Last week I joined my colleagues on the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment (RACCE) Committee on a trip to the beautiful isles of Orkney.
The trip marked the beginning of the evidence gathering sessions on land reform, in order to ensure the Land Reform Bill presented to Parliament will contribute to a more successful Scotland.
Scotland’s land is largely in the hands a concentration of private owners. Land reform will create a more equal and diverse distribution of land ownership, and promote the relationship between land, people, and sustainable development.
I found Orkney an interesting place to begin our investigation, as on the whole, there seemed to be positive practice with land owners and land users. However, a discussion with one tenant farmer described the challenges he had faced in an unequal battle in land court. We also discussed the issue of land reform with modern studies pupils at Kirkwall Grammar. Hearing how these changes might affect young people and their future was very informative. It was a rare treat to visit Skara Brae, a site older than the pyramids and incredibly preserved.
Many of the issues the RACCE committee deals with have a major part to play in Orkney, and so this trip was a valuable opportunity to listen and learn. Next stop was the Agronomy Institute, part of the University of Highlands and Islands, at which we learnt about the development of plants, particularly those suitable to grow on Northern islands. Knowledge gained at this Institute can help promote shorter food chains and local produce.
This theme of provenance was continued at a delicious lunch with local food producers. The food was excellent, as was the opportunity to discuss how to better promote local products. My colleagues on the committee visited the Barony Mill, and praised the innovation of selling the bere crop to whisky distilleries – creating the Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2008.
It was wonderful to get out of the Parliament and hear from people on their home turf about land review issues. I extend a warm thank you to all those who welcomed the committee to Orkney, and who shared their views on land reform.
Watch this Scottish Parliament video to learn more.