Category: News

Scottish Land Commission invites Bute residents to community event

The Scottish Land Commission are heading to the Isle of Bute to continue its calendar of public meeting’s.

The Scottish Land Commission is holding an informal public meeting to give residents on the Isle of Bute the opportunity to find out more about how their community can benefit from land reform.

The event is being held at United Church of Bute, Rothesay on Wednesday 24 April 2019 at 7pm.

Chair of the Scottish Land Commission, Andrew Thin, said:

“Land is at the heart of Scotland’s identity, economy and communities – so it matters that it is owned and used in a fair and productive way.  We are keen to meet with communities to discuss the work we are doing to deliver change so that the ownership and use of land realises Scotland’s potential. There are many benefits it can bring to you and your community including transforming vacant and derelict land, community ownership, community engagement in decisions relating to land and unlocking opportunities through modernising land ownership.

“We will also be discussing our recently published report investigation into the issues associated with large scale and concentrated land ownership in Scotland. The report was published last month alongside recommendations to Scottish Ministers to address the adverse effects identified, and to stimulate a more productive, diverse and dynamic pattern of rural land ownership.

“This is one of a number of public meetings taking place across Scotland throughout the year from Aberdeen to Kirkcaldy and Paisley to Perth and we hope to meet as many people as possible. I would encourage everyone to attend and make the most of the opportunity to discuss how we can make more of Scotland’s land for Scotland’s people.”

The event is free and tea and coffee will be provided. For more information visit www.landcommission.gov.scot, call 01463 423 300 or email info@landcommission.gov.scot.

Tenant Farming Commissioner publishes Conduct of Agents Guide

Scotland’s Tenant Farming Commissioner (TFC), Bob McIntosh, has today published a Guide to the Professional Conduct of Agents and How to make a Complaint.

The guide is to help landlords and tenants to understand what standards of conduct they should expect from a professional agent, and the actions that they should take to help ensure that any instances of poor conduct are addressed promptly and effectively.

It has been developed as part of the recommendations made by the TFC to Scottish Ministers following a review of the conduct of agents of agricultural landlords and tenants.

The review found that landlords and tenants were generally satisfied by the conduct of agents working on their behalf but less so with that of agents acting on behalf of the other party. Overall, 17 per cent of both landlords and tenants were dissatisfied with the conduct of an agent and dissatisfaction was generally linked to behaviour rather than to any lack of technical or legal knowledge on the part of the agent.

The professional standards and the codes of practice, along with the associated complaints systems, should ensure that agents can be held to account in most circumstances where there is a failure in respect of conduct or standard of service but in practice few such complaints are made.

Bob McIntosh explains “The professional standards and complaint systems have an important part to play in driving up standards and dealing with bad practice, so it is vital that the system is widely understood and is readily accessible.

“This guide provides a handy checklist for anyone considering employing a professional agent, some general principles of good practice that should always be followed and information about how to make a complaint.

“Most agents perform their duties in a professional manner but the actions of a small minority can have a disproportionate effect on the reputation of the agent, their employers or their profession.  It is important that landlords and tenants do complain about the unacceptable conduct of agents so that standards can be raised and poor behaviour addressed.”

The Guide is available at https://landcommission.gov.scot/tenant-farming/codes-of-practice/

Land owner survey looks at community engagement

The Scottish Land Commission is opening a survey to look at how community engagement in decisions relating to land is currently undertaken in Scotland and wanting to hear from anyone with control over the way land is used or managed.

The Land Commission is supporting  land owners, land managers and communities to work together to make better – and fairer – decisions about land use with the publication of its first Protocol on Community Engagement in Decisions Relating to Land.

Clear and open community engagement in decisions relating to land can bring benefits to all parties involved creating better opportunities to engage, understand and influence potential change and opportunities.

The Commission’s Protocol supports the Guidance on engaging communities in decisions relating to land, which was published by the Scottish Government in April last year.  As part of this work the Commission wants to review the effectiveness of the guidance by taking a snapshot of how community engagement is currently undertaken in Scotland.  This will be used to find out more about the current level and measure the effectiveness of community engagement by those who own or manage land.

