Although there will not be an office in Castle Douglas we will still be 'on the ground' and, of course, contactable at Newton Stewart.

We will operate on the basis of 'business as usual' up to and after the changes in April next year. You should not notice much difference in your dealings with us, except that the teams concerned will be able to concentrate more on 'your kind' of forests. (For the life of me, I cannot see how this follows, or what is meant!)

If you have any comments or suggestions I would be pleased to hear from you at any time at the above address.

Yours faithfully
_______ _____
Forest District Manager

If this is the shape of increased community involvement to come,
God help us!


Please note: The above observations are my own, influenced by experience, reading, listening, conversation and correspondence with others. My experience is limited in all areas, and some generalisations may seem sweeping, or even presumptuous. No offence to corporate entity, human or otherwise is intended, but should any be taken, it is from myself and no other. - E.I.

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