Scottish Land & Estates says the Land Reform Bill passed by the Scottish Parliament will be damaging for rural Scotland.
Whilst supporting areas such as increased transparency and community engagement, the organisation is clear that the Bill creates provisions which are likely to lead to years of uncertainty, questions over investment and division in rural Scotland. These include :-
- The prospect enforced sale of productive land by Government Ministers.
- Changes to tenant farming legislation that jeopardise the future of the sector
- The ‘chaotic’ re-introduction of non-domestic rates on sporting estates.
David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “The Scottish Government is bringing into force legislation that may take years of discussion on the detail of how they will work in practice, and are very likely to end in legal challenge.
“Rural Scotland faces a wide range of social, economic and environmental challenges and what is needed a co-ordinated effort that genuinely improves people’s lives.
“Instead what we have is legislation that prioritises measures that are detrimental to legitimate land-based businesses which are key parts of their local communities. They provide jobs and affordable homes for people. They stimulate local businesses and are at the vanguard of the development of renewable energy.
“Good landowners were told they have nothing to fear from this Bill but there is plenty to be fearful about.
“Most importantly, the measures brought forward by the Scottish Government to enable tenant farmers on secure tenancies to assign their tenancies for cash is a heavy blow to tenant farming.
“The supply of let land will dry up, the legislation will not achieve its stated objectives and we are now facing a very real prospect of legal challenge to this part of the legislation – something no one wants to see.
“We still don’t know how the right for Ministers to intervene and enforce the sale of well managed land to communities is going to work; we don’t know how the re-introduction of sporting rates will work, although fears that it will have an impact and jobs and conservation seems to have been swept aside.
“We feel that all these measures combined could have a serious effect on investment in rural Scotland – they hardly send out a message that Scotland is a place to do business.
“There are major questions to be asked over the legislative process and we fear that the Bill will end up being another flawed piece of legislation.
“All too often landowners are pigeon-holed as being anti-land reform when we are not. We support transparency of ownership, we support community engagement and community ownership where there is a willing seller and we desperately wish to see a thriving tenant farming sector. It is difficult to focus on these positive areas of the Bill when they are outweighed by the negative elements of the legislation.”