News In Focus
Agricultural holdings law review team appointed
A six-strong expert team has been appointed to advise the Scottish Government on the reform of the agricultural holdings legislation.
Led by Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead, the review will aim to determine what policy and legislative changes may be required to deliver a sustainable Scottish tenant farming sector.
The review group members are:
- Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw QC, who has a specialised practice in rural property law;
- Professor Jeff Maxwell OBE, currently an adviser to the Land Reform Review Group, a former chairman of the Tenant Farming Forum and former member of a number of other bodies;
- Barbara Brown, principal clerk of the Scottish Land Court since September 2009 and a solicitor on secondment from the Scottish Government;
- Iain Mackay, a farmer on Mull and member of the Scottish Government’s New Entrant Panel;
- Hamish Lean, a partner in Aberdeen legal firm Stronachs and a specialist in agricultural law; and
- Andrew Thin, chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage and a non-executive director in the Scottish Government.
The group will call on advice from elsewhere as and when required, and will issue a paper to seek views in the near future. An interim report is expected in June 2014, which will include an update on considerations of absolute right to buy. The final report, due in December 2014, will contain recommendations including proposals for any required legislative and fiscal changes.
Mr Lochhead said: “Our vision, set out in the review’s remit, is to have a Scottish tenant farming sector that is dynamic, gets the best from the land and the people farming it and provides opportunities for new entrants, forming part of a sustainable future for Scottish farming.
"The sector currently faces challenges with a decline in tenancies and ongoing issues surrounding tenant and landlord relationships."
He added: "Many tenant farmers have made the case that current tenure arrangements stifle on-farm investment. The status quo neither gets the best out of the farming community nor our valuable land, so the case is clear for reform."
On the absolute right to buy, Mr Lochhead said it was only right and proper that it should be considered. "This subject not only affects existing tenants but the diversity of landownership and the wider economy in Scotland", he commented.
“I have already confirmed that this consideration will be limited to traditional secure 1991 agricultural tenancies, and it is important that we give all tenant farmers and stakeholders the opportunity to enter into full and frank dialogue about this issue.
“I am the first to recognise that this is a hugely complex, often very contentious, but always very important area of policy. So it's important we all remain focused on the best outcomes for tenant farming and tenant farmers in Scotland."