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The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is cautioning land agents against expecting large rent rises in 2014.  Reacting to Smiths Gore’s claims that Scottish rents in 2013 rose at their fastest rate since 2009 STFA has warned that with CAP support set to rapidly decline over the next few years there is absolutely no justification for further rent hikes in the coming year.

 Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “Land agents must moderate their expectations for rent demands, particularly in the intensive livestock sector where the pain of CAP reform will be the most acutely felt.  Scottish tenants have seen regular 3 yearly rent increases over the last decade and it is now time to pause rent reviews while we adjust to the new CAP regime and allow the Agricultural Holdings Review to come to its conclusions.  Landowners have called a halt to letting land meantime and it is only right that rent reviews are also put on hold.

 “Smiths Gore’s rental figures add further proof of the pressing need for changes to rent reviews as we see the gap between open market rents in England and regulated traditional tenancies widening.  Open market rents south of the border are increasing at twice the rate of traditional tenancies.  According to Smiths Gore’s figures, arable open market rents in 2013 have risen by 57% to average £160/ac whilst arable rent on AHA traditional tenancies have risen by 30% to average £85/ac.

 “The restricted market for tenancies in Scotland has led to some massive rents which will inevitably drive all rents upwards with little prospect of ever falling.  Unlike Scotland, England operates a two tier system with no direct comparison made between sitting traditional tenants rents and open market rents.  As a result long-term tenants in England are not subject to the same rental pressure as their counterparts north of the border.

 “STFA has been arguing for years now that Scotland must move to a similar two tier rental system by removing open market comparables in favour of basing farm rents on what the farm is capable of producing and its potential earnings.  Already we are seeing some savage rental increases as a consequence of an over-heated open market.  Moreover, due to difficulties in resolving disputes, tenants now feel they are powerless to resist unreasonable rent demands as the alternative is an expensive, time consuming and stressful appeal to the Land Court.

 “STFA will be meeting the Agricultural Holdings Group shortly and is in the process of analysing responses from our survey of members who have, almost unanimously, called for a long overdue overhaul of the rent system.   In responding, 88% of tenants thought the rent review process was becoming unworkable, 95% would like to see rents reflecting the productive capacity of the farm and 90% would like to see a statutory cap placed on annual rent increases.

 “In contrast with most commercial situations, rent reviews are the single most contentious issue and cause the greatest disruption in relationships between landlord and tenant.  It is high time that this festering sore was dealt with and we hope the Review Group will now do so once and for all.”




The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is delighted at the news that the Scottish Government, through the Forestry Commission, is releasing another starter farm at at Achnamoine, near Halkirk in Caithness.  This will be the eighth starter unit in Scotland and the first in the Highlands.
Welcoming the announcement STFA spokesman Angus McCall, who farms in Sutherland, said;  “This is good news and I am pleased that the Scottish Government is sticking to its commitment to roll out starter farms throughout Scotland and I am also pleased to note that the intention with the Caithness unit is to integrate farming with woodland management, which makes sense.
“The tenancy market has all but dried up and new entrants are finding it harder and harder to find land to farm.  The private sector has shown little interest in creating a starter unit programme since new entrants became a priority for the Scottish Government.  The Forestry Commission starter farm programme is now virtually the only route into a tenanted farm for a new entrant and new units will inevitably be heavily subscribed.  Aspiring Scottish new entrants will look wistfully over the border where the 2700 county council farms provide regular opportunities for new entrants.  Scottish Ministers are the largest landowner in Scotland and I am sure that there must be scope for creating more agricultural units, even if they were not to be equipped to the same standard as the Forestry Commission ones.
“This is an exciting chance for a new entrant to make a start in farming.  Caithness is a very productive stock farming area with a vibrant farming community and an active Young Farmers Club.  I am sure any new entrant will soon find himself at home and taking advantage of the many opportunities that will present themselves in such a keen livestock area.”




 The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association joins the whole agricultural industry in mourning the loss of Joe Watson, award winning farming editor of the Press and Journal who sadly passed away yesterday.

STFA Director Angus McCall said; “I have known Joe since he became editor for the P & J and have always had a huge respect for his honesty, integrity and tenacity as an agricultural journalist.   He was never frightened to ask those difficult questions and relentless in pursuit of an answer.  Big Joe will be sorely missed amongst not only the agricultural community in the North, but all over Scotland.  Our sympathy lies with his family and close friends at this difficult time.”




The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has greeted the proposal from SL &E for an amnesty for tenants’ improvements as a step in the right direction.