Helen Barton, Community Engagement Advisor at the Scottish Land Commission explains:

“We want to hear from anyone with control over the way land is used or managed in both urban and rural Scotland. The survey is relevant for all private and public sector owners of land and buildings, including individuals, companies, charities and trusts, non-governmental organisations and community owners. It is also relevant to tenants of any sort who have control over land.

“The information provided will not include any personal identifying information and we will collate and analyse the responses to see where there are trends by area and sector.

“It is important to get an idea of what community engagement is happening now to not only use as a baseline measure but also to see if there are any lessons we can learn from current practices.”

In the survey, the Commission will also be looking to find out how many respondents are aware of the Scottish Government’s guidance as well as the Commission’s own Protocol for Community Engagement, which sets out general and specific expectations for owners and managers of land.

The survey will be open for responses until the end of May 2019 and can be found here:  www.landcommission.gov.scot/communityengagement

https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/GJI0O/ 

Agreement reached over Borders tenant farmer

The Scottish Tenant Farming Commissioner announced today that a solution had been found to enable a tenant farmer to remain on a farm he rented from Buccleuch Estates.

David and Alison Telfer occupy Cleuchfoot Farm on Buccleuch’s Borders Estate on a short-limited duration tenancy.

The estate had granted a new tenancy until November 2019 – 21 months beyond the end date of the previous lease – and had put the farm and adjoining hill ground up for sale. The couple wished to remain on the farm until retirement and said they had received a verbal assurance from the previous Duke of Buccleuch.

Buccleuch approached the Tenant Farming Commissioner and the acquirer of the land, James Jones & Sons Ltd, in an effort to find a solution.

Bob McIntosh, Tenant Farming Commissioner, said: “Landlords are entitled to resume land at the end of a fixed term tenancy but there was an extraordinary set of circumstances in this case where there was a dispute over what had been discussed in years gone by in terms of the length of occupancy. We are pleased that, through collaborative discussion, a satisfactory outcome has been achieved for the tenant, the new landlord and all other parties.”

Mr David Telfer said: “We appreciate the efforts of all those involved who have worked to find a resolution to this issue and we are pleased to be able to continue to live and work on at least part of Cleuchfoot until our retirement.”

Benny Higgins, executive chairman of Buccleuch, commented: “We were pleased that our proposal found agreement with all the parties involved and thank the Tenant Farming Commissioner for his constructive liaison with the tenant.”

Highland student receives Scottish Land Commission award

A Highland student has just received a £1,000 award to further her research into ownership and management of rural land.

Awarded by the Scottish Land Commission, through the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), the award will allow Alison Martin to attend a conference in London later this year where she hopes to present a paper on aspects of her research.

Alison is undertaking a PhD at Inverness College UHI to investigate the governance and ownership of rural land in Scotland, specifically focused on decision-making around rewilding initiatives and species reintroductions. 

The new Scottish Land Commission Student Award was offered this year to University of the Highlands and Islands students as part of the Commission’s drive to encourage more research work to support land reform. There are plans to extend the award across other universities and research institutions in Scotland.

Speaking about the award, Hamish Trench, CEO of The Scottish Land Commission said, “We want to help build future research capacity to support land reform. Our work programme covers a wide range of issues – everything from land value tax to community ownership – and as part of that we’re looking to the academic community in Scotland to help us gather evidence, spark debate and develop new approaches, to make the most of Scotland’s land. Alison’s chosen focus is very relevant to practical implementation of community engagement and land rights and responsibilities in land use decision making.”

Alison said, “Rewilding is a very contemporary issue and associated activities – especially species reintroduction – are a significant development in land use, land management and conservation. 

“Currently in Scotland a range of initiatives are underway which to a greater or lesser extent constitute rewilding but we currently lack a clear structure for how rewilding decisions are made and implemented – and by whom.

