It has been a rocky road for the Land Reform Review Group which was established in July 2012 and whose final report The Land of Scotland and the Common Good was published this morning (Low Resolution version – 13Mb pdf – on Scottish Government website here and 52Mb high resolution version on Scottish Government website here or my website here). A Scottish government press release is here. Response from Community Land Scotland here. Lesley Riddoch comments here. Scottish Tenant Farmers Association reaction here. Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association reaction here. Scottish National Party reaction here. Scottish Land and Estates reaction here. Community Energy Scotland here. Scottish Labour Party reaction here. Scottish Green Party reaction here. Lord Shrewsbury reaction here. Calum Macleod blog here and West Highland Free Press analysis here. Knight Frank reaction here. CKD Galbraith reaction here. Pinsent Masons reaction here. Brian Wilson reaction here. John Muir Trust here. Bell Ingram reaction here. Savills reaction here. Gillespie Macandrew reaction here. Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party reaction here. Scottish Liberal Democrats reaction here. Evidence submitted to Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs Committee here.

This blog provides a brief initial reaction to the report.

By the time the Group published its interim report in May 2013, two of its three members had resigned and the report itself was widely criticised (e.g. see here, here and here). The Group was then strengthened by an additional member and the appointment of a specialist adviser. This re-configured group has survived intact with the exception of one of the advisers, Andrew Bruce-Wootton, who resigned in April 2014.

Much of the turmoil reflects the fact that this is a controversial subject, it is complex and it has received scant academic or political attention for over a decade. The Final Report is thus something of a minor triumph. It is more comprehensive than anything that has gone before and it is detailed and thorough in its description and analysis of the topics covered. The 62 recommendations are wide-ranging. Some will be regarded as radical and perhaps even controversial in certain quarters but there is in fact not one which is anything other than plain common sense and certainly none that citizens of most other European countries would be surprised at.

The group’s remit was to make proposals for land reform measures that would,

1 Enable more people in rural and urban Scotland to have a stake in the ownership, governance, management and use of land, which will lead to a greater diversity of land ownership, and ownership types, in Scotland;

2 Assist with the acquisition and management of land (and also land assets) by communities, to make stronger, more resilient, and independent communities which have an even greater stake in their development;

3 Generate, support, promote, and deliver new relationships between land, people, economy and environment in Scotland.

If these ambitions are to be realised then big changes are needed in Scotland’s archaic and regressive system of land tenure. As the opening paragraph of the preface states,

This Report is entitled “The Land of Scotland and the Common Good”. It reflects the importance of land as a finite resource, and explores how the arrangements governing the possession and use of land facilitate or inhibit progress towards achieving a Scotland which is economically successful, socially just and environmentally sustainable.

Plain common sense.

What is notable about the report is that it helpfully defines what it means by land reform. For that past 15 years, politicians and others have been guilty of framing land reform as something exclusively to do with rural Scotland, with the Highlands and Islands in particular and with the affairs of tenant farmers and communities in these places. These are important elements to be sure but, as the report’s title indicates, the land of Scotland is  the totality of the sovereign territory. This is emphasised by the image on the cover which shows the legal boundaries of Scotland. (1)

The group’s defines land reform as

measures that modify or change the arrangements governing the possession and use of land in Scotland in the public interest.”

This relates to urban land, rural land and the marine environment. The recommendations reflect this comprehensive agenda. They include longer and more secure tenancies for private housing tenants, new powers of compulsory purchase, the establishment of a Housing Land Corporation to acquire land, new arrangements for common good land, the devolution of the Crown Estate, removing exemptions from business rates enjoyed by owners of rural land, giving children the right to inherit land, prohibiting companies in tax havens from registering title, protecting common land from land grabbing, reviewing hunting rights, limiting the amount of land any one beneficial owner can own and introducing a wide range of new powers for communities to take more control of the land around them in towns, cities and the countryside.

Of the 62 recommendations, 58 are within the full devolved competence of the Scottish Parliament. The four that are reserved relate to inheritance and capital taxation, State Aid rules and the Crown Estate – all topics which the Scottish Affairs Committee are examining in a parallel inquiry.

It is notable that this report is the first ever report into the topic since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. It’s early work was informed by the Land Reform Policy Group, chaired by Lord Sewel which published its final report in January 1999. In the foreword, Lord Sewel wrote,

“It is crucial that we regard land reform not as a once-for-all issue but as an ongoing process. The parliament will be able to test how this early legislation works and how it effects change. They will then have the opportunity to revisit and refine their initial achievement…..These present recommendations are therefore by no means the final word on land reform; they are a platform upon which we can build for the future”.

However, as the Land Reform Review group note in their own Preface,

As a time limited Review Group, we are acutely aware that Government approaches to land reform, when there has been a political will to engage with the issue at all, have traditionally been characterised by periodic review and piecemeal intervention. Given the importance of land reform to delivering societal aspirations, we recommend that the Scottish Government regard land as a separate, well supported area of policy, to ensure that the common good of the people of Scotland is well served by its land resources.

As the report notes,

The first session of the Scottish Parliament had a land reform programme established by the Scottish Executive. In contrast, since 2003, there has been no land reform programme. The land reform measures after 2003 have therefore tended to be specific responses to particular issues, rather than part of any wider land reform strategy or programme.

Hopefully, this report will serve to shift the baseline – to move the agenda forward and to deliver a consensus that these recommendations provide the minimum necessary to re-frame and modernise Scotland’s stystem of land governance to one which is people-centred and in which the land of Scotland serves the common good of all of its citizens. The report does not cover a range of important topics but if all of its recommendations were to be implemented over the coming 5 years, we would be living in a country with a far more democratic and equitable distribution of land and power. The report concludes thus.

The Group recognises that this is a critical time for the future of Scotland. Along with the people of Scotland, land is the most important resource in the nation. How it is owned, managed and used is of fundamental importance to Scotland’s future prospects, whatever constitutional direction the country chooses. The Group believes that we have reached a critical point in relation to land issues. We offer the Scottish Government, a range of recommendations, summarised in Section 34, and we encourage it to be radical in its thinking and bold in its action. The prize to the nation will be significant.

