January Update from SLMS.

Despite the uncertainty around a last-minute Brexit deal and the ongoing disruption issues caused by Covid19 the Service has continued to deliver as a source of advice and facilitation between potential joint venture participants. Enquiries are still coming forward though yet again I have to report that the number of those seeking opportunities far outnumber the opportunities available.

I am sure that not being able to get out around the major agricultural events over the last year to speak to people about what the Service does has been a factor in that. That is why I was really pleased to have the opportunity to speak, via Zoom, to the South of Scotland Border Valuers’ Association and just last week to the Keith and District Discussion Group. I want to thank them both for their invitation and their initiative in keeping their meetings going. If there are any other groups who would like to hear more about the Service, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

In Scottish Governments current Programme for Government there is a commitment as follows: –

“We will extend the work of the SLMS to encourage uptake of vacant and/or underutilised crofts by new entrants”.

I believe this is an area of huge potential and I have held early discussions with the Crofting Commission on how this can be delivered.

I have really enjoyed the first 18 months and despite Covid, I am delighted to have been involved in getting a number of joint ventures in place. I would like to publicise them more but fully respect that many people like to keep these new developments private. However just talking about the Service is making people start to think and it is very pleasing to see a number of longer term lets to New and Young entrants on the Crown Estate but also some Private Estates.

In my last blog in December, I said that I was going to have to take some time out to deal with a health issue. I am delighted to report that Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing has endorsed Allan Young coming on board to keep the Service running whilst I am off.

Allan was brought up on a livestock farm near to Castle Douglas and following graduation from Newcastle University he returned home to farm for twelve years.

AllanIn 1992 Allan joined the Department of Agriculture, working initially in the Inverness Area office followed by spells in Edinburgh and laterally, before he retired, as Officer in Charge of the Hamilton office.

Allan has always welcomed the opportunity to engage directly with farmers and a wide range of stakeholders to support Scottish agriculture and the rural economy. He will bring a lot of practical knowledge and career experience to best support those who wish to make use of the Scottish Land Matching Service.

We are having a hand over period at the moment and have put in place arrangements such that the contact details for Scottish Land Matching Service will remain the same – it will just be a different voice on the end of the phone!

December update from SLMS.

I recently had an interesting discussion with Austin Finn who manages the SLMS equivalent in the Republic of Ireland called Land Mobility. I had met Austin previously in 2017 in Dublin when Land Mobility had been running for just over two years on a pilot basis and feedback from that visit led to the feasibility study into whether a similar system could run in Scotland. They have now been running for 5 years and have helped broker over 500 agreements across the country. With enquiries running at between 30 and 40 a month they have taken on two further facilitators to develop their regional approach. It was interesting to hear that over 50% of the agreements in place are tenancies – there are tax advantages to the landowner which will certainly impact on decisions.

As I have said previously any joint venture is as much about building a trusting relationship as it is about the business and that not every introduction will lead to an agreement so it was interesting to have that confirmed by Austin – their success rate of introduction leading to an agreement runs at just under 50%.

They have good buy-in from landowner’s, but Austin reported that many young farmers come forward but do not sustain their interest when reality hits and sadly move out of the industry. Having ambition and enthusiasm is fantastic but being realistic about what is possible is something people need to consider very carefully.

Finally, the saying that you never know what is around the corner has unexpectedly applied to me recently. I will be having to take some time out to deal with a health issue in the next few months. We are in the process of getting someone to cover for me so watch this space for details in due course.

Ian Davidson

 

October Update from SLMS.

It hardly seems that a year has passed since we launched the Scottish Land Matching Service  – they say time flies but literally this last year has gone by in a flash. From a standing start the service has built steadily throughout the year and I am pleased to say that we now have a database which has recorded contact from over 150 people interested in using the service.  Even the restrictions under Covid19 have not stopped interest and although it curtailed face to face meetings, contact by telephone and occasionally Skype has allowed the service to continue to deliver support. The exciting thing is that there are 4 joint ventures progressing – I know that does not seem a lot but as I have said before introducing people and establishing strong working relationships and trust takes time and effort from everyone.
 
