LANDOWNER links to human rights abuses, trade union-busting, unregulated fracking and land grabs are exposed in a new interactive map of Scotland.
Released yesterday by campaign group Global Justice Now, the online map pinpoints areas owned by “a handful of super-rich entities from around the world” said to be linked to controversial cases in several countries.
This includes Majid Jaffar, chief executive of Crescent Petroleum, which allegedly made much of its money through “close association” with Saddam Hussein, going on to become a major investor in post-war Iraq.
Jaffar owns the 12,000 acre Pitmain estate near Kingussie and gave financial support to a campaign to stop the construction of a windfarmnear the property over concerns about the impact on grouse shooting there.
It also includes the Vestey family, who own the Assynt estate in south west Sutherland and were involved in a lengthy battle over land rights with the indigenous Gurindji people of Australia.
The controversy started with protests after it emerged that Aboriginal workers were paid a quarter of that given to white workers, laterdeveloping into a struggle over the ownership of traditional lands and leading to the Aboriginal Rights Act.
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan government seized 3,000 hectares of Vestey land in 2005 to allow the free movement of indigenous people following reports that 200 Yaruro people had been fenced in and prevented from leaving without permission.
The billionaire De Spoelberch family, owners of the 22,000 acre Altnafeadh estate, are also included. The family are controlling shareholders of AB Inbev, the world’s largest brewery chain, which dismissed hundreds of workers in Mexico for forming an independent trade union and has been accused of causing the deaths of Brazilian staff due to health and safety failings.
Meanwhile, Scotland-registered Lovat Investments, which owns the 7,000 acre Lovat estate near Beauly, is listed over a financial stake in “African fracking firm” Kalahari Energy.
The company worked on coal bed methane extraction in Botswana on areas close to land important for nature conservation, including the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, using techniques said by campaigners to pose environmental and health risks.
The map comes days after Global Justice Now issued the list of landowners as part of this year’s Our Land campaign coalition, as revealed in the Sunday Herald.
All estate owners mentioned were contacted by journalists, but none replied.
Liz Murray, head of Scottish campaigns for Global Justice Now, said: “Our research exposes some of the super-rich, global capitalists who have bought into the outdated and undemocratic land ownership system here in Scotland with vast tracts of land.
“We’ve also unearthed some unsavoury connections between those land owners and scandals of worker exploitation, human rightsabuses and disregard for the environment around the world.
“The Scottish government must go further on land reform and fundamentally change Scotland’s absurdly outdated feudal system of land ownership which includes super-rich land barons like these.”
Our Land is this year calling for better transparency of land ownership, tax changes, and moves to ensure land is used productively.
However, the umbrella body Scottish Land and Estates said its members “deliver a wide range of economic, environmental and social benefits and continue to invest in some of Scotland’s most fragile areas”.SOURCE