Several of Moray’s farmers are expressing “deep concerns” over the extra costs they say they will be faced by agricultural businesses as a result of the Scottish Government’s land reforms proposals.
A meeting held in Elgin this week to discuss the issue was said to have been well attended with several people expressing particular concern of what is being perceived as a threat to the future of family-run farms.
At a meeting organised by Moray councillor Douglas Ross, who is contesting the Moray seat in the forthcoming General Election, Scottish Tory spokesman on agriculture, Murdo Fraser MSP, outlined his concerns and sought the views of Moray farmers.
The meeting also included a presentation by local solicitor Jamie Whittle.
Following the meeting Mr Ross said: “I have been struck in recent weeks by the number of people in the local farming community who have expressed real fears to me about the prospects of so-called land reform being touted by Nicola Sturgeon.
“There is a complete lack of clarity about the proposals and this is causing major uncertainty. Murdo Fraser has been leading the Conservative response to the proposals and I wanted Murdo to hear, first hand, what Moray farmers think about it.
“I think the meeting highlighted what is at stake if these proposals go through and it is clear that we have to take action now to convince politicians of all parties that these reforms could have a huge detrimental impact on the agricultural industry and also the other businesses which rely on their support.”
Mr Fraser added: “I was pleased to have the opportunity to speak to so many people in Elgin.
“Their views are echoed by farmers up and down Scotland. Farmers are particularly concerned about the possibility of family farms being broken up due to changes in inheritance law, the prospect of an extension of rating to agricultural and sporting activities and the leftward drift of the SNP as it competes with Labour for the votes of the central belt.
“The SNP seems to be neglecting the interests of farming in favour of their political agenda and the lack of clarity on these proposals is symptomatic of an apparent lack of interest in the agricultural sector.
“I would urge all members of the agricultural community with a concern about the proposals to raise the issue with their local elected representatives. If we apply enough pressure we may get the answers we need and the damaging proposals withdrawn from the proposed legislation.”
The Scottish Government announced their plans for radical changes in land reform last year that would allow ministers to intervene “where the scale of land ownership or the conduct of a landlord is acting as a barrier to sustainable development”.
Also contesting the Moray seat at May’s election is sitting MP Angus Robertson (SNP), Councillor Sean Morton (Labour) and James MacKessack-Leitch (Greens).