UPDATE 1240 23 May

The Scottish Government’s press release contains this statement from Minister for Environment and Climate Change Paul Wheelhouse.

“I am pleased to read the recommendations on improving the availability of land, both rural and urban, and the need to increase access to rural housing, these are issues that will have a direct impact on many people’s lives. The Group have also highlighted the need to address transparency of land ownership in Scotland which I believe is crucial to taking forward this agenda.

“I also welcome that the benefits of community ownership have been highlighted within the report. We have always said that community ownership empowers communities, sparks regeneration and drives renewal which is why we have an ambitious target to get one million acres of land into community ownership by 2020.

“I am pleased to announce that I agree with the Review Group’s recommendation for a working group to develop the strategy for achieving the million acre target and I will shortly be forming a working group to achieve just that.

“Land Reform not just about land ownership but how that land is used and managed and the benefits it can bring to the people of Scotland. I look forward to considering how the recommendations in this report can further benefit the people in Scotland through the relationship with our land.”

But in the Notes to Editors, the release states that,

The Scottish Government recently completed a review on business rates. This Government is committed to maintaining the most competitive business tax environment anywhere in the UK through our business rates policies and we can confirm there are no plans to make changes to the position of agricultural business rates relief.

So a major Review is published and within 3 hours, the Government flatly rejects a key recommendation because of a previous review that was not concerned with land reform – a statement not even consistent with its statement at the time.

In November 2012, the Scottish Government launched a public consultation on how the non-domestic rating and valuation appeals systems can support businesses and sustainable economic growth and on how to improve transparency and streamline the operation of the rating system. As the analysis of consultation responses noted:

Agricultural land and sporting estates are exempt from business rates and the comments on this issue were mixed with some supporting the exemption because of the benefit to the rural economy, and others opposed because they felt all businesses should be treated in the same way.

In its response to the consultation, the Scottish Government said that it had “committed to use the period until the next revaluation in 2017 to conduct a thorough and comprehensive review of the whole business rates system.” In relation to existing reliefs and exemptions, the consultation response said: “All rates reliefs will be kept under regular review to ensure that benefit is directed where it is most needed. Although views were mixed, the Scottish Government has on balance decided that all current exemptions provided, including to agriculture, should be retained.”

So, despite saying today that there are no plans to make changes, in September 2013, Ministers said that the “period to 2017 would be used to conduct a thorough and comprehensive review of the whole business rates system“. Confused?


(1) Note the controversial sea boundary off Berwick where the sea boundary as defined by the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999 contrasts with the boundary of Scotland’s civil jurisdiction.

Some Minor Gripes

The footnotes are a mess. One simply states “SAC ref” Others note speeches by give no reference other than a date. Another is “Wightman (blog re commonty at Biggar)” – no link and it is Carluke not Biggar. Hopefully these can be sorted.

The recommendations are not numbered.

There is no executive summary.


  1. Very welcome that importance of correlation between people, all people rather than simply those currently with vested interest in land, is basis for reform.

    • Yes. I’ve heard the chief exec of SLE complain about “populism” prior to publication of the report. That threw me for a moment, trying to understand what his argument might be. Should a government not pursue popular policies which create the most good for the most people?

      Of course there was no meaningful argument, just outrage at the prospect of the interests of the privileged & wealthy being challenged by the interests of the mass of ordinary folk.

      Tackling the problem of land ownership shouldn’t be seen as an attack. Societies which tolerate gross levels of inequality become utterly dysfunctional in one way or another – even the richest have worse outcomes. It is the duty of government to consider everyone’s needs not just those of a privileged few. The message to landowners is simply: “welcome back to the human race”. I hope you like it here.

      • Well said Noel.
        Being super rich and going to Eton etc creates its own problems for the toffs, better that rejoin the human race as you say.

  2. This looks very promising. Now let’s crack on!

  3. Thanks Andy and you should pat yourself on the back along with many others for getting us to this point – without your and other people’s diligence these issues would not have been brought into the light of day. Let’s see some legislative action now from the politicians. There can be no excuses!

    • Thanks Bill. Whether the political will is there remains to be seen. The groups says “be radical in thinking and bold in action”. I think we all need to hold politicians to that recommendation.

  4. Camilla Toulmin

    Thanks Andy. Very helpful review, and shows land governance issues as relevant in our own nations as in far-flung countries across the globe. I am looking forward to reviewing the recommendations and seeing links with global debates on sustainable development. Hope to catch up soon, Camilla

  5. Sounds good. Hope that the MSP’s listen to the recommendations,

  6. Tremendous !!
    Actual Right To Buy is coming!!!!!

  7. Hebridean Farmer

    So encouraging to see that community and social needs are to be seen as a priority.
    The report greases the bowl for the ARTB (actual) … it !
    The “Good old days” are over for some, and a bright future is on the horizon for others.

  8. Huge congratulations Andy and others like yourself who have doggedly struggled to get us to this stage. Indeed it has been a rocky road for the LRRG and in them we trust to follow through radical and progressive proposals towards achieving a Scotland which is economically successful, socially just and environmentally sustainable. ‘S math a rinn thu!

  9. Thanks Andy, a real step towards true democracy.

  10. Rates should be re applied to sporting estates, and all agricultural tax reliefs removed from said playgrounds for the rich and famous.

    • Totally agree with you Hector as I’m sure all fair minded folk would!

    • Eileen McCann

      Agree and transparency on their actual benefits in jobs (and what these jobs are and pay) and money in the exchequer. We need facts or this is pandering.

