10. Cross-cutting issues for the agricultural industry in the future
Our remit was to tackle gender inequality in Scottish agriculture and to ensure that the potential of women in agriculture is realised, to better represent a forward-facing and resilient industry, and the 21st Century Scotland in which we live. In the course of our work, we sought to deliver on the Scottish Government priorities, including: a sustainable, productive thriving rural economy; inclusive growth; tackling inequality and providing a fairer Scotland for all.
During our deliberations we considered several areas that present barriers for women, but that are also broader questions that need attention to ensure the success of the Scottish agricultural industry going forward. In particular, new entrants, succession, and health and safety fell into this category.
New entrants: Every industry thrives by bringing in new blood, talent, and enthusiasm for trying fresh approaches to the business. While we considered how to increase the number of women new entrants, the industry needs a breadth of new people, men and women. We welcome the recent Scottish Government-supported Land Matching Service, which will provide more opportunities to bring ‘aspiring and retiring’ farmers and crofters together, while facilitating trusting relationships.
Initial starting points for aspiring new entrants can include directly approaching existing farmers, crofters and smallholders regarding job opportunities and the opportunities for seasonal lets, joint ventures, or agricultural tenancies. This requires confidence and trust between both parties and to support this, new entrants should receive appropriate training on business planning and communications. All these activities will be vital to the success of the industry going forward.
Succession and tax planning: As part of our remit, we were concerned that all too often daughters are not equally considered as potential heirs to the farm business. However, it emerged that succession and tax planning across the sector is generally poor, with businesses often not having identified the successor or having a will and appropriate paperwork in order.
Proper succession and tax planning are critical to business resilience. The cost to the business of the farmer dying intestate, or not having strategies for handling the tax implications of inheritance, pose significant risks to the industry going forward.
Health and safety: We considered the health and safety issues impacting women in agriculture. However, we are mindful that health and safety are issues of grave concern for the entire industry. Older farmers, crofters and small holders and young children are also particularly vulnerable groups. It is imperative that practical health and safety measures are improved and that behaviours change. Families need to be aware of their activities and make decisions that reduce the risks for all family members.