RESTRICTING the amount of Scotland one landowner can hold is among a range of radical plans aimed at making the country more equal.

Proposals published by the Scottish Land Commission suggest introducing a cap to loosen the grip of wealthy landowners.

Existing estates could even be broken up if it was deemed in the public interest to do so, despite this straying into “much less certain legal territory”.

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The ideas are contained in a discussion paper written by former Labour minister Peter Peacock, which also considers new taxes and changes in inheritance law.

Mr Peacock, who was commissioned to produce the document for the quango, wrote: “It is widely regarded that, internationally, Scotland has one of the most concentrated landownership patterns – very few owners own a large proportion of Scotland – concentrating power in very few hands.”

He cited research showing half of Scotland is owned by just 432 people, and said such inequality “arguably limits or acts against furthering the achievement of greater social justice”.

But Scottish Land and Estates, which represents landowners, said the proposals were simply “rerunning debates that have already taken place”.

Chairman David Johnstone insisted land use, rather than ownership, should be the key priority for rural communities as Brexit draws closer.

He said: “We acknowledge that land reform is an ongoing process, and we support independent research that can inform how ownership can influence the best possible use of land.

“However, we are disappointed when similar research, already published by the Scottish Government as recently as July 2016, appears to have been forgotten.

“Amongst other findings, that research stated that it was ‘too simplistic to conclude that scale of land ownership is a significant factor in the sustainable development of communities.’”

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The Scottish Land Commission was created by the Scottish Government last year in the wake of new land reform laws.

It was set up to examine the concentration of land ownership and the effective use of land in the public interest.

Mr Peacock’s paper, which aims to spark debate ahead of a wider consultation, admits setting an absolute limit on landownership “would almost certainly be seen as arbitrary, but that does not mean it would necessarily be inappropriate”.

He said so-called “land ceilings” were recognised in internationally agreed guidelines on land tenure.

He argued taking action over existing land holdings would be more “legally challenging”, but added: “This does not mean to imply action would not be possible after detailed legal considerations, with the provision of extended periods to bring holdings into line with any requirement.

“But inevitably it would be much less certain legal territory.”

Mr Peacock said existing holdings “may act against the public interest and objectives of government land policy”.

He said a regulatory body with “strong powers” could be set up to monitor future sales and investigate referrals.

Other ideas set out in his paper include tax incentives to encourage sales and an overhaul of inheritance law, as well as a residential requirement to live on any land purchased.

He added: “Such a legal requirement applies to crofters, to live on the croft or within 32 kilometres.

“While there would be inevitable policing and compliance challenges from such an arrangement, it is a not uncommon feature of other countries land laws.”

He said community buyouts – such as in Eigg, South Uist and North Harris – helped empower people to create a more sustainable future.

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Mr Johnstone said landowners had “embraced” many of the Scottish Government’s aims on land reform.

But he added: “However, there remains an absence of meaningful debate about what should be delivered from Scotland’s land rather than simply who owns it and this is a matter that rural communities and businesses want to see addressed urgently, especially in light of Brexit.”