    • We wil not need rates if we apply a full collection of Land Rental Value to REPLACE taxation of labour, bricks and mortar property, and improvements upon land as the basis of public revenue. The FULL collection of LRV obviates the need for any size limits on individual or multiple holdings by permanent residents or nondoms alike. LRV should be applied to agricultural holdings without remorse or regret. All profits and income made on land under its maximum permitted use, should be retained totally and utterly free from income taxation by the occupier, tenant or owner.
      Scotland is especially well placed to benefit from this kind of public revenue stream as we only have 9% of the UK population, but 30% of the land surface area, 50% of the marine solum ( effectively land under the water) and 70i% of the coastline. If we use Land Rent as a public revenue source instead of labour upon land, then this greatly mitigates and alleviates pressures of demographics and immmigration. We don’t need nationalisation, quasi-Kibbutzist collectivism, square miles per landowner, but something more like landowners per square mile.

  11. Pleasantly surprised by the tone and the reach. Very encouraging. Politicians now need badgered.

  12. Why not get some sort of e-petition in motion through Facebook and other social media platforms. Change. Org appears to be making the right ripples?.

  13. It has taken several hundred years of vested interests and shady dealings to get us into the present mess. Finally though it looks as though we are going in the right direction; hopefully though it won’t take hundreds of years to sort the mess out! More power to your elbow Andy!

  14. Slurry Stirrer

    Very encouraging report, with entirely sensible recommendations. This can now be linked in with Ag Holdings Review, to deliver real change. Community benefit, LVT, ownership limits, Actual Right to Buy. A sensible move now for the government would be to implement a Moratorium on all Landowners notices to quit, until final reform is statutory.

    • ABSOLUTELY – good thinking SS! Moratoriums have been implemented by our government before when agricultural businesses required it! So many tenants and those with 1991 tenancy agreements are being driven out under disguise on the whim of the laird under the present system – a moratorium until Ag Review is statutory would be fair and socially just.

  15. Rates should be put on farmland, but only payable by the owner, not to be passed on to tenants.

    • Why should the tenant of a farm be in a different position from the tenant of any other business premises (shop, hotel, petrol station …)?

  16. Pure comedy from doug macadam, apparently the “industry” doesnt want actual right to buy, even though over 80% of the recent tenants survey called for ARTB.

    • Was that a survey of tenants or STFA members? I’m not aware that the results of the recent AHLRG/Scot Gov tenants survey have been released.

    • More of a tragedy Hector. McAdam just doesn’t seem to get it, or perhaps admit it, that while estates might well make a positive contribution, that contribution is invariably less than the gross contribution when land and opportunity are available to many. Anyone with open eyes and mind can see that.
      The monster that is landholding has the uncanny ability to eliminate the wellbeing of thy neighbour, in itself a negative contribution.
      The selfless work of Andy Wightman, Alastair McIntosh, Jim Hunter and many others is testament to that.
      All clear thinkers living and practising for the common good.

  17. andrew ramponi

    A bit of a tangent but that map is an interesting and different way to see the country. Thanks for posting.

    • it is a very important tangent showing the vast area of underwater land, coastline and terrestrial land that Scotland has for collecting Land Rental Value from instead of labour-killing, sales -killing and employment- killing rates, council tax and income tax

  18. “rates on farmland”.So most farms make a loss without subsidy so how do you manage with rates as well?

  19. “rates on farmland”.maybe end up like shops,very few left due to council rates but that doesn’t bother the council rates collectors.

  20. What a bad joke that Scottish Gamekeepers Association response is ! taxpayer funding is already used to fund “sporting” estates both openly and by subterfuge via offshore tax havens etc, how can these people portray themselves as custodians of the countryside and wildlife given the amount of raptor persecution and mountain hare extermination ( ) …10 out of 10 for their brass neck !

    • Slurry Stirrer

      yes, well said strathpuffer. rural workforce! what a joke. Private rural police, more like. I think there is a place for wildlife wardens(gamekeepers) to lead the way for deer management, community based hunting and wildlife tourism. What they need to do is to wake up and start talking for themselves to highlight Scotlands desire for experts in their field rather than what the landed elite want them to say. Remember SGA, the estates that we know today are about to face massive change, so get with it and don’t try to protect this elite alien way.

  21. Slurry Stirrer

    SLAE website reaction is unreal, together with the David Johnstone(slae) plea in the scottish farmer for talks. SLAE just don’t get it, they continue to pedal this myth that they contribute to the local community, the jobs they offer are miniscule compared to what is possible with real depth and breadth in ownership. The sporting structure of any piece of Scotland will never come close to wildlife tourism in terms of revenue generation. The one which gets me every time is the boasting of the long list of residential property which they offer to let… well they own flipping everything in the parish!!! But the biggest mistake they have made over the last 11years is to evict, push out, persuade to leave, buy out, call it what you wish, the family farmer, and not replace them with young blood. Instead we are seeing the Estates moving in on the subsidy game and letting where suited to Agri-Buss on short term lets.
    ‘Come on the family farm, lets give one last push and save our cultural position in rural Scotland’

  22. Slurry Stirrer

    just read at the top, Andrew Wooton resigned from the group last month. That says it all!

  23. Stuart Young

    Why not give secure farm tenants the right to buy and you will soon find out the right % ,

  24. There are examples of fine outcomes and mutual respect.

  25. Daye, I love the bit at the end where charles pearson et al are praised for “gifting” the commonty to the new trust.
    You cannot give away something you have never owned, especially when the local community already owned the rights to it.
    Langholm commonty was similiarly “gifted” by the duke of buccleuch in 1921 , to the people who already owned it. No doubt to head off the strong anti landlord feelings back then.

    Similiarly, tenants farmers are now to be given the opportunity to repurchase their grandfathers and great grandfathers farm improvements from the landlords who took them from them years ago..

