Andrew McCornick voices NFU's fears on land reform

Politicians may have given a hefty sigh of relief when they signed off the extremely complex and multi-faceted 2015 land reform act back in March.

Andrew McCornick said farmers and crofters 'play a vital role' in rural communities. Picture: Contributed
Andrew McCornick said farmers and crofters 'play a vital role' in rural communities. Picture: Contributed

However, NFU Scotland has highlighted their concerns that while the main frame of the legislation is in place, much of the detail still has to be woven into it.

The union’s fear is that, unless attention is paid to the detail which will come in under “secondary legislation” procedures and thereby not come under parliamentary scrutiny, the new legislation may not work as well as intended and a further visit to Holyrood might be needed in the future.

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Various areas of the uncompleted legislation give the union concern and are adding further to the already lengthy period of uncertainty brought on by the protracted passage of the new law through parliament.

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Speaking in Aberdeen, vice-president Andrew McCornick highlighted some of them after praising the collaborative work undertaken by Andrew Thin, the interim independent advisor on tenant farming. McCornick also commented on the massive task of whoever takes over from Thin.

“Whoever takes on this new permanent position will play a pivotal role in the future of agricultural tenancies in Scotland, acting with impartiality between landlords and tenants but challenged by views that are often entrenched.”

He stated it was important the new Land Commission recognised the importance of agriculture and food production in underpinning the economy of Scotland, adding: “We would wish to see appointees to have a good knowledge and experience of land management issues.”

On the right of communities to buy land, McCornick wanted to see more safeguards for farmers on land bordering towns and villages. “We support the approach taken by the Scottish Government, which will allow for provisions under the community empowerment act to bed in before further consideration of proposals to extend community right to buy provisions under the land reform act.

“It must be recognised that land can, in many cases, be transferred to a community via negotiation where there is a willing landowner, but that a landowner may also have very genuine reasons for not wanting land to be transferred.”

He was adamant that local community aspirations must be deliverable before any land was transferred under right to buy.

“Farmers and crofters play a vital role in rural communities and it is important that their role is recognised. Forthcoming guidance for engaging communities in decisions relating to land will provide communities with the opportunity to have a greater understanding of land management practices.”