Farmers have been told to prepare for a “generational change” in the way they engage with local communities.
Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) said new community engagement guidelines being introduced as part of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act had the potential to impact on everyone in the agricultural sector and not just large estate owners.
Speaking at the opening day of the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh, SLE chairman Lord David Johnstone said: “One of the major conclusions to come from the land reform legislation was the need for landowners and land-based businesses to engage with communities in decisions relations to the use of land.
“Many of our members are farmers and all owner-occupier and tenant farmers need to be aware that the new community engagement measures will apply to them every bit as much as it will to the larger estates and this will be particularly relevant to farms on urban fringes where there is often a keen interest from community groups regarding leisure and access.”
He said the exact make-up of the community engagement guidance would be set out by government following a consultation with industry later this year, and everyone in the farming industry needed to make their voices heard in that process.
“There are many good instances of farms enjoying good relationships with local communities, for example, where farmers open their doors to schools and the public to demonstrate what goes on, or provide opportunities for outdoor learning, skills development and employment,” added Lord Johnstone.
“The success of Scotland’s food and drink industry – and local produce – has been a boon in this regard, helping the public understand what takes place on our land. There are many farms, however, situated on the outskirts of towns and cities who will believe land reform is more of a Highland or rural issue than it is for them.”
He said all farmers needed to be ready for a change in the way they engaged with local communities.
“Communities will be having an even greater say in how land is managed in the wider public interest and farmers need to be ready to play their part in that conversation,” added Lord Johnstone.