Land reform

    Land Reform

    As we write, the Scottish Government’s Land Reform Review Group will be considering representations received from Scotland’s rural community in response to their Call for Evidence. The Group’s original remit had been to review the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003 but this was expanded to include related issues, such as an absolute right to buy (RTB).

    The review of the 2003 Act should be viewed as positive, as there are areas which do require clarification.

    The notion that there needs to be a change to the RTB legislation, and a move away from the ‘willing seller’ concept, is not in the best interests of the farming sector. 

    It is, with out doubt, far easier for a new entrant to start up his agricultural business in a tenanted farm, rather than having to buy a farm on top of stocking and purchasing machinery for his or her new business. The current pattern of land tenure in Scotland is healthy and diverse and the constant speculation and uncertainty, fuelled by RTB reviews, only serves to damage the vital agricultural letting market.

    The value, both socially and economically, of rural estates to their rural economies is underestimated. Estates can provide an environment which enables a multilayered use of land; for example sporting or conservation can be laid over agricultural, and forestry land occupied under different tenancies or agreements. Some enterprises require scale to make them viable. This certainly is the case for deer forests and salmon rivers. This collaboration can bring real public benefits, such as wider footpath networks or environmental benefits.

    The wider public already have a significant influence on rural estates, and rightly so. Planning committees, Historic Scotland, RSPB, SNH all have opportunities to shape, on behalf of the wider public, the development of estates. Forest Plans, Local Development Plans, designations and agreements by SNH and local authorities all help the public to steer the evolution of estate businesses.
    We know that Scotland’s estates deliver cost-effective benefit to our rural communities and enable economic growth. They generally have an enduring public reputation for working well with local businesses and for helping to promote our natural heritage. All of us involved in the sector must continue to strive for the highest standards of land management and ownership, and get better at promoting both best practice and the positive impacts of estate businesses.


    Key contacts

    Jonathan Dymock

    Jonathan Dymock

    Rural Aberdeen

    Savills Aberdeen

    +44 (0) 1224 971111

    +44 (0) 1224 971111