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LONDON-Mohammed Al Fayed, owner of the landmark department store Harrods, has threatened to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights if controversial agricultural land reform is passed by the Scottish Parliament.

Fayed bought the 65,000-acre Balnagown estate on the shores of the Cromarty Firth in 1972 but new legislation going through parliament could wipe up to 40% off the value of his land. The legislation is intended to put an end to large and mainly historic estates by allowing 2000 tenant farmers, known as crofters, in Scotland to buy their farms whether or not the landowner wants to sell. The price would be at a 40% discount to the open market price because the land will have a sitting tenant on it. But once the tenant buys the land, it would be held in vacant possession and this, valuation experts estimate, would immediately double the value of it.

The option is only available for tenancies which can be passed on down through generations but amendments at the committee stage of the Bill would mean right to buy could be triggered by a passing down of property from father to son where either party wanted to realise some capital or by a divorce settlement. Potentially these amendments could affect 70% of all property transactions in rural areas.

Al Fayed said: “I will take the Scottish Executive to the European Court of Rights if I have to. They can’t do this. It’s totally unjust.”

The Bill has been tagged “communist” by Jamie McGrigor, a Conservative Member of the Scottish Parliament. He said: “This bill has communist tendencies. I’m afraid I do think it’s like Zimbabwe.”

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