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Ambitious scheme will find the owner of every acre of Scotland within a decade

An ambitious plan to work out who owns every part of Scotland is to be completed within 10 years.

Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse announced the mapping project days after an expert group published a major report on land reform.

"One of their key recommendations was on land registration and I agree with the group that a fundamental step on this journey must be having a clear understanding of who owns our land in Scotland," he said.

"This will benefit everyone as land transactions are more difficult and expensive if it's not already on the land register.

"This is a vital underpinning step in Scotland's land reform journey and will ensure that at last everyone will know who owns Scotland."

Registers of Scotland has been asked to finish the register in a decade, with all public land registered within five years.

The Land Reform Review Group set out 62 recommendations in a report on Friday.

Among the suggestions, it calls for a new law to limit how much land any single person can own in Scotland.

It says councils should be given the right to force the sale of vacant or derelict plots.

The group, set up in 2012, wants the Scottish Government to be "radical in its thinking and bold in its action".

The review group also said local government taxation needs to be modernised and that serious consideration should be given to introducing a system of land value taxation, which could be an alternative to the council tax.

But the Government appeared to rule out one recommendation on taxation within hours of the group's report being published.

Experts said there is no clear public interest in keeping a universal exemption of agriculture, forestry and other land-based businesses from non-domestic rates.

The Government stated: "We can confirm there are no plans to make changes to the position of agricultural business rates relief."

Dr Alison Elliot, chairman of the Land Reform Review Group, said: "We are pleased that the Scottish Government has been so prompt in deciding to implement one of the recommendations made by the Land Reform Review Group.

"Setting a target for completing the register of land ownership will bring closer the day when there is a definitive answer to the question 'who owns Scotland?'.

"We hope that this momentum is maintained as the Scottish Government gives consideration to our other recommendations."

Claire Baker MSP, Scottish Labour spokeswoman on land reform, said: "The Land Reform Review Group are right to highlight that progress to map who owns land in Scotland is a major issue that so far has been limited.

"I therefore welcome that the SNP Government have finally agreed to timetables for registration of land in Scotland. This U-turn comes two years after they rejected these calls during the passage of the Land Registration Bill."

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