FROM this week, the first phase of the re-introduction of sporting rates valuation notices were being issued by assessors on any holding which has a sporting right potential, whether or not the land is used for that or not. 
The new sporting rates will rely on the appeals system to ensure fair assessments are arrived at in conjunction with equitable payments, with a six-month window from receiving a notice to lodging such an appeal.
Sporting rates are being reintroduced in Scotland after 22 years, following the implementation of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016. Back in November, 2016, rural businesses and landowners were asked to complete a detailed Return of Information Request form on which the valuation scheme would be based. 
However, according to Savills, it is unrealistic to expect accuracy given the enormity of the task and the time and resources available to the assessors.
Its Hugo Struthers said: “The assessors are in the midst of an enormous challenge. If we look back to 1995, around 7000 entries were included in the roll and if anything this number will have increased in the intervening 22 years. This is why the notices are being issued in phases. 
“Rural business and landowners need to be pro-active – they need to gather together all valuation notices received, along with the information provided in their information request forms, and finally they need to investigate how the immediate liability can be mitigated by the available reliefs and processes they must follow. 
“Ratepayers have a relatively small window of opportunity to submit an appeal and can either submit their own directly or, given the complexities involved, seek professional representation to dispute any part of the valuation assessment they have been issued.
“It is important for the landowning sector to take a collaborative approach with the Assessors, using the appeals process: there is a six month window to initiate this. Once it has passed the opportunity is lost to correct any errors or anomalies that may have been made in these early stages of this new valuation scheme. 
“The devil will be in the detail, but unfortunately that detail will only really become apparent when rates are fully scrutinised.
“The Scottish Government has consulted widely, recognising the value of Scotland’s sporting industry and the economic benefits it brings to fragile rural communities – the sporting sector is too important to Scottish rural economies not to make the most of the appeal period. 
“Savills attended an industry consultation meeting with the Scottish Assessors earlier this year, where it was made clear that the ultimate objective is for 100% coverage of all land holdings with a sporting right potential – this could mean anything from traditional estates, farmland to even golf courses and nature reserves. 
"We have invested in a considerable level of expertise to deal with what we anticipate will be a significant number of appeals from right across Scotland’s rural sector.”
Whilst the deadline for lodging an appeal is within six months of receiving a formal notice, the appeal process and relief system is complex and may take up to two or three years to complete.