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SCOTTISH RENTS CONTINUE TO RISE DESPITE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN

SCOTTISH RENTS CONTINUE TO RISE DESPITE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN

Scottish Tenant Farmers

News Release

23rd September 2015

SCOTTISH RENTS CONTINUE TO RISE DESPITE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN

Scottish tenant farmers will be looking enviously across the Border where the signs are that farm rents are, at last, beginning to fall. According to the Tenant Farmers Association in England, tenants this year are being able to agree rent reductions with landlords, typically around 10% on rents which were agreed 3 years ago. This is in stark contrast to the situation in Scotland where rents continue to rise despite a continuing downturn in commodity prices and one of the most challenging summers in recent years.

Responding to the news from England, STFA Director, Angus McCall said: “Whilst we are pleased for fellow tenants in England that rents are falling, it is vexing that Scottish rents are unable to react to economic and climatic pressures to the same extent. The feedback we are getting from members that, although rent demands are, in the main pegged to the inflationary index brokered by the industry, landlords are still expecting increases, even from rents agreed 3 years ago. There are, of course, the usual maverick land agents who are determined to push the boundaries with totally unreasonable demands, in one case a rent rise of more than 80% is being demanded on a rent agreed 3 years ago.

“The difference in rental behaviour between neighbouring countries with similar tenancy arrangements is yet more conclusive proof that, not only do we need a rental system that takes proper account of the profitability of farming, but also a more accessible way of resolving disputes. Arbitration seems to work well south of the border and dozens of rents are regularly settled, quickly and cost effectively, whereas, up here, it would be a brave person who would take a rent dispute to the Land Court and risk a court case which could take several years and hundreds of thousands of pounds to resolve accompanied by all the attendant stress and anxiety.

“The industry is working on a new rent formula based on the productive capacity of the holding which should allow rents to fluctuate in tune with economic and other circumstances, but it must also provide for a more user friendly route to settling disputes based on arbitration or expert determination. Who knows, we may see tenants serving rent review notices in a couple of years to get rents in line with what the farming business can afford!”

 

STFA CALLS FOR TENANTED FARMS TO BE EXEMPT FROM CHANGES TO SUCCESSION LAWS

STFA CALLS FOR TENANTED FARMS TO BE EXEMPT FROM CHANGES TO SUCCESSION LAWS

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

21st September 2015

STFA CALLS FOR TENANTED FARMS TO BE EXEMPT FROM CHANGES TO SUCCESSION LAWS

In responding to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the Law of Succession the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has called for agricultural leases to be excluded from the proposed changes to succession rules.

The government is seeking to modernise succession law and is concentrating on; what should happen where there is no will; what protections should be put in place from disinheritance; and on further protection for cohabitants. Part of this modernisation is the removal of the distinction between moveable and immoveable property (buildings and land). This means, in effect, that the deceased’s spouse/civil partner and children will now have a legal share in the whole estate, including land and buildings, (previously there would only have been a claim on moveable property, such as trading stock and investments).

As well as affecting domestic succession, this will inevitably impact on land and other rural property and fears have been expressed that claims for a legal share on smaller farms may force owner-occupiers to sell parcels of land which could make them unviable. Modelling work on the impact on owner-occupier farms has shown that potential claims for a legal share could be estimated at 20 – 25% of the estate. However, no modelling work has been carried out on the impact on tenanted holdings where the tenant’s interest lease is also considered to be a heritable right and therefore treated as immoveable property, even though it has no tradeable value. These changes mean that an agricultural lease could now be valued as part of the tenant’s estates. Such a move could potentially cause many tenanted units to become unviable if the value attributed to the lease attracted an additional claim for a legal share.

Commenting on the consultation STFA Chairman, Christopher Nicholson said: “STFA has no objection to the principle of the abolition of the distinction between moveable and immoveable property in domestic law but has concerns as to the impact this may have on agricultural businesses, specifically tenanted units. Other farming organisations will be exerting considerable pressure for an exemption for all farming businesses, but our main concerns lie with the fate of tenanted holdings.

“Scotland’s 6000 heritable tenancies will be particularly hard hit if a value is attributed to the tenancy from which relatives, not in involved in the farming business, can claim a share. At the moment a farm lease cannot be tradeable and therefore has only a notional value for tax purposes. The potential value of the tenant’s interest in a lease is thought to be around 30% of the open market value of the farm and if this value is take into account as part of the estate of a deceased tenant, his successor could be faced with a crippling bill in settling claims for legal shares in the estate.

“Whereas an owner occupier can sell of parcels of land to settle such claims, a tenant has only his trading stock to sell with potentially catastrophic consequences for the business.

“Imposing such a liability on a tenanted business is at odds with the thrust of the current agricultural holdings bill which seeks to widen the class of relatives entitled to succeed to a tenanted holding. It makes no sense to encourage wider family succession on one hand whilst compromising the viability of the new business where the new tenant is faced with the prospect of paying relatives out from a lease which has no realisable value.

“STFA considers that agricultural tenancies are a special case and we are calling on the government to exempt agricultural lease from potential claims for legal shares under succession law.”

To view STFA’s response to the Consultation on Succession Law click here

 

GOVERNMENT HELD TO ACCOUNT OVER SALVESEN RIDDELL REMEDIAL ORDER

GOVERNMENT HELD TO ACCOUNT OVER SALVESEN RIDDELL REMEDIAL ORDER

Scottish Tenant Farmers

News Release

4th September 2015

GOVERNMENT CALLED TO ACCOUNT OVER SALVESEN RIDDELL REMEDIAL ORDER

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed the Scottish Parliament’s RACCE Committee’s intervention in highlighting the lack of progress in the mediation and compensation process put in place by the Scottish government following the Salvesen Riddell Remedial Order passed by parliament in April 2014.

