Scottish Land & Estates, which represents landowners across Scotland, said today Scotland needs to embrace, as a matter of urgency, a shared vision for farming that will inspire the next generation of farmers.
Luke Borwick, Chairman of Scottish Land & Estates said:
“Our vision for farming is one that is surely shared by government and the entire farming industry.
“We all need to buy into the big picture where food security, environmental protection and enhancement are of paramount importance and where landowners and farmers are playing a leading role in their communities.
“Landowners are more than willing to play their part in making that vision a reality – where Scottish agriculture goes from strength to strength and the farming and tenant farming sectors are dynamic and progressive.
“Landowners are often heavily involved as farmers themselves as well as people who let land. Day-in, day-out our members find on farms there is a real collective will to look to the future.”
Scottish Land & Estates say the future prospects for farming will be greatly improved by:-
•Developing a more market-oriented farming framework
•Increasing entrepreneurialism and innovation
•Greater flexibility in the farming system
To help meet these objectives, Scottish Land & Estates would like to see:
•Greater freedom of contract in the let farming sector to encourage new entrants
•Development of flexible letting vehicles that will encourage churn and opportunity within the let sector
Luke Borwick said:
“At a recent NFU Scotland conference on land tenure, the message from younger farmers was clear – give us more flexibility in farming arrangements and we will find a way, which is a view echoed by landlords. That enthusiasm and ambition should be encouraged and developed. Instead, the industry keeps being dragged back into arguments about rigid tenancy arrangements relating to existing tenants and that is not the best way forward.
“Flexibility and opportunities for freedom of contract are much more likely to deliver for young farmers and encourage the next generation of new entrants while also serving the needs of existing farms desperate to expand.
"Farmers now and in future will face a new set of challenges and expectations. Land needs to be a flexible commodity that reflects the requirements of a more dynamic industry. Releasing let land using 21st century mechanisms will revitalise confidence in the young, enthuse those struggling to grow, motivate the old to retire and persuade more who own land to commit to the let sector.
“Our members can deliver real and positive change for farming. We will set out this vision to the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs soon and we hope that the Scottish Government and other industry bodies will take the chance to move forward in unison and deal with the farming challenges of tomorrow.
"We believe there is an exaggerated sense of the difficulties within the let farming sector. The cross-industry Tenant Farming Forum is the right forum to deal with operational improvements and there is a lot of work on these underway at TFF. This will greatly help to resolve any problems arising under existing tenancies."
Scottish Land & Estates will continue promoting the possibility of a more business-oriented tenancy. This would be a flexible arrangement available to parties where land and/or buildings are let for a trade or business. It would differ from the existing letting vehicles in that it would provide for potentially multiple partnerships to be formed which could provide a range of outcomes, which might include farming but could also address other objectives, for example health, energy, education or landscape management or conservation.
By taking a more flexible approach, let land will become an even more valuable component of the industry, fuelling growth and new talent. This diversity will demand a flexible letting platform that sits comfortably next to any other commercial lease; attractive to funders, less expensive to create and manage, more capable of providing for change and growth.
Mr Borwick said: “The current debate around land tenure and agricultural holdings is failing Scottish farming. It is sterile, politically-driven and doing nothing to generate confidence in the let-farming sector nor helping create the environment where a new generation of farmers will flourish. That’s not just our view but the message our members get from farmers all the time.”
“NFU Scotland recognises the need for flexibility and they also talk about the need for collaborative dialogue. We completely agree with that and the work our organisations do should be mutually supportive for the benefit of farming. The future focus has to be on creating vibrancy in the let sector that can only be delivered by decreasing regulation rather than piling on even more. Estates, farmers and new entrants are keen to get started we just need the freedom to kick start the process.”