Land reform proposals in Scotland criticised by RICS

Taylor Scott International News

Proposals put forward in Scotland for agricultural land reform have been heavily criticised by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors which say they could increase disputes between landlords and tenants. Responding to the recently published proposals, RICS says it is concerned that the proposed measures will not lead to a revitalised tenanted sector and may also result in fewer farms made available to let in the future. It adds that this is clearly not in the public interest or in the interests of a vibrant tenanted farming sector in Scotland and could trigger unintended consequences that would serve no benefit to rural areas. ‘We are committed to building consensus across the rural sector and ridding it of poor practice. We encourage anybody operating in the rural sector to engage the services of professionally trained and regulated land management specialists,’ says the response paper from RICS. It explains that more efficient and sustainable food production must be a leading objective in any restructuring of the sector. ‘Our view is that these proposals appear to overlook this, seeking instead to focus on land tenure and the small number of land agents who may not be professionally regulated, rather than focussing on how to stimulate and assist new entrants to the tenanted farming sector,’ it explains. ‘Freedom of contract is important, and some recommendations in the Review will pave the way for more flexibility and choice crucial to revitalising the sector, but the extension of assignation could also remove opportunities for new entrants,’ it adds. ‘RICS does not tolerate bad practice. Our members are already properly and strictly regulated, and we have a robust code of conduct to which our members must adhere. RICS welcomes the proposal for a Tenant Farming Commission, as this may improve the landlord tenant relationship,’ it continues. ‘However, we have to raise the issue that land agents who are members of RICS already operate under the Institution’s strict guidelines and codes of practice. Any new code of practice from the commission would have to take note of that fact,’ it says. It also points out that any land reform policy change will impact significantly on the public and RICS members. ‘We are firmly of the view that land reform should be approached as a long term, sustainable and workable programme where all parties continue to invest human and financial capital to make land, places and communities successful,’ the response says. ‘Land reform should not be focussed purely on who owns the land but how it is effectively managed and used for the benefit of communities, the environment, and public and private interests. Best practice land management is key to ensuring sustainability,’ it points out. It also says that while legislation provides a legal framework on land reform matters, its implementation is dependent on addressing three critical elements. Firstly, defining designations and processes so that all parties understand what, why and how matters can be exercised; secondly, providing support for all parties so… Continue reading →

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