Response to Land Reform Policy Group Consultation Document (Scotland)

Tuesday, 21 April 1998 20:10


April 1998




The Land Value Taxation Campaign is a non-party organisation
 which was established with the aim of securing legislation
 which would fundamentally change the basis of public revenue
 in the United Kingdom. It proposes that existing taxes on
 wages, goods and services should be progressively replaced
 with a property tax on the annual rental value of all land.
 This is referred to as Land Value Taxation (LVT) and is
 defined and explained in the attached appendices 1 and 2.
 The Campaign would wish to see 100% of the land value
 collected in this way.


1 The Land Value Taxation Campaign believes that confusions
 arise through imprecise definitions of "land", or rather,
 through indiscriminate use of otherwise precise definitions.
 Whereas at law, "land" means immovable property ("real
 property"), the Campaign uses the word in its meaning in
 political economy (the whole of the material universe
 outside of man and his products). A landowner in economics
 is not necessarily the superior. Anyone with a beneficial
 interest in land (a holding which could be let or sold at
 profit) is to that extent a landholder. Popular usage more
 nearly corresponds to the Campaign's: people do not normally
 think of houses, factories and farm buildings as "land".
 To add to the potential for confusion, book keepers drawing
 up balance sheets regard land as capital, which in political
 economy it definitely is not.

2 The Land Value Taxation Campaign considers that the
 Consultation Document emphasises land use at the expense of
 attention to the fiscal aspects of land tenure which underlie
 considerations of use, mis-use, under-use and non-use.

3 We note that the terms of reference of the Land Reform
 Policy Group restrict it to the consideration of rural land.
 We would urge that this be extended to embrace all land in
 Scotland. There are several reasons for this. At the margins,
 for example, on urban fringes, no clear distinction can be
 drawn. There are also significant pockets of industrial
 development in areas that are predominantly rural - for
 example, those associated with the oil industry and whisky
 production. In terms of its value and the number of people
 affected, urban land is of far greater importance. Many of
 the problems which affect rural areas - misuse and under-use
 of land, for example - are equally to be found in cities, and
 policies which would act effectively in rural areas would apply
 also in cities with proportionally greater effect.

4 Land Value Tax at a substantial proportion of the annual
 rental value would induce the landowner to make optimum use
 of the site, as it would be necessary to earn the income from
 which the tax would be paid. Land would not be held out of
 use or under-used.

5 A substantial proportion of non-urban Scotland consists of
 marginal and sub-marginal land. One of the effects of Land
 Value Tax is that productive activity on marginal land is not
 taxed, because the land value tax assessment of marginal land
 is, by definition, nil. In the absence of existing taxes,
 large tracts of sub-marginal land would undoubtedly become
 capable of supporting productive economic activity, and the
 Campaign would therefore advocate the progressive replacement
 of existing taxes by Land Value Tax. Within the Scottish
 context, this would enable the Parliament to reduce national
 taxes by the maximum currently permissible amount, ie the aim
 should be to set the Scottish income tax rate at 3p less than
 the national rate.

6 Land Value Tax is peculiarly suitable for revenue-raising in
 Scotland, especially in comparison with alternatives such as
 supplementary income taxes. Scotland is characterised by a
 relatively small population and an extensive land area. The
 value of urban land is comparable to that in similar areas
 elsewhere in Britain, but the sheer extent of depopulated
 rural land of low value results in relatively high land value
 per head, having the potential to provide a buoyant and robust
 tax base. This is an important advantage over income tax because
 average incomes in Scotland are lower than the average for the UK.

7 Although the Campaign was established to promote the case for
 a national land-value tax, we would point out that, as is the
 case with all forms of property tax, LVT is suitable for all
 tiers of government and could be readily adapted to any multi-
 tiered structure, for example that resulting from Scottish

8 Land Value Tax is morally justified, being in accordance with
 the "benefit principle"; land values are created and sustained
 by the presence and activities of the community today - any
 arrangement made in previous centuries is of little relevance
 since land value rests on the assumption that public services
 and a state of civil order will be maintained today and for
 the foreseeable future. An example of the operation of this
 principle is that the tax would provide a clawback mechanism
 whereby increases in land value due to infrastructure
 improvements, subsidy, etc, were returned to the Exchequer,
 thereby providing a rolling fund for further improvements if

9 Retaining the principle of Crown as Paramount Superior creates
 an elegant constitutional situation if a system of Land Value
 Taxation is applied throughout Scotland, urban as well as rural,
 under a title such as "Crown Feu Duty". Until paid, this would be
 a first charge upon the land in priority over all other
 incumbrances whatsoever. Payment would be a condition of holding
 the land. The Crown in Parliament would be in possession of a
 source of revenue obtained without resort to taxation; with a
 feu duty close to 100% of the annual rental value of the land,
 it could well be that no other taxes would be required.


