3. The Approach
3.1 The Group met on five occasions in total during the period October 2015 to February 2016. From the start of our work, we took significant confidence from the Forest Enterprise Scotland Starter Farm project. It has shown the energy and enthusiasm of young people wanting to start their own businesses and progress their careers in farming. From this, we noted that all of the successful applicants started their farming careers on small parcels of let land. This has provided experience and allowed them to build a certain amount of livestock capital in readiness for taking on a larger unit.
Publicly Owned Land
3.2 There is a substantial area of publicly owned land in Scotland as set out in Annex 2. Initial discussions, therefore, took place with the Land Managers from Forest Enterprise Scotland ( FES), the Crown Estate, Scottish Water, Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH), Scottish Government's Rural Payments and Inspections Division ( RPID) and the Local Authorities. Through initial engagement, a more detailed breakdown of public sector landholdings was established. However, it is recognised that this is still an incomplete picture and is likely to remain so until the completion of the Land Register.
3.3 RPID have a mainly crofting estate of some 95,000 hectares and crofting opportunities were also included.
3.4 Representatives of Scottish Government ( SG) and key industry stakeholders attended the first meeting of the Group in October. Details of the membership of this Group are included at Annex 1.
3.5 At that first meeting, some time was spent discussing the remit of the Group and it was felt that, rather than looking at the possibility of maximising the number of starter farms on publicly owned land, the remit should be widened to -
"Identify what farmers of the future need in progressing their careers by delivering proposals to maximise starter opportunities on publicly owned land"
3.6 This widened remit was subsequently agreed with Scottish Government.
3.7 As can be seen from Annex 1, as well as many stakeholder groups being represented, there were also members of the group who had previous personal involvement in starter farm opportunities. This knowledge and experience was very helpful in contributing to very full discussions on the subject. To build on these discussions it was felt a Mini Consultation was required.
3.8 The Group identified some key questions on what farmers of the future require to progress their careers and the representatives from the industry stakeholders in the Group were asked to put these questions to their different organisations and see what the response was.
3.9 The questions asked were-
- What are the key facilities farmers of the future need in progressing their early career?
- What do you regard as the timescales for the different facilities?
- What are your views on the potential for a matching service through a central data base that helps bring together New Entrants with experienced farmers who have opportunities or land/facilities available?
3.10 The mini consultation responses are noted at Annex 3.
3.11 The outcomes of the mini-consultation were fully discussed at Group meetings with stakeholders. In addition, two successful New Entrants, Janet Pringle and Craig Malone, gave presentations to the Group and aired theirs views on the subjects at that time.
3.12 During discussions, it became evident that there were other organisations such as Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise who also held publicly owned land and further discussions have been held with them. Additional organisations such as the Health Boards, Transport Scotland have now been identified and further communication needs to be held with them in the future.
3.13 Identifying effective communication routes with the Local Authorities has been difficult, but crucially a line of communication has now been opened and is being progressed.