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Cab. Sec. urged to put new tenancy laws into force without delay

Cab. Sec. urged to put new tenancy laws into force without delay

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

15th June 2016

Cab. Sec. urged to put new tenancy laws into force without delay


The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is urging the new Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing, to put Part 10 of the Land Reform Act relating to farm tenancies into force as soon as possible.

Although the Land Reform Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament in March and received Royal Assent in April, it is not yet active and STFA has been informed that some sections, such as rent reviews, are unlikely to be implemented for at least another couple of years. STFA recognises that delays are inevitable due to the need for fine details to be agreed and enshrined in secondary legislation, but has called upon government to press on with this work as a matter of urgency.

In his letter to the Cabinet Sectary, STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “Whilst we appreciate that there is a great deal of work to be done before the Land Reform Act can be fully implemented, particularly with regard to much of the detail of the new rent test, there are areas of the new act which do not require further legislation and could be implemented almost immediately.

“Neither the section relating to succession and assignation nor the appointment of a Tenant Farming Commissioner are subject to regulatory powers and could be up and running almost immediately. As we all know, life (and death) carries on, regardless of the parliamentary process, and there is a danger that some tenants may narrowly miss out form transferring their tenancies to a chosen relative if this part of the Act is delayed. STFA is aware of several tenants in this position where a delay of weeks, or even days could mean the difference between a family retaining or losing a tenancy.

“Similarly, the work currently being undertaken by Andrew Thin is demonstrating the need for a Tenant Farming Commissioner to help with relationships between landlords, their factors and tenant farmers and to review the way in which land agents operate. Relationships may well become fraught again as the new provisions within the Act are used and the steadying hand of a TFC be needed to encourage reasonable relationships between landlords and tenants.

“Rent reviews remain one of the most contentious areas of dispute between landlords and their tenants, the longer the delay in the new rent test becoming available the greater the chance of land agents trying to pre-empt change by using the current system to hike up rents.

“The Land Reform Act heralds a new era for tenant farming and the sooner it becomes active the quicker the tenanted sector will be able to adjust their businesses and plan ahead for the future.”



Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

18th May 2016


And pays tribute to outgoing Cab Sec Richard Lochhead


The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association welcomes the appointment of Fergus Ewing as the new Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity and Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Land Reform.  The two new cabinet secretaries take over the Rural Affairs portfolio previously held for the last 9 years by Richard Lochhead who resigned earlier from his position as Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment.

Commenting on the changes to the Holyrood Cabinet, STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “After an unprecedented 9 years in the post of Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, today we learn of the resignation of Richard Lochhead. Of all ministerial posts, the rural affairs portfolio is one of the most complex and wide ranging including farming, fishing, forestry, land tenure, food and drink, and much more.

“Following his 9 years in office, Richard Lochhead will be remembered as a hard-working and committed Cabinet Secretary who was prepared to listen to all sides of an argument. He has built up great knowledge and understanding of subjects around farming and fishing, and his food and drink policy has been a runaway success. All these efforts have been largely forgotten over the last few months due to the furore over delays in making support payments to farmers, no doubt encouraged by politics in the run up to the Holyrood election.

“Under Richard Lochhead’s leadership, land reform has taken a great step forward as Scotland moves towards more modern and inclusive systems of land use and tenure. He has delivered welcome and far reaching improvements for tenant farmers through the Land Reform Act which has also introduced greater flexibility for landlords looking to let out land. With his commitment to food and farming in Scotland, many tenants would have been pleased to see him continue in his post, and STFA would like to thank him for his efforts and wish him and his family all the best for the future.

“However, there is still much work to be done to see the tenancy reform measures in the Act implemented, and STFA look forward to working with the new Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing over the coming months. We will be seeking an early meeting to discuss likely timetables for the implementation of the Land Reform Act, and to look at some of the measures that were omitted from the Act but could be addressed in the new Parliament. As a former member of the Rural Affairs Committee and Rural Affairs Spokesperson, Fergus Ewing has considerable previous experience of rural matters.

