‘Ev­ery­one must ben­e­fit from Scot­land’ s land’

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The Press and Journal (Aberdeen) - - FARMING - BY ROSEANNA CUN­NING­HAM

Scot­land’s land is our most fun­da­men­tal nat­u­ral as­set, and its ben­e­fits should be shared by all.

Land is es­sen­tial to so many parts of peo­ple’s lives, from hous­ing, em­ploy­ment and recre­ation to be­ing ab­so­lutely vi­tal to agri­cul­ture and other in­dus­tries.

We have made sig­nif­i­cant progress in land re­form in the 20 years since de­vo­lu­tion. We have taken his­toric steps to­wards mod­ernising laws around land own­er­ship and rights over land, and more re­cently, es­tab­lished a frame­work of land gov­er­nance, rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that con­trib­utes to a sus­tain­able, fairer so­ci­ety.

We have in­tro­duced com­mu­nity right to buy ini­tia­tives that have seen over 563,000 acres now in com­mu­nity own­er­ship, al­lo­cated more than £16mil­lion via the Scot­tish Land Fund to as­sist this process, and re­main firmly com­mit­ted to reach­ing our tar­get of one mil­lion acres of land in com­mu­nity own­er­ship.

In April we cre­ated the Scot­tish Land Com­mis­sion and charged it with de­liv­er­ing fo­cus, ex­per­tise and en­ergy to on­go­ing and fu­ture land re­form. This week it pub­lished its first strate­gic plan of pri­or­i­ties.

How­ever, we will not rest on our lau­rels. We now need – in col­lab­o­ra­tion with stake­hold­ers – to drive for­ward sus­tained progress, to en­sure land con­trib­utes more to our na­tional eco­nomic, so­cial and cul­tural am­bi­tions.

We want to see greater di­ver­sity of own­er­ship, which can con­trib­ute to more sus­tain­able com­mu­ni­ties and a fair so­ci­ety. We want to see greater trans­parency of own­er­ship, and about the de­ci­sions that im­pact oth­ers, so that com­mu­ni­ties are in­volved in de­ci­sions that af­fect them.

That is why this week, I pub­lished our Scot­tish Land Rights and Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties State­ment, the first such state­ment in the world. Its vi­sion is for a Scot­land with a strong, dy­namic re­la­tion­ship be­tween land and its peo­ple, where all land con­trib­utes to a mod­ern suc­cess­ful coun­try, and where rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in re­la­tion to land are fully recog­nised and ful­filled.

The state­ment will help en­sure that land can sup­port our am­bi­tions for a fairer and more pros­per­ous coun­try, where more peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties can ben­e­fit from and en­joy land.

It is based on six guid­ing prin­ci­ples of: a fair and so­cially just sys­tem of land rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties; a greater di­ver­sity of land own­er­ship man­age­ment and use; more op­por­tu­ni­ties for com­mu­ni­ties to own, lease and use land; high stan­dards of land own­er­ship, man­age­ment and use; im­proved trans­parency about the own­er­ship, use and man­age­ment of land; and greater col­lab­o­ra­tion and com­mu­nity en­gage­ment about land.

It will pro­vide guid­ance to all users and own­ers of land.

There are, of course, dif­fer­ent views on how we can best en­sure that Scot­land’s land con­trib­utes to the com­mon good, while prop­erly bal­anc­ing pub­lic and pri­vate in­ter­ests, and I wel­come the con­tin­u­ing de­bate on this.

In ru­ral ar­eas many farm­ers and landown­ers al­ready make a valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to our econ­omy and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. How­ever, good prac­tice is un­for­tu­nately not uni­ver­sal.

The state­ment pub­lished this week sig­nals our de­ter­mi­na­tion to con­tinue lead­ing the way in en­sur­ing that our ur­ban and ru­ral land play a full and in­te­gral part in achiev­ing in­clu­sive growth, a sus­tain­able econ­omy and so­cial jus­tice.

Scot­land is rich in land, and I believe it is only right and fair that ev­ery­one ben­e­fits. La­nark­shire farmer Jimmy Warnock has been ap­pointed chair­man of High­land Show or­gan­is­ers, the Royal High­land and Agri­cul­tural So­ci­ety of Scot­land (RHASS)

He re­places Keith Brooke who stepped down in Au­gust.

Mr Warnock has been chair­man of the so­ci­ety’s ed­u­ca­tion com­mit­tee and the Royal High­land Ed­u­ca­tion Trust (RHET).

He was made a fel­low of the Royal Agri­cul­tural So­ci­eties in 2012 and was awarded an MBE in 2015 for ser­vices to ed­u­ca­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion in agri­cul­ture.

He farms the 500-acre Sandi­lands Farm near La­nark which ran a dairy en­ter­prise un­til 2016. It cur­rently car­ries a suck­ler herd, ce­re­als and both pedi­gree and com- mer­cial sheep. Mr Warnock is also a di­rec­tor of a haulage com­pany, Farm Field Fresh, which trans­ports food­stuffs in re­frig­er­ated con­tain­ers to su­per­mar­kets all over the UK.

He said he was “hugely hon­oured” to be elected chair­man.

“RHASS and its ed­u­ca­tional char­ity, RHET, play an im­por­tant role in im­prov­ing the un­der­stand­ing of ru­ral Scot­land and I will em­ploy my usual vigour and en­thu­si­asm to con­tinue this work,” he said.

RHASS chief ex­ec­u­tive Alan Laid­law said Mr Warnock had shown true ded­i­ca­tion and com­mit­ment to RHASS over many years.

He added: “The so­ci­ety is the lead agri-or­gan­i­sa­tion in Scot­land, and we have an in­valu­able role to play in sup­port­ing and show­cas­ing the best in Scot­tish farm­ing, food and ru­ral life. Jimmy brings a wealth of knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence and un­bound en­thu­si­asm to the role of chair­man.”

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