Industry bodies representing agricultural landlords and tenants from across Scotland have today launched new guidance aimed at minimising the potential for conflict between agricultural tenants and those exercising sporting rights over the same piece of land.
The move follows the issuing of other joint guidance by the NFUS, SLE and STFA in relation to limited partnerships, rent reviews, tenants’ improvements, landlord’s/tenant’s obligations, succession/assignation, and determining compensation at way-go.
The latest guidance reflects existing legislation, and creates a framework whereby the landlord, the sporting tenant (where there is one) and the agricultural tenant can formally agree how they will exercise their respective rights over the land in question.
The guidance builds on the Code of Good Shooting Practice developed on behalf of a number of organisations by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), and it also includes a summary of relevant legislative provisions in Scotland.
The guidance places a duty on the landlord, the sporting tenant (where there is one) and the agricultural tenant to agree a written Memorandum of Understanding covering a range of issues where there may be the potential for conflict, and to then abide by the provisions of that agreement.
The guidance applies to all agricultural tenancies where sporting rights are exercised by either the landlord or a third party. It responds to section 25 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 which requires an incoming Tenant Farming Commissioner to publish codes of practice, which may include provision about the management of sporting leases and game management.
Welcoming the move NFUS President Allan Bowie said –
“Many farmers participate in shooting for sport, and they understand very well the importance of ensuring responsible shoot management. Conflict with agricultural land use is rare, but where sporting rights are held separately from the right to farm the same piece of land it is inevitable that tensions may sometimes arise”.
“Tenant farmers need to have confidence that anyone exercising sporting rights over their farm will do so responsibly, and that there is a robust mechanism in place for reaching agreement on contentious issues where this is needed. I welcome this guidance as a valuable step forward in reducing the potential for conflict”.
Scottish Land & Estates Chairman David Johnstone emphasised his organisation’s support for the guidance –
“Shooting for sport makes an important contribution to the Scottish economy, and where it involves land that is also managed for agriculture it enables the overall economic productivity of that land to be increased. Ensuring that both land uses can operate in harmony is essential to making the most of important economic assets”.
“This guidance is the first attempt to formalise arrangements for balancing the exercise of sporting and agricultural rights over the same piece of land. The key role envisaged for the landlord in the process reflects the responsibility that rests on all landowners to ensure optimal productive use of assets in their ownership”.
STFA Chairman Chris Nicholson picked up on the importance of dialogue and agreement –
“A number of submissions to the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group in 2014 highlighted the conflicts that can arise where sporting rights are exercised by someone other than the agricultural tenant. Accounts of serious damage to crops and other negative impacts indicate issues of real economic concern.”
“Many of these problems come down to a lack of mutual understanding and consideration. They can easily be avoided if the parties involved sit down and discuss things in a sensible manner. This guidance creates a structured basis for doing that, but it will still require all parties to show mutual respect and consideration for each other”.
The guidance was prepared with support from the Scottish Government’s Independent Adviser on Tenant Farming, Andrew Thin. A copy is available from the NFUS, SLE and STFA, or may be downloaded from www.gov.scot/Topics/farmingrural/Agriculture/agricultural-holdings/Tenant-Farming-Adviser