1 What specific examples are there of problems due to private
 ownership, and what would be suitable remedies?

 Land Value Taxation Campaign would argue that private ownership
 of land per se is not a problem; the problems arise due to the
 private appropriation of land rent.

 This has the following consequences.

 (a) Land is not necessarily kept at its optimum use consistent
 with the planning regulations

 (b) Land may be held out of use altogether, thereby depriving
 others of a productive opportunity.

 (c) Government is deprived of a potential source of revenue
 and therefore has to rely on other forms of taxation which are
 harmful to the economy. Much of non-urban Scotland consists of
 marginal and sub-marginal land. Where land is barely above the
 margin, taxation is likely to be critical to the viability of
 an economic enterprise - in other words, there will be situations
 where a business would be viable but for the imposition of the
 tax. Potentially viable land then becomes sub-marginal. In this
 regard, harmful taxes include not only income tax, and National
 Insurance, but also fuel tax and VAT, which increase the cost of
 business inputs and tip the balance into unprofitability. This is
 particularly so in the case of small businesses and in remote
 rural areas where transport costs are high.

 (d) Expenditure on infrastructure improvements, subsidies, etc
 are all ultimately capitalised into land values. As a consequence,
 a significant proportion of the income stream from new developments
 of this type is appropriated by landowners, and this makes
 infrastructure investment difficult to justify, since the investor
 sees much less than the full return and there is usually little
 direct return in the form of increased tax yields from landowners.

 Land Value Taxation (LVT) would help each of these

 (a) LVT at a substantial and rising proportion of the annual
 rental value would induce the landowner to make optimum use of
 the site in order to earn the income from which the tax would be
 paid. The cost of holding land out of use would be too great for
 landowners to indulge in this practice.

 (b) One of the effects of replacing existing taxes by LVT is to
 reduce or eliminate the burden of taxation on economic activity
 on marginal land, because the assessment of marginal land for LVT
 purposes is, by definition, nil.

 (c) In the absence of existing taxes, large tracts of sub-marginal
 land would undoubtedly become capable of supporting productive
 economic activity, and the Campaign would therefore advocate the
 progressive replacement of existing taxes by LVT.

 (d) LVT would provide a clawback mechanism whereby increases in
 land value due to infrastructure improvements, subsidy, etc, were
 returned to the Exchequer. This would provide a rolling fund for
 further improvements if desired.

2 Is there a strong enough case to justify pursuing a prohibition
 on corporate ownership?

 The Campaign does not see corporate ownership of land as a problem
 per se. If all land were to be rated on the assumption that it
 was in optimum use consistent with the planning regulations, the
 question need not arise.

3 Does it really matter whether the owner of land is foreign or a Scot?

 No. If land were to make a substantial contribution to public
 revenue on the assumption of best use, then neither the
 nationality nor the presence of the owner would matter from an
 economic point of view.

4 Does it really matter whether the owner is absent?

 No. What matters is that LVT is paid on the land holding.

5 Should public bodies reduce their holdings, and, if so, on what

 Under an LVT system, public bodies would automatically come under
 financial pressure to hold no more land than was necessary for
 their activities.

6 Should the Scottish Executive press for change to the remit of
 the Crown Estate Commission to strike a better balance between
 income generation and development?

 The principle should be best usage of all plots. LVT would
 encourage this.

7 How can landowning non-Governmental organisations best contribute
 to rural development?

 The Land Value Taxation Campaign has no view on this issue.

8 Are new powers needed to tackle problems faced by those
 considering community ownership?

 The Land Value Taxation Campaign has no view on this issue.

9 How do current tax policies affect the price of land, and thus
 the objectives of achieving, sustainable development in rural areas?

