First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP has just delivered the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government 2014-15, which contains proposals for 12 new Bills to be brought forward in the next year.
The Legislative Programme focuses on three priorities: creating more, better paid jobs in a strong, sustainable economy; bearing a fairer Scotland and tackling inequality; and passing power to people and communities.
Relevant to the agriculture sector are proposals for the Land Reform Bill and the Succession Bill. The former proposes to a new Land Reform Commission tasked with developing the evidence base for future reform, supporting public debate and holding this and future governments to account. The Succession Bill will make laws for succession clearer, removing the distinction between movable and immovable property to give children, spouses and civil partners appropriate legal rights over both forms of property.
A policy statement on land rights and responsibilities will be made next week, following which the Scottish Government will begin consultation on a draft Land Reform Bill. NFU Scotland looks forward to engaging with the Scottish Government throughout this process.
NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller commented:
“A fresh look at land reform is an important step towards meeting the aspirations of communities all over Scotland. Farming and farmers are a central pillar of rural communities and must be embedded in the development of land reform matters.
“Wider ownership is a goal in some areas with several crofting and island communities already demonstrating how ownership can open up opportunities for a new generation.
“While ownership is important to some, a partnership approach also merits support. Many farmers and landowners are already involved in community projects that provide access, recreation, education and management. This kind of collaborative approach can deliver value underpinned by sustainable land and woodland management and the flexibility to respond to future needs.
“We wait for the detail contained in the statement next week on land rights and responsibilities.
“We have some concerns about the potential unintended consequences of the proposed Succession Bill and the possibility that this may lead to the break up of family farms because of the changes to inheritance rights. We look forward to discussing with the Scottish Government our concerns and looking for appropriate safeguards.”