New land reform bill in Scotland too vague and timetable too tight, says RICS

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The New Land Reform Bill in Scotland is set to have a substantial impact on the country’s land and property markets but it is too vague, subjective and inconclusive, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. RICS is urging the Scottish Government to consider undertaking a full impact assessment before any of the provisions are implemented and to introduce more clarity regarding a number of its parts and provisions. While the organisation is ‘fully supportive’ of the Scottish government’s aims to modernise and rejuvenate the rural landscape, it also believes that the current timescale for reform is too tight and therefore will be dependent on regulations which will be deduced after the passing of the Bill. There is also concern about the cessation of sporting estate tax relief. The Bill’s Policy Memorandum states that many small scale shootings would be expected to eligible for rates relief under the existing Small Business Bonus Scheme. RICS believes that research into how many estates will, and how many will not, benefit from rates relief needs to be undertaken before this provision is taken forward. Furthermore, it points out that the Scottish government has, thus far, not indicated whether the Small Business Bonus Scheme (SBBS) will endure beyond until 2016/2017, the proposed date where business rates exemptions will cease. ‘We believe it would be prudent of the government to inform the sector of its plans for the future of SBBS one way or another,’ said Sarah Speirs, director Scotland of RICS. ‘Whilst RICS welcomes a Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement (LRRS), as it will provide an indication of legislative travel, we do not agree that it should be a statutory requirement to be updated every five years, as currently specified,’ she added. Speirs explained that regular and changeable legislative modifications do not create favourable conditions for property and land markets and these markets require consistency to reach the necessary degree of stability to create confidence. ‘As such, RICS believes a balance needs to be struck between the land reform process and the establishment of stable, consistent legislative and economic conditions. Removing the statutory requirement for a review of the statement is one way of creating these conditions. Sarah on the proposal to create a Scottish Land Commission,’ she said. ‘we welcome the provision to establish a Scottish Land Commission, but still believe there would be merit in having separate Land Commission and Tenant Farming Commission office to ensure transparency,’ she pointed out. ‘Whilst the Commission’s work may result in increased costs to the public purse, the potential outcomes of the Commission’s research, evidence gathering and positive impact on land, should it follow the remit outlined above, should outweigh the costs. It is imperative that all work undertaken by the Commission is open, transparent and accessible to the Scottish public,’ she added. Agricultural holdings account for a substantial quantity, almost half, of the Land Reform Bill. RICS is concerned that agricultural holdings is too substantive an issue to be… Continue reading →

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