Responding to the landlords’ proposals STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said:  “Although we have been discussing way-go compensation in the TFF ad nauseum over a decade, this proposal has now come out of the blue.  Whilst we  welcome the general thrust of these proposals it is difficult to understand why this extremely contentious issue has never been resolved or concluded and is now being  brought up at the eleventh hour in the wake of a ministerial led review of Ag Holdings.

“Compensation for improvements and rent reviews are the most contentious issues between landlords and tenants and little or no progress has been made on these in the TFF.   This suggestion of an amnesty could have been made long before now  rather than coming as a knee jerk reaction from an organisation, obviously feeling under pressure.  This is a very complex subject and the SL& E proposal needs to be studied in detail before STFA makes its recommendations to the Review Group.

 “If such an amnesty is to take place it must have a statutory basis and any disputes over the eligibility of an improvement must be referred to an independent panel of experts.  Many landlords will undoubtedly resist this proposal even if it has the backing of SL&E and the tenanted sector must not find itself tied up in endless expensive legal wrangles.  We have already seen how ready some landlords and their professional advisors are to challenge parliamentary legislation.”

“STFA has just concluded a comprehensive survey of members which has given the association compelling evidence of dire situations which many tenants find themselves in.  These results give STFA the mandate to call for radical change.  Way-go compensation is highlighted as one of the major concerns of tenants with 85% of respondents believing they would not receive proper compensation should their tenancies come to an end.  This is unacceptable in a modern inclusive society and the results of the survey will be published in full shortly.

“It has also to be remembered that any legislative change will not take place for at least two years and provision must be made to safeguard the interests of tenants whose tenancies will come to an end in the interim.”

Scottish Lands and Estates press release can be found at:


Tenants optimistic about Holdings review

Tenants optimistic about Holdings review


The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed the Scottish Government’s call for evidence launched today as part of the review of agricultural holdings led by the Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochchead.  The Review Group has set out its vision for a dynamic and successful tenant farming sector and is now inviting people with relevant experience and insights to contribute evidence and views.

STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said:  “Policy making decisions emerging from this review will have far reaching consequences for the next few generations of tenant farmers and it is vitally important the government gets it right.  The Review Group’s vision of the future shape of tenant farming is a useful starting point for what will be a long journey.  Times have changed since the last major shake up of tenancy law in 1948 and there is an urgent need to ensure that our tenancy system is fit for the challenges of modern day agriculture.

“STFA is pleased that the Review Group will, amongst other issues, be giving consideration to the absolute right to buy for tenant farmers in secure 1991 secure tenancies.  We hope that this debate will take place in a rational and informed manner taking account of what will be in the long-term public interest of rural Scotland, its economy and communities and the future of agricultural production.

“STFA is just concluding an extensive survey of members and early indications show a desire for radical change.  We will be representing our members’ views and aspirations to the Review Group and will arrange farm visits so the group members can see and appreciate the challenges tenants face first hand.  We will also be encouraging our members to approach the group directly.  There is undoubtedly a mood for change amongst tenant farmers and an optimism that this will be translated into action.”

Angus Mccall – Comment in Press and Journal

Angus Mccall – Comment in Press and Journal

2014  – Year of Change?

19th February 2014

 2014 looks set to be a seminal year for the tenanted sector of Scottish farming.  Reviews on land and tenancy reform against the backdrop of a new CAP regime and Scottish referendum in September promise the ingredients in a recipe for potentially positive change.  Land reform and tenancies are now in the spotlight, and high time too.

 This is welcome news as the intervening decade since the last attempt at tenancy reform has seen the sector take a serious battering.  The 2003 Act, despite its good intentions, has been continuously challenged, relationships between landlords and tenants have deteriorated, the let land market has closed down and opportunities for new entrants have all but disappeared.

The cross industry stakeholder body the TFF has become an ineffectual talking shop, failing to address the central isues holding back the tenanted sector.  Inhibited by powerful sectoral vested interests, it was always doomed as a handy patch of long grass for tricky problems and is now facing redundancy with the advent of the ministerial tenancy review.

Having given the industry a sporting chance to sort itself out, Cabinet Secretary Lochhead’s patience has now worn thin and he has taken personal charge of this all-important review of agricultural holdings.  He has a well balanced team and I hope they will grasp the nettle and recommend some far-reaching changes to the tenancy system.

