NFU Scotland has received cross party MSP support for a significant number of its proposed amendments to Scotland’s landmark Land Reform Bill.
The Bill is currently at Stage Two of its progress through the Scottish Parliament and contains significant legislative proposals that would have an impact on all farmers, crofters and land managers.
Land Reform proposals have seen NFUS undertake a lengthy and extensive consultation exercise with its membership and this is still ongoing. Amendments to the Bill, proposed by Scottish Government at the end of 2015, means that a further round consultation with members, focussing on the elements of the Bill that relate to the assignation of agricultural tenancies, is already underway.
Tomorrow (15 January), the Union will also submit further written evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee on the Land Reform Bill. It then intends to provide updated evidence to MSPs following the conclusion of its discussions with members and ahead of the Committee’s examination of the agricultural holdings proposals, likely to begin on 10 February.
NFU Scotland Chief Executive Scott Walker said: “The Land Reform Bill will have far reaching consequences for all farmers. That is why we continue to consult widely with our members and welcome the support of MSPs across the parties for a number of our suggested amendments to the Bill.
“The amendments we are putting forward at this time focus on the Land Reform element of the Bill and reflect the strength of feeling within our membership regarding the negative impact the Bill could have on farming.
“Whilst there are some positive elements to the Bill, farmers feel particularly vulnerable given the lack of detail provided and view it as essential that Scotland’s ability to produce food is not unintentionally undermined.
“It is important for Scottish farming that this Bill, once made law, is fit for purpose. All too often we have seen legislation rushed through and not delivering what was hoped for. We welcome the recognition from MSPs of the pressing need to get the legislation right from the outset.” Ends
Notes to Editors
NFU Scotland’s proposed amendments to the Land Reform Bill include the following:
• The Union insists that the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement, a key piece of policy on which the Bill will hinge, should be subject to super affirmative procedure and thus subject to parliamentary scrutiny and stakeholder consultation.
• It also insists that the Bill must provide for practical land management experience amongst the new Land Commissioners, in order to ensure that the interests of land managers are adequately represented in ongoing policy.
• The Union also proposes a statutory code of practice for land agents who are engaged in agricultural tenancies work, and that the Bill provides a statutory footing for the codes of practice relating to agricultural tenancies.
• Many Union members have expressed extreme concern over the enhanced ability for communities to purchase land under the new community right to buy provisions. The Union contends that in approving an application to buy, Scottish Ministers must be satisfied that land subject to an application does not form an essential part of a viable agricultural unit, or be in productive agricultural use. In addition, where an application to purchase is not successful, it must not be possible to make a repeated application within a 5 year period.
For further information on the current Land Reform bill consultation with members see: http://www.nfus.org.uk/news/2016/january/land-reform-top-agenda-forthcoming-agms

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