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AVAILABILITY AND OPPORTUNITY TO FARM LAND KEY TO LAND TENURE DEBATE

Building on the ideas generated at its land tenure in 2020 seminar, NFU Scotland’s President Nigel Miller has written to Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead highlighting the need to move beyond the headlines of dispute in the tenanted sector.

Proposed solutions include a more affordable, fast-track dispute resolution system within the secure tenanted sector, and the development of attractive, medium and long-term vehicles of land tenure - including share farming - to ensure new and developing businesses can gain a foothold in farming.

NFU Scotland’s President, Nigel Miller said:

“As industry and political debate around land tenure grows, we must not lose sight of the most important thing, which is that land is available to farm. Agricultural tenancy issues are frequently in the headlines because of high-profile Court disputes, tensions over a lack of investment in some holdings and a developing culture of short-termism, which is creating a barrier for new and developing businesses.

“In spring 2012, NFUS set out a roadmap identifying what needs to be achieved in order to address many of these issues. We have been frustrated by the slow speed of progress, but the TFF will shortly launch a new dispute resolution process as an alternative to the Land Court in time for November rent reviews.

“The TFF must complete this and other priority tasks, which include creating a best practice guide for rent reviews, providing explanatory letters and notes for use in rent review notifications, as well as templates for record of condition. These tools will remove friction from the operating environment if rigorously applied.

“NFU Scotland’s recent seminar to discuss a vision for land tenure in 2020 opened up a wide-ranging debate on what the future vision of the secure tenanted sector might embrace. Proposed changes included updating standards of compensation at waygo; accepting standards of fixed equipment are based on present-day needs rather than those at the start of the tenancy; and developing the option for tenants without family succession to assign the tenancy for value in the form of a fixed term tenancy on the basis that the landowner interests were safeguarded by a pre-emptive right to buy.

This final initiative has the potential to provide tenants a route to retirement with a value from their tenancy, while maintaining a significant land-bank for new long-term tenants with an incentive to invest in their farm.

“The debate also focused on creating opportunities and long-term arrangements for a new generation of farm businesses, share-farming, and developing new models of LDT to incentivise long-term arrangements. It was recognised that for real progress, incentives and regulatory standards must ensure best practice is adopted as part of Scotland’s future land tenure arrangements: both self-regulation and legislative change will have a role in delivering that.

“The discussions held that day were a helpful step in identifying scope for flexibility, structures and initiatives that might create new opportunities for letting land and be of real benefit to tenants, land owners and, importantly, the rural economy at large. These discussions should inform the Scottish Government’s own review of agricultural holdings legislation as well as the Land Reform Review Group’s investigations.

“This is an ongoing process. NFU Scotland will develop these points and the outcomes of its 2020 seminar and introduce them for scrutiny at another seminar in October 2013.”

Date Published:

News Article No.: 93/13


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