Topic: Increasing land availability for new entrants to agriculture in Scotland: A progressive property rights perspective
Ensuring a sustainable agricultural industry requires a rebalancing of those individuals retiring from the industry, with those starting their careers. In Scotland, as in many other parts of Europe, the farming population is aging, whilst structural challenges exist within the agricultural industry and community which inhibit the potential for new entrants. Access to land for new entrant farmers is a primary concern, in addition to availability of capital for business investment, and ‘push-pull’ factors relating to family farming succession. The context of land reform in Scotland has led to an ideological debate around land ownership and tenure, with consequences for the availability of agricultural tenancies. Private landowners (including owner-occupier farmers) appear unwilling to release land for sale or lease due to threats to their wider land ownership, as well as policy and market uncertainties. This paper questions what the Scottish public can expect from private landowners in resolving the ‘new entrant’ issue and underpinning the future of agriculture in Scotland. The paper draws on findings from interviews and workshops with existing farmers and land owners in Scotland, in order to better understand their reluctance to release control of their land asset, either through transfer of ownership or use rights, and to identify opportunities to overcome barriers for new entrants. This qualitative data is scrutinised through the lens of progressive property rights theory, including the social obligation norm, in conjunction with existing frameworks of wellbeing that seek to understand the ‘fundamental functionings’ of private landowners (cf. Rao, 2018). This paper reflects on ‘why land ownership matters’ and the relevance of this issue in the Scottish context due to new responsibilities for private landowners implemented by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016. Critically, this paper demonstrates that there is a need to understand the underlying concerns and aspirations of private landowners in order to effectively balance the public-private regulatory system regarding land, and the potential to disentangle property rights of ‘use’ from those associated with ‘ownership’ to encourage greater access to land for new entrant farmers.