  26. “Scotland is unique in having as a record of landownership not only the
    1872 Return, but those of the great chroniclers John MacEwen and Andy
    Wightman. This has given a degree of continuity to the evolving picture
    which no other part of the United Kingdom can match. In practice, what
    the Scottish pages here do is unite the 1872 record with that of Andy
    Wightman, which itself includes that of John MacEwen. In so doing the
    author hopes that readers will begin to understand fully the gap in the
    historic record, and its potential economic importance, created by the
    disappearance of the 1872 Return. The 34 counties of 1872 Scotland were
    reorganised in 1975 into nine regions and 53 district councils. In 1996
    this system was again reorganised into 32 ‘unitary authorities’,
    including 3 island councils and 29 mainland administrative areas. It was
    interesting to note the survival within the new system of much of the
    original county structure, meaning that there were available
    agricultural, housing and population statistics for most of the old
    counties. Where this was not the case, the old counties, such as
    Caithness, Ross & Cromarty and Sutherland, are left to stand on their
    own as part of the historic record.”

    From Kevin Cahill’s Who Owns Britain site:
    which unfortunately appears not to be working properly at the mo.

  27. That’s a misunderstanding of commonties hector. They do not – and never have – belonged to “local communities” (beyond the “community” of landowners who shared them which was a tiny fraction of the population). Burgh commons slightly different in that they belonged to the burgh council so were as “communal” as any other local authority property like a school etc. As regards the Kiln Green at Langholm, I don’t know why the Council accepted a gift of it when they already owned it either but Andy made the entirely plausible suggestion in his blog on the subject that the Council couldn’t find a title deed so they decided to take an a non domino disposition from the D of B to found the running of prescription.

    Why should the tenant of a farm be exempt from paying rates and thus be in a privileged position from the tenant of any other business premises (e.g. shop, hotel, petrol station …)?

  28. Commonties belonged to the people, nobody else.
    That is until the landed elite and their lawyers decided to invent the necessary laws to acquire them.
    And why should a landlord be exempt from rates or land tax?

  29. stewart lambie

    Well done LRRG for your work on small landholdings this has been a long and difficult journey but we can see light. thanks to everone that helped overturn hundreds of years of power back to the people

  30. Reiner Luyken

    I’ve read the whole thing now. That’s the Magna Charta of socialist Scotland. Whatever happened to the rights of individuals? They appear entirely subsumed to the “public interest”. Thank goodness the is a European Court that will slap down half of the recommendations if they were to become law. I don’t know who advised the Group on the European law – it must have been the same person, or non-existent person, who gave Alex Salmond legal advice on EU membership of an “independent” Scotland.

    • Common sense, common respect and common decency my good man, now forget the past, get a grip on reality.

    • The rights of individuals wil be better protected going forward than under the current feudal nightmare.

  31. Hector, how do you know commonties belonged to the people? What’s your evidence for that? What laws? When?

    I didn’t ask you why a landlord should be exempt from rates. I asked why you think tenants of farms should get favourable tax treatment over the tenants of other businesses. Considering tenants of farms also get subsidies other business don’t get.

    • The SCOTTISH GOVT has already revoked the bit about rating ag land, so we dont need to go there.
      Sporting estates should be heavily rated though.

      Common land was held by custom, by people who could neither read nor write for millenia, until the lairds wrote some new laws and nicked it all in 1695.
      And they nicked a lot more than the commons.
      Just look at £30 million in todays value worth of improvements stolen from john innnes of Durris in 1820

  32. why worry about rates there are very few rural or town businesses to rate as the public all use the multiples.Inverness,Invergordon,Dingwall etc half empty due to no turnover,rates and rent.Rates are a bigger deal to most highland folks than getting a bit of wood/land which if they did sell anything off it they will find they have to accept below the cost of production.Our rates mostly go to pay council pensions while the folks who pay them many have no pension of their own.I guess your house rates would be a third if we didn’t pay pensions for the council.If we were all £1000 better off through paying the correct rates the economic benefit for us would be huge

  33. Slurry Stirrer

    The report is now allowing us to focus on the ‘actual right to buy’ the conditional right to buy. The conditions being entirely related to the well being of dying rural communities, the time is now right to emphasises the difference between the single unit family farm and Agri-Buss. The family farm being the community, living and working on the farm, contributing in every aspect to the community. In contrast Agri-Buss which could have several tenanted units needs to be removed from the ARTB equation. This could then safe guard a portion of tenanted land which some believe (not me) is so important. These Agri-Buss farmers are also the ones which have a strong business relationship with their Landlord, are the main voice within the NFU and all too often oppose ARTB anyway.
    Is it possible that we are beginning to see some consensus on the issue? Landlords surely must see the merits in having some of their farms sold off to families while all the other empty or short term units are allowed to remain in the ‘churn’ to satisfy the Agri-Buss appetite, safe from the threat of ARTB. Estates could come out of this in a strong position if they back the ARTB for the Family farm but not for the multiple unit player.

  34. Interesting comment SS. Can you give me a couple of examples of what you regard as an agri-bus so I can google them and have a look at their websites and see what we’re talking about?

  35. Slurry Stirrer

    Neil, i use the term Agri-Bus to describe a farming enterprise that has uppermost in its objectives a business mentality. Their habits include the taking of all opportunities to increase land area and therefore maximise agricultural payments. They will have a core of employees who will travel to where ever the work is required and then leave. They do no necessarily reside in the parish they visit to carry out this work. If you were to Analise the employment rates/acre, these guys have a small work force which covers a massive area of land. One of the growing trends is to participate in contract farming with estates, the agri-bus will work the land for a share of the profits. Many agri-bus people i know are also involved in the renting of naked acres to trigger their newly purchased entitlements. They are the main players in seasonal bidding of land which is an ever increasing activity in our local marts. There are also issues regarding bio-security with the huge amount of livestock moving around and also the clearing off of hefted flocks to make way for temporary grazers. But i know this is not the main issue.
    Some people will say that this is business and the way of things, ok, fair enough. But what i am now trying to do is emphasise the difference between the family farm, which runs one unit and has a cultural connection to their farm and goes about the running of the farm with yes of course a financial awareness but more importantly a way of life. These farming families are the community. If we do not remove these single unit family farms from the LandLord system then unfortunately through time they will quit and communities will die out to make way for the big established farmer who lives no where near the recently vacated farm.

