August Update from SLMS.

Scottish Land Matching Service is now being supported by IAAS

One of the key organisations operating in the rural economy are the Livestock Markets, not only as places to do business but importantly as places where farmers, crofters and their associated communities can socialise. With all the restrictions we have faced over the last eighteen months, perhaps one of the most difficult has been that lack of opportunity for social interaction at markets for farmers and crofters. That is so important in what has become an increasingly isolated occupation.

I was pleased, therefore, to catch up face to face earlier this month with Neil Wilson, Executive Director of The Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland (IAAS). Since taking on the role in January 2020, Neil has used his considerable experience to forge greater links with other stakeholders throughout the agricultural industry. Our catch up, therefore, was a great opportunity to discuss where we can collaborate to help identify opportunities and find solutions for those thinking about succession and the future. We know that these types of discussions are never easy to initiate as people are often nervous to talk about the future, but with the right support, they can be fruitful and positive for everyone.

Scottish Land Matching Service is now being supported by IAASMarkets and their staff have a strong and trusted one to one relationship with their customers and, as such will be able to identify changes and trends at a very early stage. Neil and I agreed that where someone would like to have a confidential discussion about succession or the potential for joint ventures, then he would encourage his members to signpost the Land Matching Service as a free source of facilitation and advice.

I am delighted that IAAS will join the existing list of organisations supporting The Scottish Land Matching Service and look forward to working with them going forward.

Ian Davidson

July Update from SLMS.

The old saying that you never know what is around the corner is so very true for all of us.

As reported previously I had to take some time out from February to deal with a health issue. Thankfully things have gone well, and I am now back in harness with SLMS.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Allan Young for so ably stepping in to keep the Service going over my period of absence – it is very much appreciated. Allan and I are continuing to work together over the next while as we evaluate the ongoing demand and the Service that we provide.

Enquiries have continued to come in and there are a number of cases at a stage where discussions are likely to lead to some form of joint venture. As I have said before these things don’t happen overnight and it is important that time is given to finding the right match and building the trusting relationship.

At the start of the month Allan and I along with Henry Graham took part in a very useful discussion organized by the Soil Association and involving our counterparts in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England. Good to share and compare and find that many of the issues we face are all very similar.

But back to the start and not knowing what is around the corner. If you haven’t thought about the future and what succession might look like, then it is never too early to start to have the discussion. I know that it can be difficult but that is where SLMS can help facilitate – we are very happy to help.

Ian Davidson

June Update from SLMS.

I recently enjoyed a very interesting and informative visit with Ian Davidson and Yumi Kato to meet Stephen Withers and Neil Sandilands at Upper Hundalee farm, Jedburgh. Yumi is from Japan and is currently undertaking a PhD at Newcastle University studying different approaches to land access. Japan has very similar issues to here in Scotland making it difficult for new aspiring young farmers to access land and capital.

It was so interesting and encouraging to learn all about the joint venture partnership that Stephen and Neil had set up 13 years ago and how this had allowed the sheep enterprise to expand from 650 to 2000 breeding ewes. Prior to starting this agreement Neil had been employed as a shepherd. Stephen quickly recognised his shepherding skills and identified this was a fantastic opportunity for him to grow the business as well as providing Neil with the opportunity to take his first steps into farm business management. This has enabled Neil to establish and build equity in the business and for the partnership to purchase additional land to support the expansion of the sheep enterprise. Their business relationship has continued to develop and flourish throughout this period.

Stephen is now currently developing another joint venture and has recently secured another partner to take this venture forward, this time on the cattle enterprise. He sees this as another long-term project and recognises the importance of getting someone who can fit in well and complement the existing set up just as he has successfully done with Neil.

Although the initial arrangement was in place prior to SLMS it is a good example of the type of opportunity that we would like to promote and encourage to others. Stephen and Neil would be happy to talk to anyone who may be thinking about developing a similar type of opportunity.

If you are interested in finding out a bit more, we can be contacted on 07741 902648 or via our website https://www.slms.scot

Allan Young BSc (Hons) Agriculture – Independent Advisor, Scottish Land Matching Service.

March Update from SLMS.

Since joining the Scottish Land Matching Service (SLMS) I have thoroughly enjoyed my new role as an Independent Advisor. Throughout the first few months of the year, we have continued to receive a steady number of interesting enquiries from both seekers and providers. Initial contact with the service is very much a starting point and it has been particularly rewarding to help develop and provide support to those who have an opportunity to offer.

This has resulted in a new joint business opportunity being available on an upland livestock farm in the Borders which has already generated a lot of interest. There are also a few other potential opportunities under development which I hope will become available soon. A range of existing opportunities are also available that may be of interest if you are still looking for a new opportunity, if so, please get in touch.

It is also good to see new opportunities being advertised more widely which include a contract dairy farming opportunity near to Dunblane and for two farms available for rent on the Isle of Bute.

Although it is still early days it will also be interesting to see if the recent changes to The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 to allow for the relinquishment and assignation of secure 1991 Act tenancies to new entrant or progressing farmers results in more holdings becoming available for rent.

While still restricted from meeting in person, zoom virtual meetings have taken place with the East Lothian Agricultural Discussion Group and Turriff NFUS members. We also had a very useful engagement with Farming Connect who operate a similar land and business matching service in Wales. Discussions are also currently ongoing to further promote the service in the crofting areas with the appointment of two new crofting development officers in the Western Isles.

I know that you are all now going into a particular busy time of the year of the farming calendar. However, I would ask that you continue to review you current farming and business arrangements and to ask yourself if you may have a potential opportunity that may be worth speaking to us about.

We can be contacted on 07741 902648 or via our website https://www.slms.scot

Allan Young BSc (Hons) Agriculture – Independent Advisor, Scottish Land Matching Service.

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