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DAVID Cameron's uppercrust father-in-law has compared Nicola Sturgeon with dictator Robert Mugabe.

The 4th Viscount Astor - who owns the 20,000-acre Tarbert estate on Jura - said her plans for reforming the ownership of land were a Mugabe-style land grab.

The leader of Zimbabwe snatched farms off white farmers during a period of economic chaos.

Astor, a heriditary peer in the House of Lords, regularly has Cameron to his estate for hunting holidays.

He is the step-father of the Tory PM's wife Samantha.

In a magazine article, former Conservative minister Astor bleated that the SNP will make big landowners feel like foreigners in their own land.

He wrote: "Are we estate owners now to be nationalised or made to feel so unwelcome that we have to sell up in a Mugabe-style land grab? "It would be a pity but we are accused of owning too much."

Sturgeon's spokesman described Astor's claim as "preposterous".

And Green party leader Patrick Harvie said: "It's a good sign when the prospect of a fairer, locally controlled system of land ownership so clearly touches the nerves of a viscount who hoards 20,000 acres of Scotland by way of a company registered in the Bahamas.

"Our land should be used to support a more equal society in which everyone prospers, not just a lucky few at the top.

"People across rural Scotland have long struggled for control of their own lives and I can't imagine anyone has any sympathy for out-of-touch landed gentry desperate to preserve their padded status."

The SNP government want to build on the Land Reform Act with a commitment to put a million acres of land into public ownership by 2020.

Landowners could be forced to sell if the Scottish Government thinks their ownership is a barrier to local development. The SNP are also scrapping Tory tax breaks for shooting and deer-stalking.

Land reform supporters living near Jura claimed development is being held back in general.

Robin Currie, an Argyll councillor whose ward covers the island, said: "I have been involved in a project on just about 34 acres on Islay.

"It was just amazing what we managed to do. We got a PS1million community centre, campsite, created a new football pitch and play area. Some of the land was given over to a housing association to build for rent, and we created two crofts that young families got.

"On Jura, there's a community that already owns a shop and the petrol station."

Tony Rozga, who farms with his dad on Islay, said: "Saying the First Minister is like Mugabe is daft and disrespectful. It shows how out of touch he is.

"We write letters, speak to MSPs, take part in land reform forums - it's peaceful. We just want to be able to buy the land. We're only asking for a chance."

Rozga, 40, said the reform proposals are widely supported, particularly in islands where depopulation is a big problem.

He said: "The lairds are getting twitchy.

"The big issue here is housing. People with these massive estates that own half of Islay or Jura don't care about these things.

"And if you're a tenant farmer with no opportunity to buy, how can you improve and diversify? "There's so much more that we could do on land like this - fishing, renewable energy, wildlife tourism."

Opponents of land reform say the SNP just want to centralise more power in Edinburgh.

Scottish Tories enterprise spokesman Murdo Fraser said: "The SNP's land reform plans are nothing more than state control through the back door.

"The SNP approach is driven by ideology, not evidence, and typifies a central belt Government who don't understand the issues of rural Scotland."


PRIVILEGE Cameron feeds horse on family holiday at his in-laws' estate. Right, dictator Robert Mugabe forced out farmers

SNOOTY Astor owns 20,000 acres on Jura
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 23, 2015
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