Six years after stumbling across Andy Wightman’s website – www.whoownsscotland.org.uk – the source of inspiration for The Great Scottish Land Grab, I finally had to opportunity to listen to and meet the man last week. (CI023A)
Andy Wightman was speaking at a Common Weal event (CI023B) in the Area C Cafe House in Leith, Edinburgh (CI023C) on his Mastermind topic of Land Reform. (Highly recommend the food at Area C but don’t trust Google Maps to navigate you there - I ended up in the wrong place!)
Among many fascinating facts Andy related that evening was that 100 years ago we knew who owned every plot of land in Britain, a situation that seems almost unimaginable now with the current opaque nature of land ownership.
We only knew who owned all the land in Britain because Lloyd George, the then chancellor of the exchequer, commissioned the 1910 Land Valuation Survey. The intention: “evaluate what tax people owed the government for the rise in value of their land.” (CI023D)
The BBC’s history of Lloyd George notes that his 1909 budget was referred to as: “the 'people's budget' since it provided for social insurance that was to be partly financed by land and income taxes.” (CI023E)
It seems incredible now that Lloyd George then was trying to bring about greater equality in the UK by introducing a progressive tax on land ownership. Mildly depressing, if not unexpected, that he met with opposition from wealthy land owners and the tax was repealed “by the 1920 Finance Act.” (CI023F)
Some of the 1910 Land Valuation Survey has been lost due to the numerous boundary changes that have taken place since. Some lost as a result of bombing during the second world war. Some however is available for viewing online! (CI023G)
It’s not surprising that if the government puts it’s determination behind such a project it can be achieved. However, successive governments have failed their people by allowing the land ownership records to become out of date.
Andy Wightman determined years ago that he would do something to rectify the situation of opaque land ownership and set up his website www.whoownsscotland.org.uk to act as a searchable repository of land ownership in Scotland. At the time of writing this post he has documented 1,947 landholdings covering 9,826,891 acres across Scotland - just over half Scotland's land area!
If one man can achieve this then imagine what we could do with a million people!
Who owns our land is important and if our ancestors could fully document every holding one hundred years ago, long before the first computer or GPS then surely we are more than capable of doing the same today.
I’ve proposed we can implement full employment in the UK to fix the economy. Would it be a crazy idea to employ people to produce a Twenty First Century Domesday book, documenting the current state of our land?
Do post your own crazy ideas or feedback on mine in the comments below and sign up to my mailing list below to be notified of future posts.
Why should my crazy ideas have any relevance to the economy? I'm the author of The Great Scottish Land Grab, a novel that imagines a fairer future for Scotland where the poor are empowered to change their destiny. I'm director of my own limited company: Goal 31 Ltd and I've over seven years experience working for government and financial organisations. Also, just like you, I'm a taxpayer and for some crazy reason I think that entitles us to have an opinion and for that opinion to be acted on by the government.
As I wrote at the start, I am making my 100 crazy ideas freely available. It seems unjust to propose ideas to fix the economy and then prevent people from freely reading those ideas. 100 Crazy Ideas to Fix the Economy will be published once the craziness is complete.
I can be found on Twitter: @my100goals or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/my100goals. There's a short bio here.
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(CI023A; Who Owns Scotland; www.whoownsscotland.org.uk)
(CI023B; Common Weal; http://www.allofusfirst.org/)
(CI023C; Area C Cafe House; https://www.facebook.com/AreaCCoffeehouse)
(CI023D; herefordshire.gov.uk; https://www.herefordshire.gov.uk/media/1272885/Information_Sheet_Finance_Act_1910.pdf)
(CI023E; BBC; http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/george_david_lloyd.shtml)
(CI023F; National Archives; http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/research-guides/valuation-office-records.htm)
(CI023G; Ancestry; http://blogs.ancestry.com/uk/2010/03/25/1910-land-valuation-survey-now-available-for-keying-in-awap/)