HM Insights

News updates for Renewable Energy, Rural Economy & land related projects

We have gathered a number of articles and news items of interest to those involved in renewable energy, the rural economy and other land-related projects. 

Agriculture Bill

Another controversial UK Bill at the moment is the Agriculture Bill. MPs voted 332 to 279 to block a Lords amendment, aimed at protecting UK food standards in future trade deals, that would have forced imports to meet UK standards on animal welfare and environmental protection.


An alternative amendment has now been tabled which would create a duty to seek "equivalence" on agri-food standards in relation to future trade, rather than a requirement to comply fully with domestic standards. This proposal is due for debate in the House of Commons on 4 November 2020.

Access the Bill papers.

Muirburn season commenced from 1 October 2020 as usual

Emergency legislation had suspended the practice of muirburn at the end of last season (March/April). New regulations have however come into force on 1 October 2020 to permit muirburn to proceed.

Environmental groups have long been at loggerheads with land managers regarding the use of this practice. A study published in May this year tends to support the land managers' arguments that muirburn has a positive overall effect but environmentalists continue to campaign for it to be prohibited.

Although muirburn is currently allowed, the mechanism for the government to suspend it again should the country move in to a lockdown scenario remains in place.

Access the regulations.

SEPA flooding services strategy

2020 has already seen some of the worst coastal flooding of the century (January), four times the average rainfall (February) and a devastating series of unprecedented thunderstorms (August). Flooding from increased rainfall intensity and from sea level rise are a particular concern. By working together, local authorities, emergency services, Scottish Water, Scottish Government, research institutes, insurance companies, community groups and members of the public can minimise the impacts of flooding and respond quickly when a flood is happening. This draft sets out SEPA's proposed approach to its role in flood protection.

Deadline for responses: 4 December 2020.

Access the consultation

Draft Strategy for Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Research 2022-2027

Scottish Government funds a multi-million pound portfolio of research on the environment, natural resources and agriculture. A strategy is being developed for the next cycle of research which starts in 2022. The strategy will outline the government's vision, priorities and mechanisms for funding that research and views are sought on what these priorities should be.

Deadline for responses: 14 December 2020

Access the consultation

Law Society report on crofting reform

The Law Society of Scotland has produced a report setting out proposed solutions to issues in four areas of crofting law: aspects of succession, owner occupier status, statutory conditions of tenure, and the definition of ‘crofting community’.

The Law Society's Crofting Reform Paper makes proposals to improve the existing legislation, building on work done to date in respect of crofting law, rather than seek to change policy relating to crofting.

The report's recommendations include:

  • The Succession (Scotland) Act 1964 should be be re-framed to set out the differing rules applying to agricultural tenancies and croft tenancies clearly and the process relating to the 24 month timescale on intestate succession should be reviewed;
  • The position as to whether a croft tenancy can legitimately pass under the residue clause of a will or testamentary writing needs to be clarified;
  • Stakeholders should take steps to generate greater awareness among practitioners of the issues surrounding stand-along grazing rights and the necessity of dealing with them separately in succession;
  • the duties under the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993 should be consolidated and restated clearly in legislation;
  • crofting legislation should not create an impediment to peatland restoration projects, renewable energy developments and projects to enhance biodiversity or habitats on croft and common grazing land. Crofters should be entitled to share in the benefits associated with any such projects and schemes;
  • the definition of "crofting community" should be revised;
  • improved clarity and consistency is required in the use of the terms “locality”, “area” and “district”;
  • references to a person’s “wife or husband” should be updated to include civil partners and reference to the Secretary of State changes to Scottish Ministers;
  •  There should be a review of section 10(1)(b) of the 1993 Act which allows for the possibility of a bequest of a croft tenancy to two beneficiaries with a requirement that the croft be subdivided;
  • Clarification is required on whether joint tenancies could be created in respect of crofts.

This report is intended to contribute to the ongoing work relating to reform of the complex area of crofting law reform and the Law Society is calling for prompt action by the Scottish Government on this.

Impact of planning proposals on wild land areas

New technical guidance from NatureScot sets out a methodology and general principles for assessing the impact of development and other proposals on Wild Land Areas (WLAs).

The method described employs the general approach and principles set out within the Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (GLVIA). The assessment of effects of a proposal on a WLA is an exercise distinct from landscape and visual impact assessment (LVIA) that can draw on but should not duplicate its information.

The guidance provides that the assessment should be based on the impact as it is experienced from within the WLA, not from outwith. This technical guide supports the Scottish Planning Policy.

Farm woodlands assessment scheme

A limited number of free feasibility studies are being offered to farm businesses in the Grampian region (excluding the Cairngorms National Park) to help the owners assess whether forestry is right for them. The scheme is open to anyone thinking about planting woodland to gain the information and confidence to apply for a grant and to help them see how they can fit woodland creation into their business plan.

New Police Scotland web page about reporting wildlife crime

Police Scotland have set up a web page highlighting the six specific Wildlife Crime Priorities in Scotland and information on what members of the public should do if they suspect a wildlife crime has taken place.

The page explains what wildlife crime is, and importantly what is not wildlife crime, and encourages anyone who witnesses the illegal disturbance, destruction, theft, sale of animals or plants, or the destruction of or damage to protected habitats to report it.

Access the website here.

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