“This all sits within the very unique context of Scottish land ownership, the Land Reform agenda and a push for greater community involvement based on underlying principles around human rights and land use for common good.

“Attending the conference will give me my first experience of talking to an audience about my research and exposure to current research and interaction with others that’s difficult to achieve through reading alone.”

Alison Wilson, Head of Development at the University of the Highlands and Islands, added: “We are very grateful to the Scottish Land Commission for enabling Alison to take up this fantastic opportunity. Students are at the heart of what we do and we want to help them achieve all they can. We are delighted that more and more organisations and individuals are looking to support our students in this way.”

Scottish Land Commission invites Edinburgh residents to community event

The Scottish Land Commission is continuing its calendar of public meetings with the next taking place in Edinburgh.

The Scottish Land Commission is holding an informal public meeting to give people from Edinburgh the opportunity to find out more about how their community can benefit from land reform.

The event is being held at Riddles Court Tuesday 2 April 2019 at 7pm.

Chair of the Scottish Land Commission, Andrew Thin, said:

“Land is at the heart of Scotland’s identity, economy and communities – so it matters that it is owned and used in a fair and productive way.  We are keen to meet with communities to discuss the work we are doing to deliver change so that the ownership and use of land realises Scotland’s potential. There are many benefits it can bring to you and your community including transforming vacant and derelict land, community ownership, community engagement in decisions relating to land and unlocking opportunities through modernising land ownership.

“We will also be discussing our recently published report investigation into the issues associated with large scale and concentrated land ownership in Scotland. The report was published last week alongside recommendations to Scottish Ministers to address the adverse effects identified, and to stimulate a more productive, diverse and dynamic pattern of rural land ownership.

“This is one of a number of public meetings taking place across Scotland throughout the year from Aberdeen to Kirkcaldy and Paisley to Perth and we hope to meet as many people as possible. I would encourage everyone to attend and make the most of the opportunity to discuss how we can make more of Scotland’s land for Scotland’s people.”

The event is free and tea and coffee will be provided. For more information visit www.landcommission.gov.scot, call 01463 423 300 or email info@landcommission.gov.scot

Tenant Farming Commissioner publishes Tree Planting Guide

Scotland’s Tenant Farming Commissioner (TFC), Bob McIntosh, has today published a Guide to Tree Planting on Tenanted Agricultural Holdings.

The guide provides information for landlords and tenants who might be considering planting trees on tenanted agricultural holdings.

With the current economic uncertainty surrounding agriculture, and increased pressure on business margins, more farm businesses are looking to diversify in to a range of different non-agricultural activities to support the future of the business. This, along with a focus by Scottish Government on increasing woodland in Scotland, is causing more farmers and landowners to consider the pros and cons of woodland creation.

This guide outlines the rights of both tenants and landlords  to plant trees and provides information on applying for permission to plant.

It is important that tenants and landlords considering planting trees use this guide to understand their rights, comments TFC Bob McIntosh.

“The guide highlights four basic scenarios where tenants and landlords are likely to see tree planting on holdings as valuable and provides clarity on who is able to do what and when.

“A tenant of a secure tenancy or a limited duration tenancy wishing to use the land for a non-agricultural purpose such as tree planting can now do so provided they obtain written consent for the diversification activity.”

In welcoming the publication of the new guidance, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing added:

“This is very welcome advice and will help in the national endeavour to expand our forests and woodlands in Scotland.

“Tenant farmers can gain many benefits from new tree planting on their holdings, especially as it can help to improve their business and diversify their income.

“I’m keen to see a growth in woodland cover across Scotland but it needs to be carried out in an integrated way with other land uses. This simple and clear guide helps to lay out for both landowners and tenants how new woodlands could work for them and the benefits that can potentially be realised by all parties from planting trees in the right places.”

The Guide also provides important information about waygo compensation which the landlord or the tenant may be entitled to upon termination of the lease.”

The Guide is available at https://landcommission.gov.scot/tenant-farming/codes-of-practice/

Addressing Scotland’s pattern of land ownership can unlock economic and community opportunities

A new report published today (Wednesday 20 March 2019) finds that concentrated land ownership is having significant impacts on communities across rural Scotland.