    • Reiner Luyken

      I think what Slurry Stirrer and parts of the Review Group’s report aim at is something very similar to the 1933 Reichserbhofgesetz in Germany which established an upper limit to the size of farms (250 acres). Farms were only be allowed to be passed on undivided to the farmer’s heir. Later on, the Nazis developed model villages as part of their “blood and soil” policy where family farmers were able to develop rural communities free from the interference of landlords. Some of these villages still exist in the eastern parts of Mecklenburg. Today, they consist mainly of holiday houses. But nin the post-war period, they played an important part in agricultural production when all landholdings above 250 acres were expropriated by the Soviet occupation administration. However, their productivity didn’t fulfill what was required, so beginning from 1952, they were forced into ever larger collective farms. From 1990 onwards, most of the original owners were given back their land. Such is the way land reforms tend to cast somersaults. Perhaps New Zealand had a better idea when they pulled the plug on all farm subsidies in 1984, instead of tinkering with reform. The result: farming prospered.

      • Interesting analagy, The nazis knew they had to increase food production if they were going to win the war they were planning, and they knew the best way to do so was to get the landlords off the farmers back.
        New Zealand eliminated landlords in 1900, that was the reason farming prospered and is still prospering.
        NZ farmers were allowed to buy and sell their leases, free of the rent rack, until they bought the freehold eventually.
        I agree subsidies should go, as its all going to the lairds now anyway.

  36. Termed agri business or not, any farming business embracing more than one farm invariably has a detrimental influence on the rural communities in which they are encompassed. Business opportunities are lost by the amalgamation of family farming units. Economy of scale has become the screen behind which greed prevails. Cooperation between single farm family businesses would yield the same production from the land with the further diverse family interests of all individual farming families being the added bonus to local communities and economies.

  37. Many family farmers are driven into taking on extra land because of the rent rack.
    Uncontrolled rent rises on the tenants own improvements erode the living standards and capital of family farmers, forcing them into expansion at even higher rents or contract farming.
    Its not all greed.
    So if rents are properly nailed down, the pressure to expand rapidly diminishes. I would argue that rents should all be reassessed on what the landlord provided, less the tenants drains, fences, sheds etc, and no increases allowed unless the landlord has invested capital in an income generating scheme.

  38. All farms get bigger as they cannot manage to survive on the old areas as the money they make gets less/acre every year.They could share kit with others or sell or rent out but if they do nothing but the same they will eventually stop/retire/hand over to someone else etc.Farms could only stay the same size doing the same thing if prices go up which is possible in an overpopulated world or inputs go down.So far inputs go up and returns not by enough to counteract the cost rises.Most who cant get bigger take other jobs etc/change so they can keep the family farm.

  39. If tenants were not rented on their own improvements, the rent would only be about £5 /acre, so you could live comfortably off a couple of hundred acres.
    Tenants should reap the benefit of improving the farm, nobody else.

  40. Every farm lost when added to an existing enterprise is opportunity lost. When others are searching for opportunity, indeed industry leaders claim to be seeking opportunities for new entrants, it is difficult to argue that any individual can be free, and gain public financial support, to farm more than one unit.
    Many family farmers take on extra land yet do not pay rent. They can finance extra land on the capital strength of the farm they already own.
    Diversification occurs on all scales of farming, sometimes by adding value to farm produce, by tourism enterprise, by contracting work off farm, or by skilled non farm work by family members.
    To say most who can’t get bigger implies there is an automatic need or desire to get bigger. Nonsense! There is a need to appreciate that every farming opportunity should be treasured and government should see to it.

    • Reiner Luyken

      So the answer is, let the market take care of it. There was an interesting program on the BBC farming program recently how profitable some smallholdings are. I would agree, size is not the issue – it is not the issue either way.

      • That may be your answer Reiner but overlooks fact that we all need land, firstly on which to live and secondly from which to sustain mankind. If we let the market take care of land distribution, it will fast become an international bargaining tool. As it is large agri business is edging closer to food retailers. Next step is they are one and the same. Next again is international competitors buy and sell our agri-retailers. Food then becomes a weapon.

  41. Once the estates are broken up by ARTB and the subsidy system changed, yes the market may work properly.

  42. Tom Gray”most who cant get bigger…nonsense”I am sure most would be happy with a smaller business if they can bring up a family and survive on it but that is not what has happened and you have to either get bigger or change to keep going,I am only saying what the case is now not what I would like it to be.The weekly food bill until recently went down as a % for the last what 35 years for the public which forced huge changes on all farms,which had to adapt or go.The public like their higher standard of living so I don’t see this changing.

    • Since tenant farmers are usualy denied the chance to diversify, they are forced to expand their farming where possible, so feeding the rent rack and driving the smaller tenant out.
      ARTB will address a lot of those issues.

  43. Yes, I am aware of that but the ultimate solution is not for all farms to get bigger. It is for all farmers to expect less income from their farms, and treat their farming opportunity as a basis for other enterprise beyond food production. Where is it cast in stone btw that food production must be profitable? Most land in Scotland is already beyond food production value, often for residential and privacy value. So called sporting value also plays a part. Scenic value for tourism is another. Scarcity value is possibly the greatest influence of all. Increasingly food production is only one element in farming income and the more farmers we have then the stronger rural communities we will develop, thereby creating more opportunity for diverse rural economies, and all ultimately dependent on those with opportunity to have own and occupy land.
    Think of empty glens and what they could be if people had more freedom to own and occupy them, not just as holiday or retirement homes, but places where young families can live and work. There is a new world out there for lots of such families if government will open the door and unleash it.

  44. Tom

    Totally agree .
    Many tenant farmers would like to diversify and create new income streams but their ambition is thwarted by their landlord wanting total control of the estate .

    • Absolute right to buy for ’91 tenancies followed by strict capping of support and land value taxation to force the remainder into owner occupation would do the trick to make rural Scotland flourish as never before.

      • When you say “the remainder” there Tom, who are you referring to?