Travelling around Scotland over the last decade visiting tenant farmers I have witnessed the consequences of lack of confidence and short-termism.  Seasonal lets, short term tenancies and contract farming do not encourage investment in land and infrastructure.  Empty farms, farmhouses and degraded land are testimony to lost opportunities for new entrants and the under-utilisation of any nation’s two most fundamental assets of their land and people.

Yet it needn’t be like this.  The demand for production exists. The food and drink sector is burgeoning at home and abroad with plenty room for expanding exports. There is a new generation of enterprising young people waiting , full of ideas and eager to farm the land.  The burning issue is of course, access to land, both for new entrants and for those wanting to grow and develop their businesses.

Scotland has a highly regulated tenancy sector as an inevitable consequence of its concentrated pattern of landownership where an estimated 430 or so individuals, out of a population of 5.3M, own half of Scotland.  This is a serious statistic worth taking stock of.  Richard Lochhead’s review group has set out its vision of what it believes a dynamic and successful tenanted sector will look like in the future to meet the aspirations of the Scottish Government.  However , the challenge it really faces is whether that vision can be achieved within our present land tenure structure or will more root and branch reform be needed?

The tenant farming population is now engaging in the process, looking forward to contributing to the debate and providing the evidence needed to bring about reform.  There is a huge appetite for positive change and wider opportunities for successive generations to participate in a fairer, more inclusive rural economy.  Let’s hope this will be met with the action needed to rejuvenate land tenure and bring about this brighter future which the rural communities of Scotland now so desperately need and deserve.




The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is asking all tenant farmers to take the time to respond to the Scottish Government’s tenancy survey and in doing so to ensure they complete the correct survey form.

The Scottish Government is currently surveying tenant farmers to inform the Agricultural Holdings Review taking place under the chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead.  Survey questionnaires accompanied by a Freepost return envelope have now been sent to all tenant farmers who also have the option to respond online.

 All responses are being treated in strictest confidence, but each one has a unique reference number to ensure the integrity of the survey.  STFA is cautioning tenants and owner occupiers that any photocopied of the Ipsos Mori forms will invalidate their return.  The Association has been made aware that some tenants have been provided with copied questionnaires from sources other than Ipsos Mori and is concerned that this may affect the survey findings

 STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “This tenancy survey will be one of the most important to land on tenants’ and owner occupiers doorsteps and we would encourage all tenants to respond as soon as possible as it is important for their views to be heard.  This review represents a unique chance to reform and re-invigorate the tenanted sector, but the Review Group needs to have a clear picture of not only tenancy statistics, but also the wide ranging views of tenant farmers and owner occupiers who rent in land.

“STFA is conducting its own survey so that we can accurately represent the views of our members to the Review group and are encouraging members to respond to both questionnaires”

The Scottish Government will be issuing reminders to those who haven’t responded in the next week or so.  If any tenant has not yet received a questionnaire or is concerned they should contact David Myers of Ipsos Mori on 0808 231 5376 or Fiona Leslie on 0131 244 9920.




Responding to the consultation on the Remedial Order to amend the 2003 Act following the Salvesen Riddell case, the Scottish Tenant Farmers association has said that the Scottish Government should not abdicate its responsibility and must act to protect the interests of affected tenants who now stand to lose homes and livelihoods.

 The Remedial Order seeks to grant vacant possession to landlords who had served notice to quit on their tenants in the relevant period in 2003.  This will inevitably lead to some tenants losing their farms unless the mediation process proposed by the Government can broker a deal between landlord and tenant.

 STFA is concerned that the government has made no move to accept responsibility for the situation that these tenants now find themselves in.  Following a meeting with affected tenants STFA’s Angus McCall said;  “It would appear that these tenants are in danger of being hung out to dry.  The government must commit to compensating tenants for their loss of their farms.

“The Cabinet Secretary’s statement to the RACCE committee that tenant’s claims for compensation will receive “sympathetic” treatment is scant comfort to tenants and their families who now face an uncertain future. It must be remembered that tenants merely acted within the legislative framework provided to them and against the backdrop of the intention of Parliament.  It is therefore important that they should not be prejudiced for acting within the remit of the law and following professional guidance.  They will pay both a financial and ‘emotional’ price given, as we all appreciate not only is it their businesses but families that are affected.

Commenting on the situation one disillusioned tenant affected by the order said: “I cannot stress strongly enough the damage done to family life over the past 10 years.  Apart from the considerable financial outlay, which I can quantify, the biggest issue for me is the fact that my professional ability as a farmer and businessman were continually slandered, thus holding my whole business back and depriving me of opportunities.  Banks, solicitors, land agents and suppliers put me through the mill.  Our human rights have been violated through no fault of our own.   It looks as though I am being left once again to sort out this mess which is not what we were promised.”



