Scottish Land & Estates, NFU Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland and The Crown Estate have announced today they are developing a new joint initiative to help attract and accelerate the number of new people into agricultural and rural land based businesses across the country.
The four organisations have held discussions recently and underlined their commitment to enabling a thriving and profitable land based sector, of which tenants are an integral part.
However, their new initiative will look wider than facilitating traditional tenancies as a route into the sector and will aim to enable a broader range of opportunities, matching opportunity with demand, to give prospective new entrants into the land based sector new ways to enter the sector.
Options under consideration include:
• Developing an enabling mechanism to identify potential new entrants, their specific needs/skills and to then match them with new opportunities that become available.
• Creating a package of skills development and mentoring to equip these new entrants with the appropriate skills to develop successful businesses in the land based sector.
• Establishing an ongoing contact process that provides expert guidance on business establishment support to the new starts over their initial years in the sector.
Informal discussions with Government on this approach have been positive and formal proposals will be progressed shortly.
Doug McAdam, Chief Executive of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “We are delighted to be part of this initiative and it is clear to us that new and alternative thinking, combined with a “can do” approach, is needed to see progress in this area and we are committed to that. The new entrants issue is complex, with issues around land, how to create opportunity by driving churn in existing tenancies and also issues with finance, advice and support and it is important that we find ways of drawing all these things together.
“However identifying demand and matching with opportunity is key and so we are particularly excited to help bring forward this new opportunities enabler approach to facilitate connecting those that are looking to enter the sector with the full range of opportunities that are available.”
NFU Scotland Chief Executive Scott Walker said: “If we are to ensure that the talent and enthusiasm that clearly exists in Scotland’s new generation of farmers is to be captured for the long term benefit of our industry then we need to consider all options that may assist them with their entry into the sector.
"Working more closely with other committed stakeholders, we can identify opportunities as they arise and then match them to those looking to get a foothold in Scottish agriculture. Backing that up with a package of assistance, advice and mentoring dovetails with the approach laid out by NFU Scotland's own New Generation group. This approach could go some way to ensuring those entering our industry stay in it for the long haul and we will monitor progress in the months ahead.”
Alan Laidlaw, Head of New Business Development at The Crown Estate’s rural estate, said: "I truly believe that there are opportunities in the industry and younger operators out there who are ready, willing and able to take advantage of them when they are presented.
“We need to ensure that a positive future for food and farming is embraced and that land opportunities, in whatever form, are made available to the best business operators. The Crown Estate is committed to letting land in suitable structures and to working together with tenants on soundly considered joint working. This initiative can help kick start this process."
Simon Hodge, Forestry Commission Scotland, added: “Forestry Commission Scotland is keen to identify opportunities to maximise the use of agricultural land on the national forest estate. We are looking at ways to create new entrant units and other opportunities to explore how farming and forestry practice can further integrate for mutual benefit. We are looking forward to providing real opportunities for the next generation of land managers to develop their skills and rural enterprises.”