Scots reform moves concern
RESPONSE to the Scottish Land Reform Policy Groups recommendations for action is one of relief with many of the controversial issues referred for further research or ditched from the agenda.
However, Guy Galbraith, FPDSavills voices concern over some of the proposals. These include: "The implied threat of the introduction of a land tax which can only have the effect of a further reduction of employment and reduced investment which is essential for good management".
He is also worried about the lack of recognition for sporting enterprises including salmon fishing, grouse shooting and deer stalking which are an important source of employment in often isolated areas and provide income to a wider community through the sale of accommodation and tourist goods and facilities.
Mr Galbraiths other concern stems from the lack of definition of terms including "a duly constructed community body, the level of the communitys involvement in the way land is used and the criteria which will trigger a right to buy".
Andrew Rettie, Strutt & Parker is worried to read that "new powers will include time to assess the public interest in sales of major properties in areas with remote fragile communities." He says: "Who is going to measure and define whether an estate is a major property? It will be difficult for the government to introduce any meaningful benchmarks to a define a major property.
Proposals for a community to have the right to buy such land when it comes to the market already exist as anyone has the right to submit an offer when agents fix closing dates for best and final bids.
"If the community is being given the right to buy then surely it too should be obliged to bid as and when an estate agent fixes a closing date for bids – it should have to compete in the open market," he said.
On a positive note Mr Galbraith welcomes the introduction of a code of good practice for rural land ownership and an evaluation of the impact of new planning guidance on rural development.
Across the board the creation of limited duration tenancies for farmland and the simplification of Agricultural Holdings Act dispute procedures is received favourably.
"A greater freedom of contract is needed within the agricultural industry between landlords and tenants and such a move would encourage more owners to let farms on the open market," said Mr Rettie.
Current average bare land values in Scotland
Best arable 2700-3000
Good arable 2200-2700
Medium arable 1800-2200
Poor arable/pasture 700-1200
Permanent pasture 350-700
Source: Bell Ingram