The Scottish Land Commission report, titled Investigation into the issues associated with Large Scale and Concentrated Land Ownership in Scotland.  It is published alongside a set of Recommendations to Scottish Government Ministers, who asked the Commission to examine these issues.

Representing the most substantial investigation conducted into the impacts of this issue, the report is based on robust evidence about rural land ownership that shows how the concentration of social, economic and decision-making power significantly impacts communities across rural Scotland.

The report follows a call for evidence by the Commission last year, for anyone with experience of living or working in parts of Scotland where most of the land is owned by a small number of people, to share their experiences.

More than 407 people, from landowners and land managers to community representatives and individuals, submitted evidence. The main findings in today’s evidence report are that

  • Most of the disadvantages associated with Scotland’s current pattern of land ownership relate to a concentration of social, economic and decision-making power, not simply the size of landholdings
  • The advantages identified relate mainly to potential economies of scale
  • In some parts of Scotland, concentrated ownership hampers economic development and causes serious and long-term harm to the communities affected
  • The problems are not associated exclusively with any particular type of landowner – the Commission found a consistent pattern of evidence relating to land owned across the private, public, NGO and community sectors
  • There are issues to address beyond ownership, specifically a lack of effective participation in land use change decisions
  • The pattern of market and social power in concentrated land ownership, has parallels with monopoly power in other sectors of the economy
  • There is – currently – little or no method of redress for communities or individuals, where there are adverse economic or social impacts.

Speaking about the report, Hamish Trench, CEO of The Scottish Land Commission said,

“Concern about the impacts of concentrated land ownership in Scotland has long been central to the land reform debate. This evidence report allows us to move on from debating whether ownership is an issue, to understanding what the issues are and how they can be addressed.

“The evidence we have collected shows clearly that it is the concentration of power associated with land ownership, rather than necessarily the scale of landholding, that has a significant impact on the public interest, for example in relation to economic opportunities, housing and community development.

“Good management can of course reduce the risks associated with the concentration of power and decision making, but the evidence shows that adverse impacts are causing significant detriment to the communities affected. This points to the need for systemic change beyond simply a focus on good management.”

Recommendations

Informed directly by the evidence that has been gathered, the Commission is today making initial recommendations to address the adverse effects identified, and to stimulate a more productive, diverse and dynamic pattern of rural land ownership.

Recommended statutory changes include:

  • Public interest test for significant land transfer
  • Requirement for a management plan
  • Statutory Land Rights and Responsibilities Review

Other recommendations include:

  • Promoting more diverse private ownership to help achieve land reform objectives
  • Local engagement in land use change

The Commission recommends the introduction of a public interest test and approval mechanism at the point of significant land transfer, an obligation for larger land holdings to engage on and publish a management plan, and a review mechanism to address adverse impacts on communities where normal responsible management approaches are not effective.

Speaking about the recommendations, Hamish Trench said,

“The reforms we propose are a first step to address the significant issues identified in the evidence and move towards a more diverse and dynamic pattern of land ownership.

“Some of these reforms will require legislative change, and in the short term we have identified the need for stronger leadership within the land ownership sectors to address the risk and impacts identified and implement a programme of land rights and responsibilities good practice.

“These reforms seek to address the issues of concentrated land ownership using ways that are normal in other countries and economic sectors. It is common in international practice to have some form of approval measures at point of land transaction and we are also used to regulating the concentration of market power and monopoly positions in other sectors of the economy.”

The Commission is to engage widely with stakeholders and the public on the findings of the evidence, its implications and their recommendations, through a series of events and public meetings culminating in a land reform conference in October 2019.

 

 

Tenant Farming Commissioner issues Agricultural Leases Code of Practice

Scotland’s Tenant Farming Commissioner (TFC), Bob McIntosh, has issued a Code of Practice for Agreeing and Managing Agricultural Leases which is to be followed by landowners, tenant farmers and land agents.

