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Criticism for Scotland’s new Land Reform Bill by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

Whilst RICS says it is "fully supportive of the Scottish Government's aims to modernise and rejuvenate Scotland's rural landscape", it is urging a full impact assessment before implementing any of the Bill's provisions outlined

Scottish landscape

Tight timescales mean that insufficient Parliamentary scrutiny and consideration will be given to the Bill adds RICS. Many of the parts and provisions of the Bill are too subjective and inconclusive.

Rates relief research needed

The Bill’s Policy Memorandum states that “many small-scale shootings would be expected to be eligible for rates relief under the existing Small Business Bonus Scheme”.  RICS believes that research into how many estates will, and how many will not, benefit from rates relief needs to be undertaken before this provision is taken forward.

In addition, the Scottish Government has not yet indicated whether the Small Business Bonus Scheme (SBBS) will endure beyond until 2016/17; the proposed date where business rates exemptions will cease.

Sarah Speirs, director Scotland of RICS states:

“Whilst RICS welcomes a Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement (LRRS), as it will provide an indication of legislative travel, we do not agree that it should be a statutory requirement to be updated every five years, as currently specified.

Calls for a balance

“Regular and changeable legislative modifications do not create favorable conditions for property and land markets. Indeed, these markets require consistency to reach the necessary degree of stability to create confidence. As such, RICS believes a balance needs to be struck between the land reform process and the establishment of stable, consistent legislative and economic conditions. Removing the statutory requirement for a review of the statement is one way of creating these conditions.

“We welcome the provision to establish a Scottish Land Commission, but still believe there would be merit in having separate Land Commission and Tenant Farming Commission office to ensure transparency.

“Whilst the Commission’s work may result in increased costs to the public purse, the potential outcomes of the Commission’s research, evidence gathering and positive impact on land (should it follow the remit outlined above) should outweigh the costs.

RICS concern

“Agricultural holdings account for a substantial quantity of the Land Reform Bill. Indeed, almost half of the Bill’s content relates to this issue. RICS remains concerned that agricultural holdings is too substantive an issue to be drawn into the Land Reform Bill, and should be seen as a package that has their own Bill, with separate Parliamentary scrutiny.

“Agricultural holdings legislation needs to create greater confidence in the sector which, when coupled with the original objective to guarantee food supply, can assist the Scottish Government’s vision for a vibrant tenanted farming sector which we fully support.

“Having separate legislation for agricultural holdings would diffuse any unnecessary confusion, and we strongly urge the Scottish Parliament to consider this proposition.”