Regional Land Use Partnerships – Chairman’s Blog – 28 July 2020

If proposed Regional Land Use Partnerships are to be truly inclusive, then we must ensure that the interests of farmers and crofters are at their core writes Lanarkshire farmer Tom French.

The Scottish Land Commission’s recent interim report on Regional Land Use Partnerships (RLUPs) has been met with a great deal of interest by the NFU Scotland’s Legal and Technical Committee, which I chair.

There can be no question that, if progressed correctly, RLUPs represent a significant opportunity for farmers.  As land reform has progressed as a Scottish Government aspiration, it has become clear that the public feel more and more that they should have a say in what goes on in their surroundings.

My view is that a more aware and engaged public could be a very positive thing for farmers and farming as we often voice our frustration over the apparent disconnect between consumers and where food comes from.  Perhaps this discussion represents a new avenue to work towards really addressing this?

In terms of the functions of any new Partnerships, it seems clear that governance structures have a key role in their success. It is vitally important for rural Scotland that agriculture, as the primary land use, has direct representation on each Partnership. Only then can farmers and crofters be assured that the practicalities of the business of food production will be given due regard in strategic discussion and decision making about optimal land use.

Community empowerment and community land ownership have been pushed increasingly higher up the agenda of Scottish Government in recent times. There are many examples of where local communities have secured local assets and made a great job of turning these into facilities which are of real benefit to the local area. Many farmers and crofters are very ingrained in their local community and this should not be forgotten in the context of these new Partnerships.

I have read with interest the segment of the report devoted to funding. Farmers and crofters, particularly in remote areas, are working with increasingly low margins. I welcome any mechanism which will encourage forward thinking and allow our farming entrepreneurs to thrive, undoubtedly delivering huge benefits for rural Scotland.

I do have some concerns over how local interests and aspirations will be balanced with national objectives, particularly when it comes to matching up those local aspirations with the physical capability of the land and the needs of those who depend on that land to earn their livelihood.

Clarity is also needed over how much proposed Partnerships are likely to cost and assurances needed regarding where the Scottish Government is likely to allocate this finance from. I am sure I will not be alone in feeling concern over the potential impact on increasingly stretched rural funding streams.

Farming does not operate in isolation; it is a multifaceted industry which is the axis of rural Scotland and which plays a vital role in so many key rural issues.

I welcome further discussions in relation to RLUPs and recognise that NFUS has a key role to play to ensure that farmers and crofters can truly embrace the opportunity represented by these Partnerships.

  • NFU Scotland is currently consulting on the development of Regional Land Use Partnerships.  It calls on members to engage with the development of these partnerships to ensure that the interests of practical farmers and crofters are at the forefront of representations made by NFUS. Members can respond online here:

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