“With the inevitable overlaps between land reform and tenancy reform, STFA also look forward to working with Roseanna Cunningham following her appointment today as the new Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform. As a former Minister for the Environment, she also brings significant knowledge of rural affairs to the new Cabinet.







Independent Adviser to tackle rent reviews and land agents

Independent Adviser to tackle rent reviews and land agents

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release



22nd March 2016


Independent Adviser to tackle rent reviews and land agents


The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has given its backing to the Independent Adviser on Tenant Farming, Andrew Thin’s initiatives to tackle the thorny issues of rent reviews and the role of land agents. STFA considers problem rent reviews to be one of the main reasons for breakdowns in relationships between landlords and tenants.

Andrew Thin has launched two initiatives this week; he is calling for a wide-ranging debate about the role of land agents and secondly, he is calling for feedback on recent rent review practices and is encouraging landlords and tenants to contact him directly for advice or to intervene if requested.

Responding to these initiatives, STFA Director Angus McCall said: “Evidence given to the AHLRG and parliament in the run up to the Land Reform Bill has shown that the actings of land agents, especially in the conduct of rent reviews, has been at the heart of widespread discontent in the tenanted sector and is directly responsible for the souring of many relationships between landlords and tenants. As a consequence, one of the first tasks of the Tenant Farming commissioner will be to review the operation of land agents and make recommendations on improvements that could be made.

“Rent reviews should represent a break in the lease where discussions take place, not just about rent, but more generally about the state of the holding, what repairs need to be done or improvements to be made and crucially the profitability of farming. Nowadays these discussions rarely take place even where there is a resident factor.  All too often the rent review is contracted out to an outside firm of land agents whose sole motivation is to maximise the rent for the holding, regardless of the economic impact on the farming business. Faced with the threat of the Land Court tenants frequently feel they have no option but to agree.

“Andrew Thin’s intervention now signals a new era in landlord/tenant relationships where bad practice and bad behaviour will no longer be tolerated. We support his notion of a Code of Conduct Specific to Agricultural Holdings promoting integrity, respect, transparency and accountability.  These are commonsense values, but are frequently ignored in the context of agricultural tenancies and STFA welcomes their incorporation the professional codes of conduct.

“STFA has long advocated the creation of an industry ombudsman to keep a watchful eye and see fair play in the sector and therefore also supports Andrew Thin’s call for feedback on rent review practices following signs that joint industry guidance is being ignored. For years STFA has warned about the bad behaviour of a significant minority of land agents and has consistently been criticised by landlord organisations for not producing evidence.  However, it has become obvious that tenants are nervous about making complaints and Andrew Thin has now opened a route for tenants to seek impartial and confidential advice and he has indicated that he is prepared to intervene where necessary.

“These initiatives are timely in the run up to the May rent review date and STFA would encourage any tenant being faced with a demand for a hefty rent rise of worried about the conduct of the rent review to make contact with Andrew Thin, either directly or through representative bodies. We would also encourage land agents to follow codes of conduct and limit any rent demand in line with industry guidelines if it can be justified.

“However, it is hard to see many circumstances where a rent increase could be defensible considering the parlous state of farming with commodity prices on the floor and reduced support payments. Rents are at a standstill or falling in England and this should be the case in Scotland as well.”

Tenants wanting to contact IATF Andrew Thin through the Scottish Government should contact:

Claudine Duff at tenantfarmingqueries@gov.scot or on 0131-244-2293

Tenancy ombudsman looks for information on rent reviews



The Independent Adviser on Tenant Farming, Andrew Thin, has called on landlords and tenants to help provide feedback on recent rent review practices around the country.

The move follows a number of cases where Joint Industry Guidance on conducting rent reviews does not appear to have been followed.

Particular concern has been expressed about an alleged practice of tabling rent proposals well above or below inflation without clear justification or explanation.

In a number of cases this tactic is thought to have led to unnecessary tension between landlords and tenants at a time when industry leaders are promoting greater collaboration.

A failure in some instances to identify the sources of comparable information used in rent proposals has also been highlighted.

