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Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 and Sporting Rates.

 CKD Galbraith explore the big questions surrounding sporting rates following the implementation of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016.

Following the implementation of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016, shootings and deer forests are liable for non-domestic rates as of the 1st April 2017.

While this is not hot off the press' information, some of those who have recently received an information request from their local valuation board may have been surprised to do so.  The assessors have been given the unenviable task of collating information which will subsequently inform the valuation of subjects. But with only four months to go, and with some council areas still to issue information requests, the timescale for providing clarity as to WHO is liable and WHAT the liability is, seems rather tight.

As to the WHO', a fairly broad brush approach appears to have been adopted, under the premise that all land has a hypothetical sporting value.  Assessors have issued information requests based on registered landownership, and those who claim Basic Payment subsidy, resulting, in some cases, in both landowners and tenants receiving forms for the same area regardless of whether they hold the sporting rights and exercise them or not.

Sport across Scotland is multifaceted, and sporting rights are held by various parties; owner occupiers, lets from a day to longer terms and numerous syndicate structures, as such, the level of detail which is now involved in the management and potential liability for land used for sport is vast.  If you are in receipt of an information request, and you are in any doubt as to whether you are liable, then you should apply some caution prior to submitting details for assessment. 

With manifold constraints emanating from regulation, designation, and good practice requirements, and land management increasingly driven by collaboration, habitat protection and the public interest, the lines between what constitutes sport as opposed to vermin control are unclear.  It is yet to be established whether a distinction will be drawn between the sporting value attributed to those areas where shooting is for vermin control, for the protection and preservation of agriculture and forestry, and the more formal sporting shooting which involves both reared and wild game. 

With the WHO' still hanging in the balance, the question WHAT' is foremost in most minds, and although the Valuation & Rating (Scotland) Act 1956 Part 1 (6) states that;

"The net annual value of any lands and heritages, shall be the rent at which the lands and heritages might reasonably be expected to let from year to year if no grassum or consideration other than the rent were payable in respect of the lease and if the tenant undertook to pay all rates and to bear the cost of the repairs and insurance and the other expenses, if any, necessary to maintain the lands and heritages in a state to command that rent."

The assessors are yet to confirm what their valuation methodology is or to set a poundage, this means that any advice we, or anyone else, could give at this point would be speculative at best.

We are aware that there are whispers of potential discounts and would advise that while none of these are confirmed as yet, they are the reason for some of the more probing information requested on the forms. 

The Association of Deer Management Groups for example, requested space for extra detail in hope that demonstration of good deer management would be looked upon favourably (similarly with the Wildlife Estates Scotland initiative). While there is no guarantee this will be the case, information submitted on the forms should aim to provide evidence of good management wherever possible, as this may well prove to be important at a later date, should there be negotiation via the appeals process.

The guidance we can offer at this stage is primarily to establish that you are in fact the liable party, and second, to provide the assessors with adequate and accurate information.  In a world where there is an increasing requirement to erect fortresses around personal data, it could be tempting to supply the minimum material here but following discussion with regional assessors, we would suggest that the mission which they have been set can only hope to reach a satisfactory conclusion if the details can be teased out of all elements of involvement in management of land for sport. 

If you require any assistance completing the forms or have any questions regarding the subject in the future please contact the agent you are working with or your local CKD Galbraith office.