Agriculture, land & estates solicitors
Whether you are seeking routine management advice, grappling with legislative changes or even looking to restructure or diversify, we have the skills, strength and depth to address your specific legal needs.
Rural solicitors with a different perspective
Living and working in rural Scotland brings distinct challenges. When your livelihood is generated from the rural environment you need advisers who are not only specialists in the law relating to land and estates but who understand rural life.
As well as our core team, we can deliver skills and expertise from across our full range of legal services, allowing us to advise far beyond the scope of the ‘traditional’ rural solicitor. From our extensive work on Land Registration and Voluntary Registration to our work with crofters, agri-tourism businesses, those working to improve our country’s bio-diversity & natural capital and bodies including NatureScot, we have a perspective on land and estate matters which sets us apart.
Our agriculture and estates team is among the largest in the country and is fully immersed in rural affairs, operating out of offices across the Highlands, Islands & Moray, as well as Edinburgh and Glasgow.
We provide a full range of services in all areas including:
With the introduction of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016, we have seen a significant increase in new instructions relating to creation, termination, variation and advice on Agriculture Tenancies as defined within the Act. Calum MacLeod acts on behalf of those farming in the Highlands and Islands and Graeme Nisbet and Tom Gray act for those farming in the Central Belt and Borders. Together, they provide in depth advice to our agricultural clients. In regards to farming, Calum MacLeod, Graeme Nisbet and Tom Gray continue to be instructed by a wide range of farmers and landowners in connection with purchases and sales, estate management and diversification and related disputes.
Our team is known for providing expert crofting law advice. Crofting Law is a unique area of law in our jurisdiction and the complexity of the legislation and procedures which apply to it requires a level of experience and involvement which the Rural Economy team at Harper Macleod are able to offer.
Calum Macleod, of the firm’s Inverness office, is widely regarded as being one of Scotland’s most prominent solicitors in the areas of Community Ownership and Empowerment as well as Crofting Law. In 2019, Calum became one of only two lawyers across Scotland to be accredited as a Crofting Law Specialist by the Law Society of Scotland. The specialist accreditation scheme was set up by the Law Society of Scotland in 1990 to recognise those who have developed specialist knowledge and help members of the public and businesses choose a solicitor with the necessary expertise, particularly in more complex cases.
The specialist accreditation recognises his particular expertise as a crofting lawyer, advising both crofters and landowners on matters including applications to the Crofting Commission and the Land Court. He has particular experience in relation to renewables projects on croft land.
Our agricultural solicitors are experienced in the management of agricultural property and land, and the issues that can arise from this. We can guide you through the process regarding any legal affair related to farming or land.
We understand that farming families and partnerships have a unique dynamic and we are here to help when you are considering generational changes and succession planning for your farm and family farmhouse. We work closely with our private client team to ensure that your farming family has the protections in place that it needs for the future.
Our rural property experience also sees us work with the leading banks and financial institutions on funding and refinancing rural businesses and property.
We also have extensive experience of advising on any disputes that arise from agricultural property, including land and boundary disputes and issues regarding leasing and tenancy.
Forestry & forestry management
Harper Macleod has acted continuously for Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) since 2008 having successfully retendered in 2013 and 2018. FLS manages c.650,000ha on behalf of the Scottish Ministers.
Harper Macleod retained a significant client base of private forestry clients. We have witnessed a dramatic increase in instructions relating to forestry given the remarkable rise in timber and forestry plantation values.
Land registration & voluntary registration
Harper Macleod plays a prominent role in the area of Voluntary Land Registration, with the Rural Economy team acting for several high profile public bodies in this regard. Notably, Harper Macleod completed FLS’ voluntary registration project. As a result all FLS ownership titles were successfully submitted for voluntary registration prior to the ministerial deadline. In additional Harper Macleod continues to act for other large public bodies such as Historic Environment Scotland and the Scottish Courts Service in order to facilitate their Voluntary Land Registration projects.
Peatland restoration is a central component to the Scottish Government’s pledge for Scotland to be net-zero by 2045 at the latest and as a consequence there is an significant amount of support, advice and public funding available. Harper Macleod was an early proponent for the potential for peatland restoration projects both in terms of their environmental benefit and in their potential to serve as an alternative revenue stream for landowners by means of selling carbon credits. Harper Macleod can advise on navigating the process of obtaining public funding, carbon credit accreditation and the related legal issues. We expect this to be a huge growth area in the coming years and are best placed advise landowners on how to maximise the potential of any peatland on their land.
Harper Macleod is a market leader on Land Reform and on the Community Rights to Buy providing regular and key advice to both private clients and public bodies throughout Scotland.
We have community projects at our heart, providing advice to more than 20 community groups on a full spectrum of legal issues including: corporate structures and charitable status; governance; Community Right to Buy; and wind, hydro, biomass and housing projects.
