Land reform continues to dominate the Scottish agricultural political agenda as organisations submit their views on the proposals within the bill to Holyrood’s Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee.

NFU Scotland is the latest organisation to publish its response as it argues the Scottish Government’s land reform agenda must be wider than just ownership.

In a detailed response to a Scottish Government consultation on its Land Reform Bill, the Union has stated that a broader focus on how land is used and managed is the best way to achieve the Scottish Government’s outcomes for agricultural production, climate change, biodiversity and people.

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The organisation formed its response following wide-ranging engagement with members and has given support to some elements of the Bill but has identified other areas where there are concerns about potential unintended consequences for Scotland’s farmers and crofters.

The Union’s key responses are: The Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement, and use of this, must balance the rights and requirements of land managers and the public; it supports 3,000 hectares as a threshold for defining a large-scale landholding and does not support any thresholds below this level; the Land Reform Bill must align with the Agriculture and Rural Communities Bill to ensure that farmers and crofters can deliver Scottish Government objectives in its Vision for Agriculture.

It adds the Scottish Government’s aspiration to reform crofting law and for policy cohesion between crofting law and land reform law is welcome and it supports proportionate community engagement requirements based on the impact of the individual land management activity.

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However, it does not support proposals which impose arbitrary scale-based community engagement obligations on land managers or giving communities additional rights to buy land until the Scottish Government has carried out its planned review and analysis of current rights.

It also does not support regulation of the land market or moves that could reduce availability of land or make transactions more difficult and it argues it is not in the public interest to make every transaction on some landholdings subject to scrutiny by the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Land Commission’s role must remain advisory and does not support moves in the Bill to give it an increased regulatory function and the union recognises the need for a reform of agricultural holdings legislation to ensure that it reflects modern practices in support of landlords and tenants.

NFU Scotland vice president Alasdair Macnab said: “Whilst there are some parts of the Bill that we support, there are others where we feel there could be unintended consequences for our members.

The Scottish Farmer: NFUS vice president Alasdair Macnab argues there are 'unintended consequences' for membersNFUS vice president Alasdair Macnab argues there are 'unintended consequences' for members

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“There is a risk that these could undermine their ability to deliver on the Scottish Government’s desired outcomes on agricultural production, climate change, biodiversity and people.

Commenting specifically on agricultural tenancies, Mr Macnab added: “We support the need for a healthy and vibrant tenanted sector in Scotland, and confidence is critical to ensure land is made available. Moves to support the aspirations of current and future landlords and tenants must be balanced and ensure they do not compromise availability for the next generation of farmers.”

Scottish Land and Estates have also expressed concerns the Bill will impact the tenant farming sector, while the Scottish Crofting Federation slammed the legislation for a ‘lack of ambition and focus.’