Women in Agriculture Taskforce: final report

The final report of the Women in Agriculture Taskforce.

6. Succession

The cultural practice of passing on farms, crofts and small holdings to one person, usually the eldest son, was the single largest barrier to women’s entry into agriculture identified in the 2017 research. Lack of future business planning in general is a major problem within the Scottish agricultural industry.


  • Agricultural organisations and businesses must undertake more comprehensive and early planning for succession.
  • The agricultural industry, especially at farm, croft and small holding level, must challenge the existing culture that views men as the heirs to the business.

Specific Actions

  • The Scottish Government should engage in an active campaign stressing the importance of in-life business and future planning for agricultural businesses. This should include raising awareness, support and advice about the importance of succession. It should be positive in tone and explain the importance of future proofing your business. This should involve a series of workshops and seminars across Scotland, as well as annual events. It is recommended that successful cases of female inheritance are highlighted and show-cased as part of the campaign.
  • The Scottish Government and organisations and businesses associated with agriculture should ensure events and seminars dealing with succession emphasise that consideration should be given to all children, regardless of gender, when planning who might be best to lead the business going forward.
  • Agricultural representative organisations, supported by the legal and financial sector, should run the farmer, crofter and small holder information campaign to highlight the taxation treatment of in-life transfers of land. This campaign will counter the common practice of retaining ownership of land until death.
  • The Scottish Government should consider linking entitlement to grants, payments and other benefits to having clear succession plans. Where an agricultural business plan is required for any funding, there must be a long-term business planning element.
  • The Scottish Government should work with key farming organisations to increase awareness and offer incentives to farmers, crofters and small holders to make a will. Options such as sponsored campaigns, for example, ‘Cheap Will Month’, should be considered, and these campaigns should encourage consideration of all children as successors.
  • The Scottish Government should develop a series of fact sheets on the cost of making a will versus the cost of not having a will for people taking on the agricultural business. It is recommended that some high profile examples are used, particularly of women. The fact sheets should include information on legal costs and family disputes.

Key Taskforce discussion and supporting research

The Taskforce consider issues around succession to be cross-cutting in the agricultural industry. The focus of the sub-group was on the implications for women. Within the 2017 research, 58% of the main survey respondents and 57% of students and alumni agreed with the statement: ‘inheritance patterns are a barrier to career choice’.

The barriers to female succession are cultural rather than legal. Other European countries have enacted legislation which supports female succession with limited effect, demonstrating the strength of cultural barriers. The expectation, and practice, is that men inherit land. We recommended that if cultural change is slow to occur, the Scottish Government must take stronger action.

"She’s a tough cookie [his sister]. But she’s not a farmer you know... (she) would have made a better farmer than me, there was never any question of her having the opportunity rather than me as far as I’m aware." #1 Men Focus Group

Family discussions about succession are often avoided because they may involve conflict. It is widely perceived that drawing up a will is expensive, but this need not be the case. In fact, not having a will is likely to turn out to cost considerably more especially if there are family disputes. There may also be unplanned expense for tax bills. The scale of the issue of the lack of wills and succession planning is unknown.

There is a distinction between having a will and having a business succession plan. Succession is about more than who takes over upon death and all options should be considered. Future business planning does not necessarily need to include direct succession by family members and women should be given equal consideration with men. Active future business planning is important for the long-term success of any business.


Email: womeninagriculture@gov.scot

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