Calls for new appeals procedure for land tribunal cases

NFU Scotland (NFUS) has welcomed the current consultation regarding the Scottish Land Court (SLC) and Lands Tribunal Scotland (LTS) as an opportunity to strip out barriers that exist in the appeals procedure.

Currently, in a stage two appeal against a rural payments decision, the SLC can award expenses against unsuccessful appellants.

Given that expenses can be considerable, that is thought to deter genuine claimants from using this route in the appeals process, acting as a significant barrier.

In responding to the recent consultation, NFUS believes that this should be addressed by applying a nominal statutory cap on application costs.

The consultation also looks at the potential for merging SLC and LTS together.

While recognising the potential for saving costs, NFUS’ view is that care must be taken to ensure that specialist knowledge on issues such as crofting law is not lost through such a process.

Farmer concerns

NFUS head of policy team, Gemma Cooper, said:

“NFUS members have expressed concerns over the appeals process for rural payments for some time.

“Currently, a farmer wishing to appeal a rural payments issue must weigh up the potential outcome of this against the risk of being liable for legal costs.

From experience, we know that the Scottish government tends to deploy considerable legal firepower in these cases, meaning that anticipated costs can act as a significant barrier to justice.

“We welcome the concept of a nominal statutory cap being introduced and would hope that this would give a greater level of comfort to farmers wishing to progress with an appeal.

“We are aware that the Scottish government is also considering the roles of the SLC and the LTS and would emphasise that, whatever route is chosen, care should be taken to ensure that there is no loss of specialist knowledge on issues such as crofting law.”