 Tax concessions granted when land is used for certain approved
 purposes are, like subsidies, capitalised into land prices.
 Existing tenants will benefit only in the short term.

 The right to use and develop land in any lawful way includes the
 right to shoot over it and preserve game for that purpose. Such
 rights should be included in LVT valuations and ought not to have
 been exempted from non-domestic rates (the UBR). Furthermore,
 differential rates of tax on property (land and buildings) in
 different classes of use tend to encourage one use rather than
 another. For example, within a particular taxation area, premises
 in business use are subject to a higher rate under the UBR than
 they would be if in residential use and liable to the Council Tax.
 Observations suggest that this is leading to a loss of employment
 opportunities as business premises are converted into residential

 The absence of a holding tax on land, based on current market
 rental value and kept up to date, (for example, LVT), means that
 land prices are not only the capitalisation of the annual rental
 value, but also include an element of hope value in the expectation
 of rises in the future, from infrastructural improvements, general
 economic growth, population movements, possible reallocation of the
 land to a higher use class, subsidies, tax concessions, interest
 rates and inflation. LVT would remove this speculative froth from
 land pricing.

 Land prices are also "sticky downwards" - they rise more easily
 than they fall in response to market pressures. At times when
 land prices are depressed, owners generally keep it off the
 market awaiting an upturn in the economy. Thus, land prices do
 not respond to supply and demand in the same way as manufactured
 goods. Because land fixed in quantity, is not transportable, and
 has no cost of production, increased demand does not call forth
 increased supply.

 Current taxes bear on wealth creation, on goods and services, on
 trade, on spending by consumers and on savings. Withholding and
 under-use of land incur no penalty other than rental income
 forgone. Would-be producers are forced to go to poorer, less
 productive sites, which in rural Scotland may well mean that
 the activity is not worthwhile.

 In summary, the present tax system distorts patterns of land use,
 takes from the wealth creators and is benevolent to indolent and
 uncaring landowners. This is harnessing the profit motive in

10 What are the barriers to acquiring small units of land in rural
 areas for housing and development?

 Owners tend to hold on to land unless there is a very good reason
 for selling. Land prices are higher than the current earning
 capacity of the land alone would justify. LVT would act as a
 fiscal disincentive to holding on to more land than necessary.

11 To what extent are existing compulsory purchase powers defective
 and in need of amendment or replacement?

 The Land Value Taxation Campaign has no view on this issue, except
 in so far as it considers that LVT, fully and properly implemented,
 would make such powers largely irrelevant.

12 Is there a case for saying that current arrangements do not allow
 time for the assessment of the public interest in major sales?
 How to define such major sales?

 The Land Value Taxation Campaign has no view on this issue.

13 To what extent is the 1991 Act inhibiting access for young
 would-be farmers; and could the existing system be adapted to
 create new types of tenancy and to encourage new agricultural

 The Land Value Taxation Campaign has no view on this issue.
 We merely comment, en passant, that tenants with secure
 possession probably acquire a beneficial interest in land with
 the passage of time, until the superior is able to command a
 higher payment from the feuar.

14 Could there be changes to current arrangements for resolving

 The Land Value Taxation Campaign has no view on this issue.

15 Should there be changes to make it easier for tenants and crofters
 to plant and harvest trees?

 The Land Value Taxation Campaign has no view on this issue.

16 Should there be changes to encourage tenant farmers to involve
 themselves fully in conservation of the natural and cultural

 The Land Value Taxation Campaign has no view on this issue.
 LVT would, however, be of value in assisting conservation, both
 in urban and in rural areas. This may be seen by considering how
 LVT would operate. The designation of Sites of Special Scientific
 Interest (SSSIs) and Ancient Monuments, such as prehistoric burial
 sites, and the operation of Tree Preservation Orders, restrict
 what can be done with the land, and therefore tend to depress
 land values. A system of LVT would automatically compensate for
 the economic disadvantages of having to protect particular trees,
 or wildlife habitats, or sites of archaeological importance.

17 Should steps be taken to encourage tenant farmers to develop the
 sporting interest of their holdings as part of broader land use

 The Land Value Taxation Campaign has no view on this issue. For
 LVT purposes, the value of sporting rights is included in the
 land value assessment.