        • All other farming units let on pretendy leases, ie, those devised to circumvent ’91 leases, or bunched together as multiple farm enterprises.

  45. Thanks to Slurry Stirrer for your articulate description (quite a few comments above) of “agri bus” vis a vis “family farm”. And thanks to hector for linking to MacGregors’ website so I could look an example of ag bus in the face, so to speak.

    Am I right in thinking a big part of your problem as tenant “family farmers” is that your landlord has a fundamentally different agenda for the land from you in that he wants it back in hand so he can hand it over to ag bus because that’s more profitable, tax efficient etc.?

    • It is more profitable for a year or two, as the contractor sucks the fertlity from the land which has been built up over generations, while carrying out zero repairs to drains, fences etc. and letting weeds run riot.
      But after a few years, it becomes a loss maker, so then they try to rent it out again to let a tenant build it up again.
      Mr mcgregor farms ten good family farms, which could support 2 or 3 families each, but now they support only him and his handful of employees.
      One farm which he now manages employed twelve people before the tenant of 150 years was evicted, and the steadings and houses now lie derelict. It now employs half a man.
      Of course the new area subsidy for landlords is accelerating this trend.

      • A case of greed not need or an ego and vanity trip I”ve got more acres than you”ve got !

  46. Slurry Stirrer

    NK, that is one dimension which is a problem. The main problem is that the 91 act tenancy is now a thoroughly unattractive prospect for the next generation! Young people with fresh ideas and energy are not prepared to be restricted under the LandLord system. They have seen and heard their fathers and grandfathers struggle with factors and to put it simply new ideas and diversification/improvements don’t get the enthusiasm and freedom they deserve. Many of us have been encouraging the younger generation to get educated and find a career away from the farm. Put that into a rural setting and the young person then has to leave for the cities. Sorry for being a bit depressing, but the point needs to be raised, and if these family farms could be owned then the atmosphere would be very positive. Industrious, enterprising, secure, what a legacy the Landlords could leave if they sold these family farms.

    • Another key factor is housing. On tenanted farms, families are often reared in poor standard of housing. This again makes tenant farming unattractive. Then add on the 24/7 routine that youngsters watch and assist as their parents work the family farm and this again is unattractive. A basic necessity of any farm is two decent houses so that succession is both possible and attractive. This is particularly essential on livestock farms, ie throughout most of Scotland.
      Owner occupation is the only feasible route toward a family gaining such living conditions on their farm.

  47. I could not resist sharing this excerpt from the late Jimmy Reid’s rectorial acceptance speech in 1972. Sadly, give how long ago it was made, it captures some of the essence of current debate on land and poor people.

    “Society and its prevailing sense of values leads to another form of alienation. It alienates some from humanity. It partially dehumanises some people, makes them insensitive, ruthless in their handling of fellow human beings, self-centred and grasping. The irony is, they are often considered normal and well adjusted. It is my sincere contention that anyone who can be totally adjusted to our society is in greater need of psychiatric analysis and treatment than anyone else.

    They remind me of the character in the novel, Catch 22, the father of Major Major. He was a farmer in the American Mid West. He hated suggestions for things like Medicare, social services, unemployment benefits or civil rights. He was, however, an enthusiast for the agricultural policies that paid farmers for not bringing their fields under cultivation. From the money he got for not growing alfalfa he bought more land in order not to grow alfalfa. He became rich. Pilgrims came from all over the state to sit at his feet and learn how to be a successful non-grower of alfalfa. His philosophy was simple. The poor didn’t work hard enough and so they were poor. He believed that the good Lord gave him two strong hands to grab as much as he could for himself. He is a comic figure. But think, have you not met his like here in Britain? Here in Scotland? I have.”

    Jimmy Reid, Rector of Glasgow University, 1972

    • Bill,
      Yes this happened in my life time in Scotland and is still going on in some form or other. There was the famous case of a prominent landowner in a Highland Perthshire, who in the 1980s was paid £3 million NOT to plant Sitka Spruce.

  48. I cartainly have seen many of them, mostly at the SLE stand at the highland show.
    Their “two strong hands ” are not their own hands though, they are the factor and edinburgh lawyer.

  49. Well said Hector. There are west coast Island estates who patronisingly publish their “generosity” in “conveying free of charge” house sites for Affordable Homes. How disingenuous these statement are as developers MUST by law ensure a small percentage of their overall extensive master plan is given over to Affordable Homes. When these Affordable Homes are built at the start of an extensive master plan then the ultra high cost of the infrastructure – sewage, drainage, water, play park amenities, lighting, roads taken care of by the government funded housing associations. So for a small input they reap an incredibly massive gain! Also thinking about poorer people in society who fundamentally depend on Affordable Homes then how demoralising for a west coast laird to “offer” ground overlooking the town’s open sewage works. Generous, charitable and socially just? No – disgustingly Machiavellian!

  50. If the recommendations of the LRRG are adopted will US or Australian citizens who’s ancestors originated from Scotland be prevented from becoming landowners in the Highlands?

      • No, they can own land or no they can’t own land?

        • You asked “will [such people] be prevented from becoming landowners..?” (the reference to the Highlands is irrelevant). The answer in my view is no (they will not be prevented).

    • Anyone who is non resident should be prevented from owning land, as happens in many other countries.

    • With a sister in US and another in Australia, from a family reared and cleared from rural Scotland it would be socially just if their decendants, and countless others like them, could return, stay here and own a piece of the land which they once felt did not have room or work for them.
      That said, whatever the background, residing here must be the ultimate criteria for land ownership.

      • So long as they are residents of EU member states? Or so long as they renounce their rights to dual nationality?

  51. Yes legal and electoral roll residency for sure should be the first criteria but after 1st generation then DNA should come into play!

    • Whoever, so long as they invest in the interests of the country they permanently reside in rather than divest of such interests by not paying appropriate taxes or, I would hope, monopolise unreasonable holding of land.

    • Reiner Luyken

      Institutionalized racism, you mean?

