POLITICS

David Cameron's Estate Owning Father-In-Law Fears SNP 'Mugabe-Style Land Grab' In Rural Scotland

21/05/2015 12:30 BST | Updated 21/05/2015 12:59 BST

David Cameron’s father-in-law has voiced fears of a Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP)Mugabe-style land grab”.

Writing in The Spectator, Lord William Astor, who owns a 20,000 acre estate on the Hebridean island of Jura, described how his American-born grandparents settled on the island 100 years ago.

After being regarded with suspicion by the locals, Astor writes they became well-liked contributors within the community.

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Lord William Astor (pictured here with wife Annabel and son-in-law David Cameron)

But the 4th Viscount Astor, who is Samantha Cameron’s stepfather, writes “families like us worry that we will find ourselves regarded as foreigners again in our own country”, following the SNP victory.

Referring to the SNP manifesto which promises ‘to ensure Scotland’s land reform debate focuses on how Scotland’s land can be best managed in the public interest to ensure it is of benefit to all of the people of Scotland,’ Astor asks: “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?”

nicola sturgeon

Lord Astor has likened SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon's proposed land reforms to that of a 'Mugabe-style land grab'

robert mugabe

He adds: “It would be a pity but we are being accused of owning too much…. The worry is that it will not actually be for the benefit of the local community but will hand power straight to the bureaucracy in Edinburgh. Under the SNP, governance has already been centralised there. ‘Benefit to all’ must mean all, not just special interest groups.”

Robert Mugabe’s government supervised land reforms, which saw white-owned farms seized ostensibly to redress the unjust division of land between whites and blacks that is a legacy of colonialism and white minority rule.

In January David Johnstone, the chairman of Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) told the Telegraph the SNP land reforms risked a hugely damaging impact on the country's rural economy.

Nicola Sturgeon launches SNP election manifesto

Citing Sturgeon’s assertion only 432 owners hold half the private land in Scotland, [a figure he conceded as ‘largely’ accurate], Johnstone insisted: “Everybody holds up Scotland as being staggering beautiful and it is staggeringly beautiful. We can’t be doing a bad job.”

Indeed Astor writes: “West coast Scottish estates require constant investment, but the beauty and ambiance of the place, the people and its culture have always made it worthwhile.”

Astor also asks if the perceived SNP attack on estate owners is “because we don’t sound Scottish?”

He adds: “We should not all have to sound like Rob Roy. If the SNP wants us all to speak with a certain type of Scottish accent, what does that say to the many hundreds of thousands in the immigrant community who have lived in Scotland for a long time but still speak with the accent of their birth. Are they not Scottish?”

Sturgeon is not the first politician to be compared to the despotic Zimbabwean leader for her land reform proposals.

In 2013 London Mayor Boris Johnson accused then Labour leader Ed Miliband’s warning to property developers failing to build on their land to “use it or lost it” as a threat of “Mugabe-style expropriations”.

Coincidentally, Johnson himself had suggested a similar move himself the previous year in which he threatened to use compulsory purchase orders to seize control of any unused land.