18 Should greater encouragement be given to small scale mineral
 developments of all kinds as part of rural enterprises?

 The Land Value Taxation Campaign has no view on this issue as
 such, except to note that consent for mineral development
 represents an intensification of use and hence land used for
 this purpose would be subject to a higher assessment for LVT

19 How best to ensure that all crofts are actively occupied?

 LVT at a substantial rate would ensure that all land was at its
 optimum permitted use. Of course, if the croft were on
 sub-marginal land, it would be unrealistic to expect it to be
 actively occupied. No LVT would be levied in such circumstances.

20 Should decrofting be discouraged and land kept in crofting tenure
 wherever possible?

 The Land Value Taxation Campaign has no view on this issue
 - however, by ensuring proper use of higher quality land, LVT
 would permit crofters to move to more productive plots.

21 Could the creation of new crofts or smallholdings be worth
 considering for specified areas if it would help stem or reverse
 population loss in remote rural areas through the encouragement
 of self-sustaining economic activity?

 We would point out again what was stated in response to
 question 1; at or close to the margin, taxation has a crucial
 effect on the viability of any economic activity.  
 Self-sustaining economic activity dependent on public subsidy
 is a contradiction. If land is sub-marginal and generates no rent,
 it may be possible to argue for subsidy on the grounds of general
 and specific social policy. Once rent arises, however, LVT would
 recoup the marketable value of that land.

22 Should current right to buy legislation be amended and,
 if so, how?

 The Land Value Taxation Campaign has no view on this issue.

23 Would it make sense to look at ways to bring all other crofting
 communities into a single simplified procedure for acquiring
 community ownership?

 The Land Value Taxation Campaign has no view on this issue.

24 Is crofting administration part of the problem?

 The Land Value Taxation Campaign has no view on this issue.

25 Is part of the solution to focus and integrate existing grant
 and other schemes better to promote desirable land use?

 The Campaign has major reservations about grants and subsidies,
 since they are normally capitalised into higher land prices
 - also, the availability of such grants is reflected in rental
 levels and grants made to tenants are effectively a gift to the

26  How far can the Government continue to rely on a voluntary
 approach, supported by advice and information, as a way of
 achieving good management of land?

 The Land Value Taxation Campaign is not primarily concerned with
 land use and land management. Its objective is to restore to the
 community what the community as a whole creates and maintains,
 namely, land value. It is, however, the opinion of the Campaign
 that good land use and good management will inevitably follow
 from the need to generate a sustainable income stream from the
 occupation of land, so as to be able to pay the duty demanded now
 and in the future.

27 Could conditions on grants help?

 See response to 25 above

28 How best to discourage undesirable land use if the normal
 operation of market forces plus the present range of Government
 incentives and controls fail to deliver the desired outcome in
 terms of sustainable development?

 LVT at a substantial rate will ensure that land is kept in
 optimum use consistent with the planning regulations. If these
 are varied, land values will respond. Whether planning decisions
 are themselves good or not falls outside the self-imposed remit
 of the Land Value Taxation Campaign.

29 To what extent do the existing exemptions of agricultural and
 forestry related developments from planning control cause
 problems, and could changes to the land use planning system help?

 See response to 28 above.

30 Could new financial penalties for undesirable land use be justified?

 LVT at a substantial rate will ensure that land is kept in optimum
 use consistent with the planning regulations. Beyond that, it may
 be that fines are necessary, for example, to deter pollution.

31 Might there need to be a new power of compulsory purchase in the
 event of undesirable land use which cannot be tackled otherwise?

 The Land Value Taxation Campaign has no specific view on this
 issue, but see response to question 11 above.

32 Could a strengthening of public rights over the foreshore be

 Private owners having rights over the foreshore should, like
 all other landowners, pay their LVT.

33 Could the creation of significant new public rights in the name
 of the Crown be Justified and, if so, what would be achieved, and
 how would such a system be implemented?

 Retaining the Crown as Paramount Superior is an acceptable and
 desirable basis for land holding within an LVT system.
 Legislation on this point should include in its preamble a
 statement to the effect that the Crown holds the land on behalf
 of the entire nation. Subordinate holdings should be replaced by
 a system of Crown Feus - a national feu duty, or national land
 rent or national land value tax. This arrangement would, we
 believe, represent an ideal adaptation of ancient practice to
 modern conditions.