This practice contravenes the guidance and makes it almost impossible for the other party to verify the reasonableness of the rent being proposed.

In issuing his call for help Andrew Thin said –

“The majority of rent reviews are conducted without fuss and on the basis of a close mutual understanding between the landlord and tenant. That is as it should be”.

“Most people have found the Joint Industry Guidance helpful, and many are also now using the new Self Help Guide to Rent Reviews”.

“But there are still people out there who are taking an unnecessarily confrontational approach to rent reviews, and who are not following the Joint Industry Guidance”.

“I am encouraging landlords and tenants to get in touch with me if they are aware of such situations. I may be able to directly intervene if that is what people want me to do”.

“At the very least the feedback will help to inform the thinking of government and the industry bodies as we move towards implementation of provisions in the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill”.

The Independent Adviser can be contacted via his web page at


Independent Adviser on Tenant Farming calls for debate on r



The Independent Adviser on Tenant Farming, Andrew Thin, has called for a wide ranging debate about the role of agents following an amendment to the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill.

The amendment was tabled in Parliament last week by Richard Lochhead MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment.

It will require an incoming Tenant Farming Commissioner to report on the operation of agents in relation to agricultural holdings within 12 months of the measure coming into force.

The Independent Adviser has now issued a discussion paper on conduct and standards for agents in order to facilitate debate across the industry about the issues raised in Parliament.

He is also seeking meetings with all the relevant professional bodies that represent agents in order to get their input and support for appropriate action.

Explaining the thinking behind the discussion paper Andrew Thin said – “Concern has been expressed in Parliament about widespread dissatisfaction with the conduct of agents in some cases. This is not something that anyone who acts on behalf of landlords or tenants can afford to ignore”.

“Of course many agents are doing an excellent and professional job, but something is clearly going wrong in certain cases, and it is vital that the sector acts quickly to get on top of this”.

“Agents, and especially the large firms that employ many of them, should be able to resolve this for themselves rather than relying on government to do it for them”.

A copy of the discussion paper  is available direct from the Independent Adviser at www.gov.scot/Topics/farmingrural/Agriculture/agricultural-holdings/Tenant-Farming-Adviser

Land Reform Bill an enormous step forward

Land Reform Bill an enormous step forward

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

 16th March 2016

Land Reform Bill an enormous step forward

  The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has greeted the Land Reform Bill, successfully passed through the Scottish Parliament today by an overwhelming majority, as the most significant reform to tenancy legislation since tenant farmers were granted security of tenure in 1948. The Land Reform part of the Bill is an enormous step forward to bringing much needed change to the way in which Scotland’s land is owned and managed, and the establishment of the Land Commission will guarantee the land reform becomes an on-going process.

Part 10 of the Bill, on Agricultural Holdings, has greatly strengthened the position of tenants by creating a Tenant farming Commissioner to improve relationships and see fair play between landlords and tenants; introduce a much fairer and more transparent system of rent reviews; improve the end of tenancy compensation; greatly broaden the class of relative entitled to succeed into a tenancy; and create an exit route for 1991 tenants to assign their tenancies to new entrants or farmers progressing through the industry if their landlord does not want to buy them out.

Commenting on the bill STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “The tenanted sector has been in long term decline for decades, in 1982, 42% of Scotland’s farmland was tenanted, today it is 24% and these reforms to agricultural holdings will go a long way to breathe new life into the tenanted sector.

“The Scottish Government has recognised the value of 1991 tenancies and the family farms they represent as the backbone of the tenanted sector and has taken steps to ensure they do not wither on the vine by allowing them to be passed to a much wider group of relatives and also to new entrants and farmers making their way up the farming ladder. Rather than “mothball” the tenanted sector, as suggested by Alex Fergusson MSP in parliament today, the proposed changes to tenancy legislation will inject a new dynamism creating confidence, stimulating investment and forward planning.

“Opponents to the bill should now stop the rhetoric of threatening not to let land or to legally challenge the new legislation, and recognise that Scotland is moving on and land reform is becoming a reality. There is nothing in the bill that should deter landlords from using the new tenancies and, in practice, there will be very little in the rest of the bill which will materially disadvantage landlords.

