Local focus on land reform

Mature beech trees create significant landscape features in the Borders countryside.
Mature beech trees create significant landscape features in the Borders countryside.

The future of Scotland’s land will come into local focus when a Scottish Parliamentary Committee meets tenant farmers, representatives of the Roxburghe Estates and Lowland Deer Network Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment (RACCE) Committee is coming to the Scottish Borders on Monday, September 28 to hear expert opinions as it scrutinises the Scottish Government’s Land Reform (Scotland) Bill.

Representatives of Roxburghe Estates, Lowland Deer Network Scotland and local tenant farmers, all people with direct, ‘on the ground’ experience will tell the committee how the Scottish Government’s planned changes could affect key issues such as tenant farming, business rates charged on deer stalking and game shooting and deer control.

Strong, informed opinions are also likely to be heard on the question of the Scottish Government producing a clear statement of land rights and responsibilities; and how a Scottish Land Commission could guide future policy.

Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee Convener Rob Gibson MSP commented: “For people and organisations in the Borders who may be affected by upcoming changes to land ownership and management this is an opportunity for us to hear local views from a wide range of people whose future livelihoods may depend on getting land reform right.”

Mr Gibson continued: “It’s crucial that the valuable knowledge, experience and expertise of everyone in Scotland with a vested interest in the future of tenant farming, as well as sporting rates and deer control feed into our work where possible. We are hugely looking forward to visiting Roxburghshire and hearing about the opportunities and challenges that may lie ahead.

“How we ensure a fair balance between the rights of landlords and tenants and create a healthy, thriving, fair tenant farming sector and will be a key question for the Committee. Can we make it easier for tenants to retire with dignity, if that’s what they’d like to do, while encouraging new tenant farmers to join the sector? These are vital issues and we want to hear local opinions.”

This September the Committee is scrutinising the Land Reform Bill with visits to Skye, Fife, Islay, Jura and the Scottish Borders. They will hear views and opinions from a range of organisations and people, including estate owners, gamekeepers, policy makers, tenant farmers, environmental experts and community groups.

The committee will produce a report on its scrutiny of the Scottish Government’s Land Reform Bill by the end of the year.