34 Is it worth £25m to speed up transfer of data to the new Register
 by the year 2000?

 Not per se. The Land Value Taxation Campaign considers 2003
 acceptable. Costs incurred to introduce a LVT system would be
 voted by Parliament. For our purposes, we have no use for a
 valuation of developments in and on the land, but only of the
 land itself. For LVT, only the location values of sites are

35 Is it worth £300m for a Register listing all land; or between
 £5-15m for a Register listing all holdings over 1,000 acres?

 The figure of £300 million seems high, representing almost
 £400 per title. The Campaign is against any exemptions where
 registration of land for LVT is concerned. Presumably, the
 figure of 800,000 titles outstanding includes some very
 valuable urban plots of under an acre. A cut-off of 1000 acres
 would be absurd in such circumstances.

 If, therefore, there is to be any cut-off, we would suggest that
 it is based on land value, not site area, as urban sites of a
 fraction of an acre are worth more than rural sites of several
 thousand acres. In any case, no clear distinction can ultimately
 be drawn between urban and rural land; most cities include
 extensive areas of "urban fringe" and there are important pockets
 of land of relatively high value in industrial use in rural areas.

 We reiterate opposition to exemptions. If, however, administrative
 needs are initially pressing, the Campaign suggests that any
 exemptions considered necessary be extended to sites with an
 annual land rental value of less than, say, £100. Small adjacent
 plots in single use or evident complementary use would be treated
 as one, to prevent spurious sub-division to escape LVT liability.

36 Could introducing a duty to disclose information on beneficial
 owners be justified, and how might enforcement be achieved?

 The land register, including the land value tax assessments,
 should be available to public inspection. This is essential for
 the proper operation of the LVT system, to ensure that valuations
 can be challenged and an effective system of appeals can operate.
 The superior under the Crown would be responsible for paying the
 LVT (national feu duty), but the Land Value Taxation Campaign has
 proposals for apportionment provisions in the legislation to cover
 the phasing-in period.

37 How much would publication of data on recipients of agricultural
 grants and subsidies (to the extent permitted under EU legislation)

 The Land Value Taxation Campaign has no view on this issue.




 Introduction of Land Value Taxation is the most important single
 change required to remove barriers and promote sustainable
 development. We do not claim that LVT alone will solve all the
 problems indicated, but predict that in the absence of LVT, many
 existing problems will undoubtedly continue and that new problems
 will emerge.

 For our view on LVT in relation to the foreshore and to the
 territorial sea bed, please see our response to question 32
 (part III above). The criticism that Crown Estates Commission
 rents represent resources withdrawn from the area concerned, is
 a profound misunderstanding if translated into what the future
 introduction of LVT in Scotland would mean. All the value of all
 land in Scotland is collected as annual rent (feu duty) for the
 Crown (Paramount Superior) on behalf of all Scots. Existing taxes
 are removed or abated. Scots share equally in the value of their
 land. The remote islander gives up the mite his land is worth, to
 share in the riches of Central Edinburgh.


 The taxation of "profit" distorts the price of land. This results
 in an artificial shortage of land relative to demand, and land
 price is increased on that account. More intensively capitalised
 production is encouraged, which tends to the disadvantage of labour

 Public subsidies, tax exemption (eg de-rating) and higher product
 prices guaranteed by intervention, all are all eventually reflected
 in land rents and land prices.


 A costly inspectorate is not required. LVT promotes optimum use of
 land and acts to this end without further intervention.


 This analysis of feudalism is highly relevant to our case. The
 theory that "all land was ultimately owned by the sovereign" is
 based on the doctrine that land, because it was not created by any
 man, is not morally the property of any human being but is vested
 in the Sovereign as representative of God and of the community at

 Another way of looking at the matter is to consider that the
 Sovereign had special duties towards his subjects, such as the
 preservation of civil order, defence from foreign enemies, etc,
 which could only be discharged if he received services or their
 equivalent from his subjects, and that this revenue should be
 related to the benefit they received in the way of specially
 prescribed rights over particular parcels of land.

 The analysis notes the development of subinfeudation, on which
 existing feu duties are based. This practice seems to derive from
 the responsibility of tenants in capite to perform duties towards
 their feudal inferiors corresponding to those which the Sovereign
 performed towards them, notably, protection against outside enemies.