“Tenants will also be heartened that this bill is taking a hard line with the behaviour of land agents who are frequently the cause of breakdowns in landlord/tenant relationships. One of the first tasks of the new Tenant Farming Commissioner will be to conduct a review of the way in which land agents operate and make recommendations where necessary.  This will build on the work already started by the interim commissioner, Andrew Thin, and will go a long way to regulate the bad behaviour which has been a blight on the sector.

“This bill was very much unfinished business from 2003 and STFA is pleased that some of our key objectives since then have been achieved:

  • High profile rent reviews have highlighted the deficiencies in the rent system – that is now being overhauled.
  • The lack of investment in tenanted farms has inhibited tenant farmers in comparison to their owner-occupier peers, new compensation and end of tenancy options will stimulate investment and put tenants on a level playing field with other farmers.
  • Finally, concerns over the rapid fall in 1991 secure tenancies will now be addressed by wider succession and assignations provisions. There is still more to do, but this is a good start.“In addition to bring forward legislation fit for 21st century agriculture, the bill also heralds a change in culture for landlords and tenants. Attitudes of the past should be put aside and the focus must now be on developing successful long-term businesses in the tenanted sector by making best use of the new legislation.”


Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

 14th March 2016




The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is calling on the Scottish Government to reject landowners’ plea to scrap some key elements of the Land Reform Bill. Scottish Lands and Estates have written to Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead, urging him to rethink the proposal for relinquishing and assigning 1991 tenancies.

STFA has steadfastly campaigned for the right for secure tenant farmers to be able assign their tenancies for more than a decade and welcomes the Scottish Government’s new proposal for assignation which should not only help preserve these valuable tenancies, but will also make them available for new entrants of those progressing through the farming industry.

Commenting on SL&E’s 11th hour appeal to the Scottish Government, STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “STFA is urging the Cabinet Secretary not to bow to landowner pressure and weaken the assignation provisions in the Bill. Contrary to SL&E’s views, the proposal allowing tenants to assign their tenancies has been well thought out and strikes a fair balance between the rights of tenants and landlords. Tenants, thinking of retiring will now have much more control over how they go about it and a greater chance of getting realistic compensation for their investment in the farm compared to some of the pitiful payouts we have seen in the past. There will also be the opportunity to pass the tenancy on to the next generation of farmers giving them the undoubted benefit of secure tenure. Landlords, on the other hand will be given every chance to buy their land back at a realistic value, easily offset by the immediate increase in the capital value of the land.

“It is disingenuous for landowners to assert that the assignation proposal will only affect a small section of tenants when in fact, it is open to all 1991 tenants whether or not they have successors. It will not only encourage older tenants to exit the industry but could also provide opportunities for new tenants. It is also a measure which has the support of the majority of tenants. Indeed, government’s own figures show that 76% of all tenants believe assignation for value to be important.

“STFA is confident that assignation of 1991 tenancies will be of long term benefit to Scottish agriculture by maintaining numbers of secure tenancies and providing access to them for new farmers. Landed interests can threaten to withhold land, but very little land has been let out on the open market for over a decade. Recently many landowners have tended to concentrate their efforts on maximising the subsidy regime by taking land back in hand to take, rather than acting in the public interest by renting land out to stimulate the tenanted sector.

“Lessons will have been learnt from the Salvesen Riddell debacle, and the Land Reform Bill will have been thoroughly scrutinised for legal compliance. Scotland is undergoing land reform and agricultural landlords must move with the times and recognise that land tenure and land use is changing, rather than trying to hold back the tide.”




Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

9th March 2016





The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association welcomes yesterday’s announcement by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead that a £200M relief package is to be made available as an advance payment to those still waiting for their CAP payments at the end of March. Having listened to the concerns of the industry, the First Minister stated the government is halfway through the payment window but payments are not being made fast enough and this is creating cash flow issues for farmers to the wider detriment of the rural economy.

