Scottish land reform must focus on how land is utilised rather than who holds ownership, rural chiefs said as they submitted their views on the Scottish Government’s draft Land Reform Bill.
Reacting to the Bill which was introduced in late June, NFU Scotland and the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA) reiterated the importance of ensuring agricultural production and producers were considered carefully when bringing in any legislative changes.
NFUS president Allan Bowie said: “Good and prudent land managers – whether they own or rent their land – must be supported by the provisions which emerge in this bill. That means an understanding of the practicalities and implications for land management and farming must be at the forefront of policy discussions and decisions.”
Mr Bowie called for the bill to be renamed the Land Reform and Agricultural Holdings Bill to acknowledge this.
“Agricultural holdings will now form a key part of this bill and it is important the huge volume of work and effort already put in to creating a more vibrant, tenanted land sector are reflected in the actual title of the legislation,” he added.
NFUS is also calling for a fresh look at waygo – the compensation a tenant receives at the end of their tenancy for any improvements made to the farm.
STFA said it was pleased substantial changes which it had lobbied for had been worked into the legislation, including a tenant farming commissioner, a fairer rent system, ’proper recognition’ of tenants’ improvements and enhanced succession rights.
However, STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson agreed with NFUS there were some ‘gaps’ in the Bill, such as measures to encourage retirement by ensuring fairer end of tenancy compensation and the creation of assignation opportunities to allow new entrants and others climbing the farming ladder access to secure tenure.