We have recently been involved in the following community purchases for groups eligible to purchase under Land Reform Legislation:
- Sunart Community Company
- Cromarty Community Development Trust
- Colonsay Community Development
- Gairloch Area Development Limited
- Melness Crofters Estate
- Garbh Alt Community Initiative
- Applecross Community Company
- Wanlockhead Community Trust
- Helensburgh Community Woodlands
- Aultnaskiach Dell Community Woodlands
- The Langholm Initiative
We are the sole supplier of property legal services to Scotland’s biggest landowner, Forestry and Land Scotland. We also act for a number of other leading rural sector bodies, including NatureScot and Cairngorms National Park Authority.
Recently acted in the purchase of a small holding comprising a sizeable residential house, three holiday lodges which were part of a successful letting business and croftland with farm buildings. As part of the transaction, we successfully renegotiated the structure and nature of the transaction, which was significantly affected as a result of COVID-19, to deal with the change in market conditions. The transaction was also particularly time sensitive for our client, who required to be in situ for the relaxation of the lockdown restrictions which allowed for the reopening of the hospitality sector.
Acted in the acquisition of a large mixed use Stirlingshire estate, with a combination of forestry and woodland, sporting and farming with the potential for diversification into tourism. The seller used the land for the growing of a commercial Christmas tree crop. As part of the sale, a leaseback was agreed over several years to allow continued crop management and felling each year.
We are retained as panel solicitors for the major UK lenders in relation to their agricultural lending across Scotland from Highlands to the Borders.
Recently completed the sale of a large mixed farm outside Glasgow to a national house builder in relation to a major housing development.
Acted in the sale of over 200Ha of commercial forest blocks in the Scottish Borders on behalf of a private forestry investor. The transaction from instruction to completion took under 4 weeks. Shooting leases across the whole sale property were successfully negotiated to enable our client to continue his passion for field sports.
Acted in the acquisition of 200 hectares of land of former open cast coal mine at Damside, Shotts to restore to productive woodland.
We act on behalf of the Langholm Initiative in the community buyout of the Tarras Valley from Buccleuch Estate, with the creation of a nature reserve at the heart of its plans. The land extends to over 2,000 hectares and includes both residential cottages, grazing land, woodland and hill ground. This acquisition is arguably the most significant community buy-out ever undertaken in Scotland and involves a well-known landowner.
We acted in the successful purchase in the Castle Woodlands by Helensburgh for a community group. This group in question had been the first group to try and use the Community Right to buy Abandoned and neglected land, however, in this case the community right to buy for Castle Woodlands proceeded by way of a negotiated purchase. The purchase price was funded entirely by the Scottish Land Fund. This sale was novel in its nature due to this being the first time that the community right to buy abandoned or neglected land was used.
Advised Forsa Energy and successfully obtained s.19A consent in the Scottish Land Court for development of the £50m Druim Leathann Windfarm development on crofting common grazings in the Western Isles.
Acted in the multimillion pound acquisition of Lochend, Barrock, a farm in Caithness which comprised two large owner-occupied crofts.
Advised Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority throughout the now seminal case on the Right to Roam legislation in the Court of Session. The case is now widely regarded as being the foremost authority on the exercise and enforcement of statutory access rights and has wide ranging implications across rural Scotland.
“As a modern working estate it is hugely important that you work with people who understand the business and its aims, and Harper Macleod have always been very knowledgeable about what we do. As well as understanding the traditional operations of an estate, David Eason has also advised us on diversification issues which require advice from someone who understands the distinct challenges which come with managing estates.”
Graeme Nisbet is sought out for his wide-ranging expertise on rural and forestry land sales and purchases, leases, option agreements and diversification matters, as well as voluntary land registration. Sources say “Graeme always responds in a timely manner to any requests and is very considered and practical with his advice.”
Tom Gray “goes beyond the call of duty, he’s very professional in his manner and approach. He is very confident and knowledgeable in this difficult area.”
“Harper Macleod have an excellent multi-disciplinary team who work well together to deliver results for clients”
“The firm’s geographical spread, including a presence in the North of Scotland, means that this firm is both local and national. This provides them with a unique ability to deal with the sensitivities and difficulties involved in agricultural estates issues. They have particular experience in handling large and complex agricultural disputes.”
“A very professional attitude with exceptional knowledge of specific sectors, in my case, agricultural law.”
“We have been very impressed with this law firm, specifically Tom Gray, who has performed beyond our expectations in negotiating on our behalf with a national company with massive resources at their disposal.”
“Harper Macleod have an excellent multi-disciplinary team who work well together to deliver results for clients.”
“Tom Gray has been extremely helpful with a recent complex commercial deal. He has provided excellent advice in an extremely pressured situation.”
“Tom Gray was very professional throughout the full process from start to finish, in every way possible. Nothing was too much bother for Tom. He made himself available at all times, even out of hours I ever had any trouble contacting him.”
Call us for free on 0330 159 5555 or complete our online form below to submit your enquiry or arrange a call back.