      • ok Reiner, what are the chances of Herr Povslen of Glenfeshie buying 1000s of acres in a national park in Norway or of him buying working farms and treating them as second homes. A Norwegian could not do that either. It is very difficullt for non resident/non citizens of Norway to buy land, even if they are American citizen – descendants of the Norse diaspora of the 19th century that rivalled the Irish and Scottish ones.
        If we collected Land Rental Value as the basis of public revenue instead of taxation of income the whole issue of nondom avoidance/evasion would vanish.

  52. Reiner Luyken

    In Achiltibuie, the local development company (CCDC), Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the Scottish government (along with the Scottish Wildlife Trust) play out already what will happen in the Scotland of the future. A Dutchman and his Scottish partner bought a bankrupt business with 5 acres of ground to resurrect it with a quite visionary plan. The CCDC thought it knew better and applied for a Community Right to Buy order. This was duly approved by the government, and financially supported by HIE. The owners were to be compensated with 80.000 – a cool loss for them of 145.000 pounds. I just got hold of the business plan that was submitted by the CCDC to HIE and the Scottish government along with their CRtB application. It contains the proposal to carve a house plot out of the site to sell on the open market for… 100.000 pounds. Profiteering or what? Under the present legislation, the owners could pull out at the last minute. If the Land Review Group gets their way, they would have to put up with this GDR-style expropriation “for the common good”. The result? Nobody in his right mind would invest in Scotland any longer.

    • well if full LRV collection was instituted then when planning permission for the house came through the extra due would be headed for the public purse. However I do have some empathy for your view and I have little time for this neo-tribalist- kibbutzist- collectivist approach funded from taxpayers, especially as the people who favour it cannot see the incongruity of the national community not owning its national parks, but paying millions to the private owners within the parks.

  53. This blog is not a forum for pursuing personal agendas agains third parties. Last warning.

    • Reiner Luyken

      Andy, you are quite ready to accuse landowners of all kind of dodgy dealings, quite often with poor evidence. I would have thought an open forum on land issues should also be open to expose dodgy dealings of community groups. Otherwise it is just a sectional propaganda instrument.

      • This is not an open forum on land issues. It is my personal blog.

        • Reiner Luyken

          And as such, you feel entitled to censorship?

          • I am not censoring anything. You have long-standing issues with the organisation you mentioned in your comments but my blog is not the place to pursue them.

      • There is no “poor evidence” on this forum, us tenants dont just make things up and type on here for the fun of it.

  54. Something I’ve never quite understood:
    When I make a purchase I “buy something” or I “spend my money”. However, when a rich man makes a purchase he is “investing”.
    What is the difference?

  55. Reiner Luyken

    Andy, I tought your mission in life was to record who owns Scotland, and how owners abuse their power. I send you factual and properly researched information on some of the new breed of land owners – community bodies and “charitable” trusts – but you erase them from your blog. If that isn’t censorship, I don’t know what is. On the other hand. you let e.g. Julia Campbell make wild allegations against a traditional landowner ( “doing anything on Badentarbet Estate has proved to be impossible”, 19/2/2013) without even questioning whether they are true. I can assure you, they are not.

    • You sent me a long and detailed description of one person’s background with the suggestion that it was not all true. My comments policy is clear on the “About” page – note it well. I do not have time to conduct a prolonged debate about this. My decision is final.

      • Reiner Luyken

        … says the censor.

        • Reiner, if you can’t accept this is Andy’s blog and not your soapbox, and if you feel you have a legitimate grievance start your own blog and you can say whatever you wish. But bear in mind you will still be subject to the law on libel and the need to be able to provide evidence to support your allegations.

          There are many followers of Andy’s blog who enjoy intelligent discussion of matters affecting our country it doesn’t help when you start to pursue some harebrained agenda of your own and mess up the discussion for the rest of us.

          As has already been suggested to you “Get a grip of yourself.”

          • Reiner Luyken

            Stuart, the deleted item was neither libellous nor short of evidence. As a matter of fact, the evidence was a statement obtained from Highlands and Islands Enterprise through the Freedom of Information Act. The problem with Andy’s blog is that it is a kind of fishing expedition to back up preconceived ideas. Contrary points of view are not overly welcome. That’s okay, that’s his right. But by censoring items of public interest, he diminishes the relevance of his blog.

  56. Andy does right to remind us all periodically that this is his blog and not a public forum. (Perhaps a public forum is required if anyone has the knowledge to set one up?)

    That said, it’s noticeable he is more likely to cite the “off topic, note my blog policy!” thing against people whose views don’t chime with his own.

    Worth remembering Andy says in the preface to his book something like (haven’t checked the exact words) “I look forward to engaging in debate, especially with people who take a contrary view …”

    Just saying …

  57. There is a big difference between expressing a contrary view; which is seen quite often; and using someone else’s blog to flog your own well worn hobby-horse to the detriment of the general conversation.

  58. Slurry Stirrer

    RL, to say contrary points of view not welcome is stretching it a bit. This blog has been fierce with clashing views, crucially ON topic. The relationship, if you see it between OFF topic and a difference of opinion with Andy, is probably because there are deliberate diversionary posts. He has to keep the whole thing on side. Andy made it clear; no personal agendas. That is not censorship, if he wanted to censor your stuff he would just block you, and he hasn’t, so lets debate ON topic.

    • Reiner Luyken

      Hi SS, I can’t see anything more ON topic in an exchange on the report by the Land Reform Review Group than giving an exampleof how the land reform plays out in reality. Orwell’s Animal Farm springs to mind. If some of the Group’s proposals were to become law, God help us who do live in areas where our newly empowered landlords (middle class dominated community groups + “charitable” trusts) were empowered even more. One friend of mine – a successful crofter who runs about 700 ewes – thinks, the day will come when we’ll have to emigrate to the colonies again.

