Union Outlines Compulsory Purchase Concerns in Forestry and Land Management Bill

NFU Scotland believes that provisions for compulsory purchase in the Forestry and Land Management Bill run the risk of undermining relationships between the farming and forestry sectors.

Giving evidence on the Bill to the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee today (6 September), the Union said responsible growth and management of the forestry sector and proposals to fully devolve Forestry Commission Scotland posed little or no threat to farming and crofting. 

However, the Union raised serious concerns regarding Part 3 of the Bill which will allow Ministers to compulsory purchase land to “further the achievement of sustainable development”. 

In its written evidence to the committee, the Union highlighted that many NFUS members who have had land acquired by compulsory purchase as part of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route project had reported issues with compensation payments and the behaviour of contractors.  Several NFUS members have also reported problems with the District Valuer handling their case. These include bad experiences in negotiations over value for land taken, a lack of constructive dialogue, and extremely slow processing of queries.

NFUS is sceptical that two of the fundamental principles of valuations for compulsory purchase – that the seller and purchaser are both ‘willing’ and that the seller is ‘no better or worse off’ – are being consistently and rigorously applied.

Commenting after giving evidence to the REC committee, the Union’s Deputy Director of Policy Andrew Bauer said: “The Scottish Law Commission (SLC) recently concluded that Scottish compulsory purchase legislation is not fit for purpose, and we would agree with that.

“We also have concerns that while the principle of ‘sustainable development’ is a widely accepted term, it merits clarity and guidance on its application, not just in this Bill but in other pieces of legislation.  

“The Law Society of Scotland (LSS) has expressed legal uncertainty over the term ‘sustainable development’.  Given the fluidity around the definition and application of the term, NFUS is justifiably concerned about a proposed expansion of existing compulsory purchase powers to include its application to “furthering the achievement of sustainable development”.

“Compulsory purchase powers are already an option to overcome ‘ransom strips’ to allow forestry to be managed and harvested. NFUS believes that the major expansion proposed in the Bill could potentially see them applied in a much wider range of circumstances – perhaps to allow renewable energy and tourism developments and to facilitate community ownership of land.

“At a previous REC evidence session in June, the Scottish Government’s Forestry and Land Management Bill Team could provide no further clarity as to how compulsory purchase “to further the achievement of sustainable development” would be used.

“By proposing to extend the already outdated compulsory purchase powers to further delivery of such a malleable concept, NFUS is concerned that the problems highlighted by the SLC and LSS will be compounded rather than remedied.

“However positive the intentions behind the proposal, the severe shortcomings of the compulsory purchase process and ‘blank cheque’ that “furthering the achievement of sustainable development” represents, means that NFU Scotland is opposed to the proposed expansion in these powers.”  Ends 

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006.

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 127/17

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