The Scottish Government is seeking views on a series of "radical" land reforms.

It plans to legislate on a number of measures aimed at achieving "a fairer and more equitable distribution of land in Scotland".

The Government proposes that the Land Reform Bill should include the creation of a Scottish Land Reform Commission, the ability to take action against landowners who pose a "barrier" to development, and measures to make information on who owns land and its value more readily available.

The legislation would also limit the companies, trusts and partnerships that can own land in Scotland to within the EU.

This will not affect individuals from all over the world who want to buy land in Scotland but will make it easier to contact the landowner or hold them to account if necessary, the Government said.

Business rates exemptions for shooting and deerstalking estates, brought in by the Conservatives in 1994, would also be ended.

The money will be used to help fund community buyouts, with a target of having one million acres of land in community ownership by 2020.

The Bill was announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as part of her programme for government, and will be led by Environment and Land Reform Minister Aileen McLeod.

Unveiling her programme last week, Ms Sturgeon promised a ''radical programme'' of reform so that Scotland's land can be ''an asset that benefits the many, not the few''.

Launching the consultation, Ms McLeod said: "The Scottish Government's vision is for a strong relationship between the people of Scotland and the land of Scotland, where ownership and use of the land delivers greater public benefits through a democratically accountable and transparent system of land rights that promotes fairness and social justice, environmental sustainability and economic prosperity.

"I am keen to see a fairer and more equitable distribution of land in Scotland where communities and individuals can own and use land to realise their potential. Scotland's land must be an asset that benefits the many, not the few.

"At present, information on who owns land is held by many different bodies including Registers of Scotland, Sepa, local authorities as well as the Scottish Government. This consultation will look at finding ways to bring this information together, which will not only inform debate and public decision making but also help private decision making and drive opportunity.

"This consultation is part of a public debate about land and the public interest, and how land in Scotland works for the people of Scotland. This is not simply for those with strong existing interests in land but a process in which I hope everyone will engage."

The body which represents landowners has already criticised some of the proposals.

David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land and Estates, said: ''The announcement that business rates exemption is to be scrapped for sporting estates does not take in account the current voluntary payments made for river and deer management. The perception that sporting estates do not pay their dues is not accurate."

Labour's land reform spokeswoman Claire Baker said: "Scottish Labour has always been supportive of radical land reform and we have always worked towards achieving a fairer, more equitable land ownership pattern in Scotland.

"Today is another step on the land reform journey with welcome ideas, but it is not the final step. Scottish Labour is prepared to work with this Government to deliver on the Bill - but it must be truly radical.

"The Bill is a long time coming but with only 18 months left of this Government, there is a short time-scale for both consultation and, most importantly, delivery.

"The Land Reform Review Group has already sought and consulted on a wide range of views on radical proposals. The time has come to move beyond words and towards action if we are to see meaningful results."

A spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: "We feel very strongly that creating a fairer or more socially just country does not mean taking away lifeline rural employment which is a very real danger if the drive to change ownership patterns turns into discouragement of inward investment.

"If present owners decide conditions in Scotland are no longer favourable, and take their investments elsewhere, the gamekeepers' jobs go, the ghillie, the boatman, the tractor man, the forester, the various contractors, the estate staff and so on, not to mention the effect on businesses and the fabric of the community. That is not easy employment to replace in a small rural area which may not have the advantage of scale.

"Of course, we believe those who manage land should do so in the public interest and we believe the well managed estates in Scotland will be able to quantify this very well.

"However, greater transparency has to work both ways and we hope public bodies and large land-owning charities tasked with similar public interest responsibilities are placed under the same scrutiny as private owners."

Responding to the launch of the consultation today, Mr Johnstone said: "We will study the consultation in much greater detail, but our initial response is to express disappointment that the Scottish Government continues to miss an opportunity to create modern and meaningful land reform.

"There is a real lack of recognition of the major social, economic and environmental contribution estates and land-based businesses make in Scotland and we believe the Government's desire to make rural Scotland more prosperous would be better served by viewing private landowners and land-based businesses as part of the solution.

"Instead, we are now faced with the threat of landowners being forced to sell land if they are regarded as being a barrier to sustainable development. The reality is that many landowners are the drivers of sustainable development."

Mr Johnstone called for clarity on this issue, including details on what evidence exists to suggest the measure is necessary, and in what circumstances the Government thinks it could be employed.

He added: "Taken in the round, all these proposals have the potential to deliver a serious blow to land-based businesses of all types and sizes and we do not think that is in the interests of rural Scotland. The First Minister has said that responsible landowners should have nothing to fear but few will take any comfort from this consultation document."