The Code of Practice for Agreeing and Managing Agricultural Leases is the sixth to be published by the Commissioner and is intended to ensure that there are robust procedures in place to avoid misunderstandings when a lease is being entered into, when changes are made throughout the term of the lease and when a fixed duration lease is being ended.

The Code sets out some simple principles and practices to follow, by both the tenant farmer and the landlord, as Bob McIntosh explains:

“A decision to sign up to an agricultural lease is one which results in responsibilities and liabilities and should not be taken lightly and without considering the full consequences and implications. Time should be allowed for both parties to negotiate, agree and understand the terms of the lease. In the case of fixed duration leases it is important that both parties are clear about what is likely to happen when the lease has reached the end of its term.

“Misunderstandings, disagreements and disappointments often occur during the term of the lease because verbal agreements are not followed up in writing so it is essential that any agreements made are properly recorded.”

Ending a fixed duration lease can be a difficult outcome for the tenant so it is important that discussions take place in good time about the prospects for renewal and the consequences for both parties of a decision not to renew.

The Code has been developed in consultation with Scottish Tenant Farmers Association, NFU Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Scottish Agricultural Arbiters and Valuers Association (SAAVA). so that, wherever possible, agreed positions are reasonable and fair to both landlords and tenant farmers. 

The TFC is responsible for issuing a suite of codes to guide and shape the behaviours and processes which accompany the interactions and negotiations between landlords and tenants, including agents and intermediaries acting for either party.  As with all codes issued by the Tenant Farming Commissioner, if a landlord or tenant feels that the other party, or an agent of that party, has acted in a way that breaches the code of practice they are able to report the alleged breach to the Commissioner.

The Code of Practice for Agreeing and Managing Agricultural Leases can be found on the Land Commission’s website www.landcommission.gov.scot.

Scottish Land Commission champions engagement process for successful land management

A new Protocol and toolkit that sets out practical advice on how landowners, land managers and communities can work together to make better – and fairer – decisions about land use is launched today by the Scottish Land Commission.

The Protocol supports the Guidance on Engaging Communities in decisions relating to land, which was published by the Scottish Government in April last year.  It is the first in a series of Protocols that the Land Commission will produce to encourage practical implementation of the principles within the Scottish Government’s Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement (LRRS).

The first Land Rights and Responsibilities Protocol focuses particularly on Principle 6: “There should be greater collaboration and community engagement in decisions about land”.

The Protocol highlights the benefits for all parties: genuine engagement is good for land owners because it can reduce potential conflict, help make businesses more resilient and promote innovation. Meanwhile communities will be better informed and people will have a better opportunity to engage, understand and influence potential change and opportunities.

The Commission has produced a toolkit to support land owners in engaging with communities to accompany the Protocol including a ‘decision map’ detailing engagement methods and what is expected of land owners and managers in different situations and a guide to engagement plans to support the community engagement process.

Scottish Land Commissioner, Sally Reynolds explained that the Protocol defines standard good practice for engagement over land use and management.

“Early and open engagement by those who own or manage land with the local community should be part of normal business practice.  Everyone benefits from knowing about decisions that might affect them and by working together and engaging in a process, it is easier to make progress.

“We have devised the Protocol and the toolkit to clearly show the practical approach to engagement expected when changes to land use are being explored.

“We believe it will promote an open approach to decision making, all of which is a vital part of increasing the accountability of land ownership and making the most of opportunities.”

One initiative that illustrates good practice in terms of the principles of community engagement is the East Neuk Community Action Plan (ENCAP) Steering Group in Fife, which has successfully brought together landowners, community groups and others in to community-led planning. Partners include the East Neuk Estates Group which forged strong relationships with community groups, responded to the priorities they identified and integrated these into their own estate and land-use plans.

The Land Commission will produce a series of Protocols on different subjects by working closely with stakeholders representing a range of interests.

Sally Reynolds said, “The Protocols will be short, clear, practical and fair to all parties, setting out clear expectations of what ought to happen in normal circumstances.”