The newly elected chairman of Scottish Land & Estates today appealed to farmers’ representative bodies to join landowners in cross-industry talks to make ‘significant headway’ in the ongoing debate on agricultural holdings.
David Johnstone was appointed chairman at the Scottish Land & Estates’ annual general meeting in Perth. He succeeds Luke Borwick, chairman for the past seven years.
Addressing members, David Johnstone said: “It is a great honour to take over as chairman of Scottish Land & Estates and do so at a time when landowners face an unprecedented range of challenges particularly over land reform, the government-led review of agricultural holdings and CAP reform.
“Land-based businesses make a very substantial social, economic and environmental contribution to Scotland but more importantly the overwhelming majority of Scottish landowners see themselves as part of the fabric of the local communities in which they live. They want to do their bit and work in partnership with those around them.
“Nowhere is this more clear than in the area of tenant farming. We are committed 100% to achieving a thriving tenanted sector and want to work with government and industry to help make it happen.
“To that end, I have written to the NFUS, the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association and the Scottish Association of Young Farmers’ Clubs appealing for our organisations to meet and discuss whether we can make progress in delivering solutions that will benefit the tenant farming sector.
“The Agricultural Holdings Review Group established by the Scottish Government has a big job on its hands and it seems to make sense to me that those of us involved in tenant farming should be trying to make their job easier.
“For example, NFUS, STFA and Scottish Land & Estates have each made submissions to the review group suggesting some form of self-regulation through an adjudicator. We have supported the proposal suggested for an Office for Scottish Tenant Farming and recommended a mechanism to name and shame anyone, be it landlord or tenant, who are independently adjudged to have been involved in bad practice.
“There are differences between the organisations over how this would work but I think it would be worthwhile if we got round a table and tried to agree a cross-industry solution that could be put to the Review Group.
“Of course there are areas where it would be difficult to achieve consensus but I believe there is more unites the industry than divides it. Another area where I think progress could be made quickly is over compensation for improvements at waygo. The amnesty proposed by Scottish Land & Estates recently was welcomed and it would be good to get industry agreement in this area.
“Personally, I want to let land. I let a farm to a new entrant on an LDT last year and I am looking at ways where farms that are currently let on short-term arrangements can be let with confidence on long-term leases that will enable tenant farmers to build their businesses.
“Landowners are heavily involved in farming, either operating their own farming businesses or letting land, We do have a role play in driving forward agriculture and I think it is better if everyone in the industry works collaboratively towards achieving a shared objective.”