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Scottish plans to increase community owned land must not undermine agriculture

NFU Scotland chiefs believe the plans pose a real threat to agriculture.


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The Scottish Government is encouraging community groups to take over land
The Scottish Government is encouraging community groups to take over land

Farmers are ’right to be anxious’ about Scottish Government plans to put one million acres of land into community ownership, industry chiefs have said.

 

As previously reported by Farmers Guardian, farmers fear their businesses and livelihoods could be threatened if the plans put forward by the one million acre short life working group come to fruition.

 

The legislative changes will have implications for all farmers – owner occupiers, tenants and estates – and could affect farm businesses regardless of whether they farm one acre or 1,000 acres, NFU Scotland said.

 

NFUS chief executive Scott Walker said the lack of detail around the proposals meant farmers were ‘understandably’ worried.

 

“Farmers are told time and time again that they are not the target of land reform but when you read the Land Reform bill it affects every part of Scotland,” said Mr Walker.

 

He highlighted the vagueness surrounding the criteria of how a community is defined and in what circumstances the right to buy would be granted.

 

“They have not set the bar as to if it is in the community’s interest,” he added.

 

“We want the bar higher, they want the bar lower, but the problem is, we don’t know where the bar is set in the first place.

 

“Every farmer in Scotland should be concerned about this.”

 

The Scottish Government wants to encourage communities to buy land to promote greater diversity in ownership.

 

However, NFUS said the plans posed a real threat to Scottish agriculture.

 

Mr Walker said:“This is about food production and we need to do something to protect food production in Scotland.

 

“We will make sure the Scottish Government hears our voice. It [community ownership] needs to be justified. It is not who owns the land, but how it is used.”

 

The union’s vice president, Dumfriesshire farmer Andrew McCornick, agreed more clarity was needed.

 

He added: “We are quite anxious about this. What is this land going to be used for?”

 

Scottish Government’s vision for land reform

  • Encourage and support responsible and diverse land ownership
  • Increase transparency of land ownership in Scotland
  • Help ensure communities have a say in how land in their area is used
  • Address issues of fairness, equality and social justice connected to the ownership of, access to and use of land in Scotland
  • Help to underpin a thriving tenant farming sector in Scotland

Scotland’s Land Reform Bill is expected to receive royal assent before the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May.

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