THREE years after the controversial ‘sporting rates’ system was re-introduced, extensive negotiations between the Scottish Assessors Association (SAA) and Scottish Land and Estates Sporting Rate Working Groups, has resulted in a more equitable approach, especially for disputes.

Significant changes have been made to how rates will be calculated for sporting rights and deer forests. It is anticipated these will now be implemented in all new entries raised and will be taken into account when resolving outstanding appeals.

The changes being implemented include reductions to most of the predominant land type rates; area exclusions; quantum threshold reductions; location adjustments and end allowances.

There is also now the ability to make adjustments for commercial forestry entries where crop damage of 10% or more can be demonstrated and for forests which have been mainly felled or re-planted within five years.

Estate agency, Savills, said it and its clients played a key role in both providing evidence and national discussions as a member of the Scottish Land and Estates Sporting Rate Working Group.

Peter Wilkinson, Savills’ rating consultant, commented: “The current valuation scheme, which was introduced in 2017, was drafted and implemented under considerable time pressure with limited quality information being made available.

“The updated ‘Practice and Guidance Notes’ (for use by assessor staff) follow several VAC hearings and detailed national discussions and will lead to a more accurate ratings system.

“Significant progress has now been made which is to be welcomed in securing a more workable approach and more accurate valuation of entries which will now reflect the key issues in play. These updates will, with the ongoing co-operation of the SAA and Assessor staff, assist greatly in resolving the remaining outstanding sporting rate appeals.

“It will also help to assist the SAA when considering the next Revaluation of entries on April 1, 2022,” he added.

He previously worked with SAA specialising in telecommunications, fishing and sporting rights, and now advises landowners on rating matters throughout Scotland.

Hugo Struthers, head of Savills Rural, in Scotland, said: “Peter’s pro-active and well informed approach with the Scottish assessors and Scottish Land and Estates as well as other agents has assisted many through the potential minefield of rural rating. It was great to see an expert at work providing well-reasoned solutions to complex issues.”