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Land Commission learns from TFC experience

Bob McIntosh

The Tenant Farming Commissioner explores the role of our Land Rights & Responsibilities Protocols for land owners, managers and users in the agricultural sector in his latest blog.

Many of you will know that as Tenant Farming Commissioner (TFC), I sit on the board of the Scottish Land Commission. This provides the opportunity for cross-fertilisation of ideas – other Commissioners can comment on the work of the TFC, and I can apply my experience to other areas of work emerging from the Commission.

One example is the development of Land Rights and Responsibilities Protocols, as these are styled on TFC Codes of Practice in that they set out what good practice looks like and provide a point of reference for anyone engaged in a land issue. The Commission has published seven protocols so far and although they don’t specifically refer to tenant farming, tenants and landlords are included in their expectations.

The protocol on Community Engagement expects anyone who is making a decision about land which could significantly impact on a local community to engage with that community. It sets out practical guidelines on how landowners, land managers and communities can work together to make better, and fairer decisions about land. In a similar vein, the protocol on Transparency of Ownership and Land Use Decision-Making states that up-to-date information about who owns or manages land or buildings should always be made publicly available. The Commission recognises that a lack of transparency about land ownership and land use decisions is a barrier to dialogue and progress. Providing contact information for those owning or managing land enables local community groups to recognise who is in control of land and can provide the foundation for better understanding about decisions relating to land. I can certainly vouch for how important it is for all parties with an interest in land to have effective channels of communication.

There are also specific protocols for charities and trusts that own land, and the most recent protocols focus on how owners of land can create opportunities for local businesses, residents or community organisations through purchases, leases and other collaborative working arrangements. For landowners, diversifying land holdings can contribute to a wider asset base, generate funds to reinvest elsewhere, improve relationships with the community, and provide opportunities for innovation and collaboration. To understand what’s expected, the Commission has created a route map which sets out how landowners might create opportunities, or what they should do if they are approached by those who live locally and may wish to own, manage or use land.

The full suite of Land Commission protocols and supporting information can be found on the Land Commission website and look out for the most recent one, published last week, on good stewardship of land, which will be of relevance to tenant farmers as well as land owners.

Do get in touch if you’d like to discuss how the protocols might work for you.

Animation image from the Land Ownership by Private Trusts and Charities protocol