Yesterday’s marathon session in the Scottish Parliament saw more than 140 amendments discussed but eventually the landmark – and, according to some, contentious – Scottish land reform bill passed its final reading with a significant majority.
Agricultural holdings legislation saw wide-reaching discussions which ranged from the unanimous support for measures such as those to bring maverick land agents into line to the more contentious areas such as the assignation of secure tenancies for value to new entrants.
Views within the chamber over the likely effects which the bill would have on the tenanted farming sector were also varied.
Stating that it had been a “long day but a good day for Scotland and land reform”, rural affairs cabinet secretary Richard Lochhead said the “radical and ambitious” bill was a major step towards equality and fairness within the country, one which strengthened the hands of tenant farmers across the land – but he added reform was an ongoing issue.
However, Dumfries and Galloway MSP Alex Fergusson, who was giving his final speech in the parliament after 17 years, said that the bill would not achieve its key aim of revitalising the tenanted sector and predicted it would be the very people it was aimed at helping – new entrants and those trying to move up the farming ladder – who would suffer.
He said that, while he hoped he was wrong, his belief was that the move to allow tenants to assign their tenancies would lead to stagnation, leaving the sector “moribund, ineffective and dying in the water”.
His claim that the more time might have seen a consensual outcome achieved was echoed by Lothians MSP Sarah Boyack who said that the bill had been extremely rushed at the end. She added that this had led to too many of the important details being left for secondary legislation in the next parliament.