The Agricultural Holdings Review Group has issued its first monthly update.
The update explains that the group’s January meeting was largely dedicated to defining in clear and concise terms what the group believes will need to be the main characteristics of a successful tenant farming sector for Scotland in the years ahead and the group has now released these eight characteristics as part of its call for evidence, they are:
- A range of flexible tenancy options will be available to suit diverse business needs and evolving economic circumstances.
- People, and especially new entrants to the industry, will be able to move into, through and out of the tenanted sector as their business develops.
- Business investment in the tenanted sector will be subject to equivalent flexibilities and constraints to those that characterise the owner occupied sector.
- Barriers to entry (including those arising from the CAP) will be low so that people, including new entrants, able to farm successfully can establish and develop a business regardless of their background circumstances.
- Rent levels will reflect commercial returns from a well managed farming business using the tenanted land and associated assets in a manner that accords with the Land Use Strategy.
- The supply of tenanted land will be broadly compatible with demand at these rent levels.
- Risk will be shared between tenant and owner in a manner that encourages innovation and provides inbuilt resilience to unpredictable changes (in markets, fiscal support, etc).
- The underlying culture will be forward looking and based on shared endeavour, mutual respect and partnership between owners and tenants.
Alongside these the group has also agreed a three high level principles that it believes should underpin government policy in relation to the tenanted sector in the years ahead, and which should therefore guide the group’s deliberations. Government policy should be:
- Enabling – in that the fundamental purpose of policy will be to facilitate innovation and business development in farming, including through encouraging new entrants.
- Balanced – in that the fundamental characteristic of policy will be to provide for an appropriate mutuality of rights and obligations between those who own land and those who wish to farm it.
- Resilient – in that the fundamental consequence of policy will be the long term underpinning of diverse, vibrant and flexible land use and rural communities.
At its February meeting the focus will be on identifying and understanding the gaps between where we want to be (as above) and where we are now. The outcome of this discussion will be reported in the March bulletin.
The group also intends to begin discussions at its next meeting about the role that an absolute right to buy might play in securing a healthy tenanted sector for the future.
And the group has said that it intend to run a series of open meetings throughout Scotland over the coming months, details of which will be given in the March bulletin.