Commenting on the situation STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “This is indeed good news and evidence that the government has listened to the concerns of farmers and appreciates the knock-on effects which the cash flow crisis is causing. Above all, yesterday’s announcement of the £200M rescue package and last week’s promise of LFASS payments by the end of March will now enable farmers to meet pressing short term bills such as feed, fertiliser and seed and provide some certainty to plan the year ahead.

“This has been an incredibly difficult time for farmers emerging from a difficult winter with commodity prices on the floor, reduced support payments, now compounded by the payment fiasco. There was never going to be a seamless transition from one CAP regime to another, with Scotland’s varied agricultural landscape, the complexities of a new system and the added demands put on it by the agricultural industry and a plethora of last minute changes. However, it’s very clear the IT system has not been fit for purpose, plagued by poor decision making, mismanagement and misinformation. Questions must now be answered for lessons to be learned and whether the IT system will be capable of delivering BPS in the future. These issues may well have arisen whichever government was in power but this is a civil service matter requiring independent scrutiny, investigation and resolution.

“Many tenant farmers anticipated payment delays in their forward budgets. As tenants, they are at the sharp end unable to use rented land as borrowing collateral but the extremely wet winter and low commodity returns have undoubtedly heightened the need for prompt CAP payment delivery.

“The industry must now be careful not allow themselves to be used as political pawns in point- scoring prior to a Scottish election. There is a distinct danger of disproportionality with some of the current political rhetoric on the delays of CAP payments in the press and social media. Farmers need Scottish political and public support for our industry and we must be very careful not to allow ourselves to be alienated in what are austere times for many. “Scottish agriculture has enjoyed unparalleled government support since devolution and our food and drink industry has been a runaway success story so let’s concentrate in getting the system working and not put that at risk from political opportunism in the run up to the parliamentary elections.”



Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release 

29th January 2016


The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has dismissed today’s statement by Scottish Lands and Estates on government proposals for tenants to relinquish or assign their tenancies as hysterical scaremongering.

The Scottish Government has just published measures designed to provide tenants with a range of options to encourage early retirement. The new proposals will allow the tenant to invite the landlord to buy the tenant out of his tenancy in exchange for an independently valued end of tenancy payment.  If the landlord does not want to resume the tenancy the tenant may assign it, for value, to a new entrant or to a farmer making his way up the farming ladder.  Alternatively, the tenant and landlord can agree to convert the tenancy into a 25 year Modern Limited Duration Tenancy which the tenant can sell on the open market.

Commenting on the SL&E’s statement STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said; “Today’s statement by Scottish Lands and Estates can only be described as a hysterical reaction without any foundation to a well thought out proposal which recognises and respects both tenants’ and landlords’ heritable property rights. This proposal is not the eleventh hour knee jerk reaction to SNP grassroots pressure that landlords would like to think it is, but one that has months of thought and checking for ECHR compliance behind it, and follows a recommendation by the RACCE committee in May 2015 to the Cab Sec that assignation provisions for secure tenancies should be reconsidered by increasing the flexibility around assignation.

“Assignation of 1991 tenancies has widespread support within the tenanted sector and it is disingenuous and insulting to describe it as “lining the pockets of a small group of tenant farmers looking for a pay-off”.   Those with experience of security of tenure appreciate its benefits as a model of land tenure and would like to see these benefits rolled out more widely.  A recent STFA survey of members showed 84% of respondents in favour of assignation and a 90% in favour of ring-fencing the tenanted sector.

“Short-termism has dominated the letting market over the last 20 years as landlords maximise rental and subsidy income. This proposal has the potential to re-introduce the farming ladder by creating opportunities for new and developing businesses to benefit from security of tenure with the added benefit of reducing the plummeting decline in the area under secure tenancy. Moreover, this measure has the greatest chance of maintaining investment on holdings where there is a long history of minimal landlord investment.  Lack of investment in holdings was identified as one of the main problems besetting the tenanted sector.