 In the Highlands, the traditional function of a clan chief was
 comparable to that of tenants in capite, but was, if anything,
 related to a sense of quasi-parental responsibility towards his
 clansmen. There is a remarkable exchange of documents between the
 Prime Minister, W E Gladstone and Sir William Harcourt in January
 1885 (CAB 37/14/7, Public Record Office), which describes the way
 in which Highland proprietors discovered and exploited their legal
 rights as landowners and forsook their traditional responsibilities,
 with disastrous consequences for their clansmen, and ultimately for
 themselves also.


 Retaining the Crown as Paramount Superior is a desirable basis
 for land holding, in that it implies that the Crown "owns" the
 land on behalf of the entire nation. Holdings, as such, continue;
 they are no longer, in effect, what in England are known as title
 absolute (formerly fee simple). The feu, now national, simply
 becomes an obligation to pay the Land Value Tax. This arrangement
 would, we believe, represent an ideal adaptation of ancient practice
 to modern conditions.




A1.1 LVT is a tax on the annual rental value of land. The valuation
 is the current annual market rental value of the land alone,
 disregarding buildings and other improvements.

A1.2 Each unit of land is assessed at its unimproved site value, with
 all surrounding land taken as being in its existing condition.

A1.3 All land, including vacant and agricultural land is subject to
 the tax, and the valuation is on the basis of optimum use within
 whatever permissions and constraints apply.

A1.4 In practice, LVT would operate in much the same way as the present
 national non-domestic rate, with the difference that no land would
 be exempt and buildings and other improvements would in effect be


 The following definition of land value is that given in
 Section 3 of London Rating (Site Values) Bill, 1939.1

 The annual site value of a land unit shall be the annual rent
 which the land comprising the land unit might be expected to
 realise if demised with vacant possession at the valuation date
 in the open market by a willing lessor upon a perpetually
 renewable tenure upon the assumptions that at that date -

 (a) there were not upon or in that land unit -

     (i) any buildings erections or works except roads; and

     (ii) anything growing except grass heather gorse sedge or
     other natural growth;

 (b)  the annual rent had been computed without taking into
  account the value of any tillages or manures or any
  improvements for which any sum would by law or custom
  be payable to an outgoing tenant of a holding;

 (c) the land unit were free from any incumbrances except
  such of the following incumbrances as would be binding
  upon a purchaser -

     easements; rights of common; customary rights; public
     rights; liability to repair highways by reason of tenure;
     liability to repair the chancel of any church; liability
     in respect of the repair or maintenance of embankments or
     sea or river walls; liability to pay any drainage rate under
     any statute; restrictions upon user which have become
     operative imposed by or in pursuance of any Act or by any
     agreement not being a lease.

     "works" does not include any works of excavation or filling
     done for the purpose of bringing the configuration of the
     soil to its actual configuration;

     "road" does not include any road which the occupier alone of
     the land concerned is entitled to use.


 The following definition of annual rental value is taken from
 "Nature's Budget" by James Dundas White (Allen and Unwin, 1936,
 page 86). White was a barrister, and a MP for twelve years.

 The "annual rental value" of any portion of land in Scotland
 might be defined as the best annual feu duty that could reasonably
 be obtained for that land if it were feued with vacant possession
 by a willing superior at the time of valuation, assuming that any
 buildings or other improvements on it were non-existent or
 exhausted, that it is free from all incumbrances except those
 mentioned later2, that the feuar would have unrestricted right
 to use and develop it in any lawful way, and that the National
 Land-Rent3 for it would be payable by the superior and not by the

1. The full text of the Bill is on this web-site - see index page
- or copies are obtainable on request from the Campaign, which distributes
it following consultation with Messrs. Dyson, Bell & Co., and Mr J. Hastings,
Clerk of the Journals, House of Commons, confirming that there was no
objection to distribution.

2. The list is not dissimilar to that shown at (c) under A above, but White
noted that liabilities of an occasional character whose amounts cannot
be ascertained beforehand, were extinguished in Scotland by compulsory
redemption under the Feudal Casualties (Scotland) Act, 1914.

3. White chose National Land-Rent as his term for the Land Value Tax. The
Land Value Taxation Campaign suggests Crown Feus as another option.



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