Article By David Fyffe , owner of Fetternear Estate and a member of Scottish Land & Estates
Given all the interests involved, when the review panel set up by the Rural Affairs Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead to look at agricultural holdings legislation gets down to business and seeks to navigate their way through a host of complex issues, it will require cool heads and sound judgement from all involved to produce the correct blueprint for the way forward.
One of the issues that will inevitably be dealt with is the relationship between landlords and tenants. I believe, as many landlords and tenants do, that most of us get along well but it would be wrong to suggest there have not been some issues.
One pinch point that is often raised is the role that land agents play. While land agents have recently come under pressure from some parties, I would suggest their role is one that is often misunderstood and underappreciated.
Most landowners will have used the services of land agents at one point or another, as do some tenants.
On some estates, the land agent is effectively the person charged with running the estate whilst often being its public face, most notably to tenant farmers.
On other holdings, land agents will be liaising face-to-face on an almost daily basis with an estate owner whose family has owned a property for generations and will be working hard to ensure every last penny is accounted for and put back into the estate to ensure that it, and the local community that the estate sits at the heart of, can thrive for future generations.
At the heart of both of these examples is, above all else, the need for good communication, and this isn’t always easy.
From the outside, many will look at an estate and categorise it as one homogeneous unit, however, many estates typically have numerous separate businesses run under one overall umbrella. These businesses can range from a hydro scheme, forestry or sporting to a visitor centre, estate shop or managing estate tenancies. A land agent may typically be involved in all of these aspects of estate life.
The overwhelming majority of landowners are acutely aware of the sensitive environment in which they operate and will have a very long term approach to their businesses. Equally, land agents themselves know only too well that their actions too have ramifications that go way beyond their immediate client.
Scotland’s land agents are not only diligent in their work but abide by professional codes, such as those set down by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, which makes it in their interest to solve issues where they occur, instead of wishing to make life difficult for others.
All parties must keep in mind the importance of good communication. Making time to sit down and talk with those who work in partnership with an estate helps to improve the understanding of their position - and would benefit the sector as a whole.