“Scottish Lands and Estates hectoring tone does them no favours and yet more threats of litigation and withholding land from the tenancy market will not impress legislators. Landlords should put their narrow self-interest to one side and look towards the future health of the tenanted sector.  Rather than condemn this proposal out of hand, landlords would do better to understand the intention behind it and the benefits it could bring to the tenanted sector.  In practice, the “Relinquishing and Assigning of Holdings” provision should not lead to confrontation and legal challenges, but should act as a stimulus for landlords and tenants to sit down to discuss the future of their tenanted when the tenant wishes to leave the holding.  A new range of options will be available which will allow a variety of deals to be done to the mutual benefit of both parties and to the benefit of the future generation of Scottish famers.




Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

27th January 2016




The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has greeted the issue of the Guidance note for help with rent reviews by Andrew Thin as timely in the run up to the date by which land agents should have been contacting tenants whose rents are to be reviewed.

The conduct of rent reviews has concerned tenant farmers for some time. What should be a routine business transaction all too frequently becomes a stressful and sometimes confrontational performance.  Much of this is due to the tactics used by land agents in their attempts to extract as much rent as possible from their tenants, but sometimes tenants are not fully aware of the rent review process and how it should be carried out.  Andrew Thin’s guidance note will help explain the steps tenants should take and give them greater confidence in dealing with land agents.

It was evident during the last round of rent reviews that a significant number had been carried out with scant regard for codes of good practice. This sort of behaviour must be consigned to history. STFA is keen to highlight the need for both parties to conduct rent reviews properly, fully justifying any change in rent, up or down, and giving plenty of time for discussion and negotiation.  Tenants and landlords should also bear in mind that there is an industry agreement in place which advises that rent increases, if justifiable, should be limited to inflation – the Consumer Price Index.

STFA has recently written to all their members reminding them that, if they have been issued with a notice for a rent review for this May, according to agreed practice guidelines, they should already have had an initial visit from their landlord or factor to walk the farm and discuss the rent review. An initial rental figure, justified by comparable and economic evidence, should be presented to the tenant for discussion at least 4 months before the term date.  It has to be pointed out, however, that it will be difficult to find any justification for an increase of rent in today’s economic climate.

STFA is also lobbying MSPs to bring forward amendments to the Land Reform Bill introducing statutory codes of practice in rent reviews and giving the new Tenant Farming Commissioner the means to enforce them. WE have also been lobbying for the creation of separate codes of conduct, to improve standards of behaviour and encourage respect and civility between all sides.

Press Release below and link to the Guide can be found here


Self Help Guide to Rent Reviews Issued


The Scottish Government’s Independent Adviser on Tenant Farming has issued a new self help guide ahead of spring 2016 rent reviews on tenanted farms across Scotland. The guide has been shaped by advice from a number of industry stakeholders. It aims to provide both landlords and tenants with a summary of what they need to know, regardless of whether they intend to conduct their own rent review or pay someone to do it for them.

It goes through the main steps that should be followed during the rent review process itself, and it looks briefly at changes proposed in the Land Reform Bill. It emphasises good practice including the Joint Industry Guidance issued in 2015, and lists the main sources of help that are available.

Explaining his decision to issue the guide Andrew Thin said “The setting of a fair rent is central to ensuring a constructive partnership between landlord and tenant. Few other aspects of the relationship are as important”.

“Most landlords and tenants understand this very well, but occasionally things can go wrong and disagreements ensue. As a consequence rent reviews can sometimes be daunting experiences for both parties”.

“The aim of the guide is to help demystify the process and provide landlords and tenants with the basic information that they will need to manage a rent review successfully”.

“Specialist skills are not essential other than an ability to analyse information, think logically and write clearly. Help with specific elements of the process can always be bought in if required”.

“The guide should enable landlords and tenants to approach rent reviews with confidence, ensure due process, and secure a fair outcome for both parties”.

Copies of the guide are available from the Scottish’s Government Independent Adviser at http://www.gov.scot/Topics/farmingrural/Agriculture/agricultural-holdings/Tenant-Farming-Adviser or by contacting the NFUS, SLE or STFA.