 
I was delighted to be asked to speak to the Scottish Crofting Federation AGM recently. I do think there is real potential for developing opportunities for young people in crofting and I look forward to discussions on how to achieve that  with all interested parties. I am also pleased and very grateful that Scottish Crofting Federation have agreed to be part of the consortium supporting the Service and have added their logo to our list of supporting organisations.
 
 
There is much more to come from this new service and in these uncertain times there is clearly a pivotal role for SLMS to play. I would urge anybody thinking about taking a step back from their farming or crofting activities or looking to restructure their business and perhaps able to give a new or developing farmer or crofter a chance, to get in touch. All enquiries will be  followed up and treated in the strictest confidence.  It costs nothing to talk and registering interest through the website (www.slms.scot) is quick and simple.
 

Ian Davidson

 

Making change is never easy, we’re here to help.

The 28th of May has always been a significant date as one of the traditional “term” dates when rents are due or where the tenant takes entry to or removes from the subjects leased. Changeovers are not as common now but still a significant date in the rural calendar.

Who would have thought that it would have a new significance this year as it marks the first small steps in easing lockdown in Scotland. As I said in my last blog, despite the restrictions, there has still been a relatively steady number of enquiries into the Land Matching Service. Whilst the follow-up telephone discussions have been helpful it has been frustrating not being able to meet people face to face and it is going to be a while before we see life getting back to some semblance of normality – whatever that might look like in the future.

One thing for sure is that things will be different to what we knew before the pandemic as people will have adjusted how they live and work and found that it suits them better. Farming, of course, has a long and great history of adapting to whatever life throws at it – whether it is weather, disease, market or political change – and generally coming through stronger.

What you might ask has that got to do with Land Matching? Making change is never easy, but recent events might be the catalyst for some to think about the future. There are still many people coming forward looking for opportunities who have a drive and enthusiasm to succeed – but they need the opportunity. If this period has made you think about looking towards retiral/change then please get in touch for a confidential chat – it does no harm to chat.

I had been planning to make use of many of the major summer shows and events as an opportunity to meet people to explain and discuss the Land Matching Service. Sadly, of course, that is no longer going to be possible, but I look forward to hopefully having an opportunity over the autumn-winter period to do so – virus permitting!

Ian Davidson

 

SLMS – May Update.

The extended great spell of weather we have had has certainly helped as we come to the end of our seventh week of lockdown. My last face to face meeting with someone was on 16 March but I have been really pleased that since then despite the restrictions the Service has still been able to operate.

Since the website launched on 8 April there have been 23 new registrations of interest as well as 6 direct telephone contacts which is really encouraging. Most registrations are still coming from people looking for opportunities though I am pleased that there have been some new and different opportunities coming forward since the website went live. These are all on the notes page of the website and if any are of interest please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Of course, the restrictions have meant that meeting people has been impossible and therefore to keep things moving I have been having very helpful telephone conversations getting more detail on people’s objectives and discussing what their options might be.
The knock-on effect on making introductions is obvious but I have been able to make some “virtual” introductions where people are going to contact each other by telephone in the first instance. Hopefully that can lead to a face to face meeting, when that can take place safely, and build the relationship further.

When I spoke at the NFUS Argyll and Islands AGM in Tarbert back in January the point was raised not to forget that farm management was also a very useful and helpful way into the industry particularly in gaining valuable experience in operating a business.

There are not as many farm managers posts available as there used to be, but it is something that could be worth looking at as a route into establishing a future joint venture. As I have said many times before joint ventures are about building relationships and trust. Farm / enterprise management as part of initial steps in building a relationship that develops into a joint venture may well be an option worth considering.

Ian Davidson

 

Joint ventures do work.

As we continue with the current restrictions on meeting I thought it would be useful to share this video which highlights that joint ventures do work. The joint venture featured has been going now for 11 years and has built a very successful business born out of having to solve a problem. Key elements as discussed in the video are trust and flexibility from both parties. If you think a joint venture might be of interest please don’t hesitate to contact me for a confidential initial chat.

Ian Davidson