      • Slurry Stirrer

        Reiner, looks like you are identifying the successful crofter who is similar to the successful Agri-Bus farmer, neither want change! How many original crofts does your friend now run? I also know a successful crofter who just happens to own a nice farm too(croft is in wifes name) if you ask this crofter what he thinks about ARTB he will tell you it is not needed, the same breed that say it shouldn’t have been introduced into the crofting model. This is why i give as much detail as possible to LRRG and Ag Holdings Group to make them aware of such voices, to have detailed surveys, in order to pick out the ones who are doing very nicely and pretend to be a poor wee crofter when it suits.

        • Reiner Luyken

          700 ewes equals “Agri-Bus”? You must be joking. What’s you “family farmer” keeping, then? 50 ewes?

          • Slurry Stirrer

            Hi Reiner, i was making a comparison between your successful crofter being at the top end of scale within his field ie crofting. Similar to an Agri-Bus guy being at the top end of the scale of farmers. The comparison being, as i said, that neither want change.
            sorry you jumped to the conclusion, that i was comparing flock sizes.
            by the way, does your crofter friend own his house?

  59. When moderate land reform is blocked by the landed class, as has happened since 2001,re ARTB and rent reviews etc, more extreme measures will be put in place.
    This is a recurring theme throughout history.

  60. The comment that is causing folk to question my moderating policy named a person, gave a long of his/her qualifications on their CV and then questioned whether a number of them were true. I am the publisher of all comments on this blog and will not publish comments liable to attract an action for defamation. That I have to point this out amazes me.

    • Reiner Luyken

      Andy, you, or for that matter Brian Wilson, would be the first ones to pull up a traditional landowner who extracts public money with a dodgy CV in the support documents. It’s as clear as daylight that in your book, there is one law for the lairds, and another for the new lairds.

      • I may well do – yes. But I would be responsible for the claims and the decision to publish. I have no idea of the veracity of such claims made by you or others so I sensibly from my point of view do not publish it. I do not intend to debate this matter further.

  61. Reiner Luyken

    Slurry Stirrer, have you ever met a croft who DOESN’T own his house?

    • Slurry Stirrer

      does your crofter pal own any ground? where does he/she see the threat from land reform, that would mean emigrating?

      • Reiner Luyken

        The threat comes from “the community” exercising a forced buy-out of the estate and throwing their weight around as the new landlord. If the new landlord is “the community” and not a laird, the rights crofters gained under the 1976 legislation would be pretty quickly eroded. The process has started already, in particular in relation to the shareholding rights in the common grazings. The threat comes also from “charitable” landlords like the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the John Muir Trust and the Assynt Foundation who band together as Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape (CALL) and try to enforce their idea of how the place should be run. They are supported so far with 3 million quid of lottery funds. Their paternalistic attitude is nothing but a continuation of past landlordism in new disguise

        • Slurry Stirrer

          Reiner, community land Scotland have said that where communities buy Estates then the tenant farmers would get the offer of purchase. You state that a community landlord would erode away rights, in a way that makes it sound like an old style laird wouldn’t. Surely we must not throw out all land reform because you think that communities want to control everything. If individual farmers and crofters have the ARTB then they can protect themselves and flourish. I would be delighted for my community to become my new landlord but i know one or two who wouldn’t, and these people just hate change full stop, probably because they are doing quite nicely the way it is.
          interesting your comments regarding common grazing, this is the one area where i have seen most conflict regarding grazing/headage rates, fences etc. And there is usually a common theme of one or two have had it their own way for a long time and when fresh blood comes in to a township and wants to graze their share of the common then it creates upset. In steps the CC. This is NO reason to grumble about land reform, moan about community power or scaremonger that crofters rights will be eroded if the new landlord is the community.

          • Reiner Luyken

            Slurry Stirrer, the problem is not fresh blood but bonkers ideas. I’m all for innovative, forward-looking, useful projects – I am running one myself. But I’m against schemes that live and die with the subsidies of the day, such as erecting a wind turbine as twice the market rate due to the remote location, willow planting for basket weaving, carving spoons out of native wood, research and skill-sharing trips to the Apuseni Mountains of Rumania, re-creating a failed 19th century attempt to produce locally ice for cooling down salmon (I’m not making this up!). Community bodies by their very nature go for these hair-brained schemes. Everything turns around “funding”. They also love to create jobs for “development officers”, of course also funded with public money, whose job it is to think up more hair-brained scheme to access more public funding. There is a polite word for it: short-termism. I submit that you can look after land only with a long term view.

        • Reiner,
          I have some empathy here, summed up by a quote from the film’ Patriot’

          ”3000 tyrants one mile away can crush a man’s rights just as effectively as one tyrant 3000 miles away’

          • Slurry Stirrer

            Reiner, if the community were to become my new landlord would you therefore back an ARTB so i could gain max security for my family?

    • Crofters have the right to buy their house and land at any time, which is only just, but they dont always exercise their right .
      But it is there to be used if need be. Once tenant farmers get the actual right to buy, i expect it will be the same.

  62. The reason crofting tenants don’t exercise their RTB is because they don’t gain many extra freedoms by doing so. It’s not their landlord crofters have to fear, it’s the Crofting Commission and the CC’s oversight remains just as stringent with owners as tenants. If ARTB goes ahead on the basis of ring-fencing to preserve the farms for future generations and prevent them falling into the hands of agri-biz, then there will presumably need to be a “Farming Commission” with a similar role. Anyhow, these issues will need to be gone into – crofting provides quite a good role model although lessons could be learned and the legislative regime could do with a bit of tidying up.

  63. Slurry Stirrer

    Neil, Hector. it think you are both right. hector that is exactly the case, and the implementation of ARTB instantly promotes a fairer landlord. Neil, i couldn’t agree with you more, if ARTB was introduced there would need to be measures to prevent a farm from being sold to Agri-Bus.

  64. Reiner Luyken

    Slurry Stirrer, interesting point. Yes, I would back an absolut right to buy from a community landlord. An opt-out, as it were. As my crofter friend says, “I can deal with one mad landlord, but I can’t deal with a committee of twenty of them”.