Call to reject Scots absolute right to buy proposals

The Scottish government should reject proposals to give tenants the absolute right to buy the holdings they farm, according to a report on the state of rural Scotland.

The call was one among almost 100 recommendations on countryside issues in the report published by the Scottish Rural Commission on 4 November.

It said the government plan that could force landowners to sell farms to their tenants would “forcibly break the land ownership pattern in Scotland”.

“We have to be clear that the very mention of such a policy ‘disincentivises’ land owners from entering into new tenancy agreements due to the risks of losing their assets,” the report stated.

“There is little hope of progress in the sector until the Absolute Right To Buy is decisively rejected,” it concluded.

The commission, which was set up by the Scottish Conservative Party, said the tenancy sector was “in a state of deadlock” where older farmers could not afford to retire and the lack of available tenancies was preventing new entrants.

The report recommended the creation of statutory compensation payments to farmers who want to retire to enable them to quit. And it suggested planning exceptions should be allowed so vacating tenants who have spent a lifetime on a holding could build new houses nearby.

The commission also focused on the poor quality of broadband in rural Scotland, stating that nowhere was the urban-rural divide more obvious than in access to the internet.

The report said broadband was essential for rural jobs and “provision had to become an absolute priority for policy-making at all levels of government”.

To achieve this it called for a doubling of the Broadband Scotland fund to £10m over the next three years.

Speaking at the launch of the report, commission chairman Hughie Campbell Adamson said: “We all want to see rural Scotland flourish and we hope these 97 recommendations go some way to helping to achieve this.

“We have handed over the recommendations to the Scottish Conservative Party to provide them with guidance on developing future rural policy.”

Mr Campbell Adamson added: “Acting on a set of recommendations will eventually make rural Scotland a better place to live.

“The fact the report has taken more than a year to complete shows the enormity of the task involved, with evidence received on all aspects of rural life, including agriculture, housing and planning.”

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