2014 Government Review of Agricultural Holdings Legislation
Survey to map Scotland’s tenant farming sector 

   The Scottish Government has released the following statement:


 Lay of the Land

 Survey to map Scotland’s tenant farming sector

Surveys are being sent to every tenant farmer in Scotland as part of a major piece of research that will influence the future of Scottish farming.

Responses to the questionnaire will inform work of the Ministerial-led Agricultural Holdings Legislation review which is considering, among other issues, absolute right to buy for traditional secure 1991 agricultural tenancies. Corresponding surveys will be sent to landlords shortly.

It comes as the Scottish Government publishes a new map showing the distribution of tenant farms across Scotland.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

  “This research is vital to the review of Agricultural Holdings Legislation that I am leading, as responses will influence our findings and the future of Scottish farming.

  “The map published today shows the distribution of tenant farms across Scotland, but we need to build up a much more detailed picture of the issues facing the sector and those working in it. The surveys being carried out on our behalf have been developed in collaboration with the Tenant Farming Forum and ask important questions about people’s experiences of farming and views on the future of the tenanted agriculture sector.

  “To get the best from our land and the people farming it, we need a vibrant tenant farming sector and so I urge everyone who is asked to take part in these surveys to take full advantage of this unique opportunity to make their voice heard. All responses will be treated in the strictest confidence.”


Surveys asking about experiences of farming and views on the future of tenant farming of Scotland are being sent to all farm business that rent-in land on leases for more than one year. Responses can be submitted online or on paper and are requested by February 7, 2014 with a final closing date of March 10, 2014. Corresponding surveys will be sent to landlords shortly.

  A further telephone survey to better understand landlord and tenant farmer relationships will be carried out with a sample of tenant farmers and landlords in the coming months.

  All responses to these surveys will be treated in the strictest confidence.

  The surveys have been carefully developed in collaboration with Tenant Farming Forum members including National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS), Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Scotland, Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA), Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) and Scottish Agricultural Arbiters and Valuers Association (SAAVA).

  A report incorporating all the strands of the research will be published on the Scottish Government website later this year.

  The map published today shows the percentage of tenanted agricultural land by parish, excluding tenanted croft land, and is available to download.


 STFA’s view:

 STFA is urging all tenants to respond to the government tenancy survey to be launched this week.  STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said “As we embark upon the most important review of tenancies in a generation, it is essential that Government have a complete picture of the Scottish tenanted sector.

 Scottish farm tenancy statistics have traditionally been woefully inadequate and we are pleased that the government is now going to address this major issue and fill the vacuum.  The survey results will be treated in the strictest confidence and all tenants should take the time to complete the survey as soon as it arrives and return to government without delay.

 STFA cannot overemphasise the importance of this opportunity to address the steadily declining and blighted sector.  Family farms are the backbone of rural communities but reform is now essential to reinvigorate the Scottish rural economy in which tenants play such an integral role.  The ball is now in our court to respond to this survey and play our part in shaping a brighter and better future for ourselves and the next generation entering Scottish agriculture.





The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed the increasing interest in Land Reform following the BBC’s screening of “The men who own Scotland: land reform on radical journey.”  

Commenting on the programme STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “We are pleased that questions on landownership and land use are rising to the fore as the debate about Scotland’s future progresses.   

“Land tenure has been cast into the long grass for too long and we look forward to some radical proposals from the Land Reform Review Group whose interim report dramatically shied away from any consideration of Scotland’s land tenure structure and tenant farming.   

“We also welcome Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse’s commitment to a fairer distribution of land and hope that the Scottish Government will now look towards creating a fresh vision for rural Scotland and press forward with a programme of land and tenancy reform. 

“There is, however, a danger of presenting land reform as a Highland issue involving sporting estates, but there are also many large lowland estates where communities and the rural economy would benefit from a greater diversity of landownership.   

“The current concentrated pattern of landownership in Scotland is placing the interests of a tiny minority above the wider public interest.  Despite assertions of high levels of capital investment by estates, enterprise and investment in rural Scotland is being inhibited, especially in the tenanted sector.   

The difference in investment between tenanted farms and owner-occupier farms is plain to see, particularly where estates have been split up with some farms sold off to tenants and some retained.  New owners use their new found freedom to invest, diversify and prosper.  Feelings of frustration will only continue to grow in rural communities of Scotland if the government does not take a more radical approach to land reform in rural Scotland and help create a fairer society.