STFA has been trying to work with government officials over the last 18 months to develop the mediation process, but legal concerns on the part of government lawyers have consistently hindered any progress resulting in deadlock with no communication with the tenants over the last few months. STFA has also been in contact with Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead and has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, all to no avail.

Commenting on the debacle, STFA director Angus McCall said: “ This has been an incredibly frustrating and anxious time for the affected tenants who have been ready and willing to enter into a mediation process which might have brought some resolution to their desperate situations. Time is pressing as the first of these tenant farmers will face eviction from his holding in two months time and the others face losing their farms in the next year or two.

“The government has failed to honour commitments made, firstly to establish a mediation process, secondly, to look sympathetically at compensation claims on a case by case basis if mediation failed, and thirdly, not to force the tenants involved into a long drawn out legal battle for fair play. However, despite the best efforts of the tenants and their advisers to participate in the mediation process they have now been forced to consider going down the legal route to obtain some redress for the unfair way in which they have been treated and the distress it has caused.

In February of last year STFA warned that the “Salvesen Riddell” tenants should not be “hung out to dry” and should not be prejudiced for acting within the remit of the law and following professional guidance. It must be remembered that they have all already paid a high financial and emotional price for the distress and anxiety over the last few years. The Scottish Government and Parliament should accept its collective moral responsibility towards these tenants who merely acted within the legislative framework provided to them in 2003 and against the backdrop of the intention of Parliament.  We would echo the RACCE Committee’s call to stop the clock on Notices to Quit to allow the mediation proves to restart.

“STFA has also asked the First Minister to urge her government to engage in dialogue with the tenants to work towards an equitable settlement rather than forcing them into a long drawn out legal battle to achieve just satisfaction for the harm that has befallen them through no fault of their own. After 16 months of prevarication, the tenants’ lives are still on hold and they are no further on in knowing their future.”

RACCE letter and docs can be viewed here

GOVERNMENT U TURN ON SIPHON RULING – A VICTORY FOR COMMONSENSE

GOVERNMENT U TURN ON SIPHON RULING – A VICTORY FOR COMMONSENSE

Scottish Tenant Farmers

News Release

1st September 2015

GOVERNMENT U TURN ON SIPHON RULING – A VICTORY FOR COMMONSENSE

he Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed the news last week that the Scottish Government has accepted legal opinion commissioned by STFA and now no longer intends to impose the 50% siphon on single farm payments when a tenancy is transferred by assignation or succession to a new tenant.

Article 34 of the EU regulations provides Member states with the option to siphon part of the BPS entitlements into the National Reserve. In an attempt to discourage trading of entitlements and slipper farming, the Scottish Government elected to apply a 50% siphon to entitlements transferred without land.

Until challenged by STFA, the Scottish Government had intended to treat the transfer of an agricultural lease as a “transfer without land” and therefore liable to trigger the 50% siphon. It has now been recognised that legally, a tenant occupying land under an agricultural lease holds an interest in the land and so, transferring that interest counts as a transfer of land and should not therefore be subject to a siphon.

Commenting on the result STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “The Scottish Government’s interpretation of the rules, which only came to light by chance, could have been devastating to many tenants who have just, or who are about to pass their tenancies on to the next generation. Fortunately this mistake has been spotted in time and can now be corrected so tenants who have recently taken over a family tenancy can be reassured that they will not lose half of their single farm payment.

“We are surprised that government officials interpreted the regulations in such a narrow way without considering possible unintended consequences and how they could be avoided. Without STFA’s intervention we would have been in the ludicrous position, where government policy was encouraging wider family succession to tenancies with one hand and clawing back single farm payments with the other. This must call into question the interpretation of other seemingly nonsensical regulations which could bear further scrutiny. Government officialdom doesn’t always get it right!”

Agriculture law expert Hamish Lean from Stronachs LLP also said; “It was very satisfying to have helped the STFA achieve this victory for common sense in the interpretation of the Basic Payment Rules. It’s also an object lesson in not taking Scottish Government guidelines at face value. It is always the underlying European Regulations which set out the law and which must be referred to for the definitive answer.”

 

 

STFA SIGNALS GREEN LIGHT FOR LAND REFORM BILL

STFA SIGNALS GREEN LIGHT FOR LAND REFORM BILL

Scottish Tenant Farmers

News Release

 

18th August 2015

STFA SIGNALS GREEN LIGHT FOR LAND REFORM BILL

 In submitting evidence to the draft Land Reform Bill, the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has signalled its support for the general principles and the objectives of the draft Bill. STFA also welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to view land and tenancy reform as an ongoing process rather than a one stop shop and sees the establishment of a Land Commission and a Tenant Farming Commissioner as key its success.

 STFA has been lobbying for substantial changes to tenancy legislation over the past decade and is pleased to see many of these reforms in the bill; the creation of a Tenant Farming Commissioner, a fairer rent system, proper recognition of tenants’ improvements and enhanced succession rights. However, there are some gaps in the Bill which we hope will be addressed at Stage Two such as measures to encourage retirement by ensuring fairer end of tenancy compensation and the creation of assignation opportunities to allow new entrants and others climbing the farming ladder access to secure tenure.

 Commenting on the bill, STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “There has been a great deal of debate over the proposed Land Reform Bill, many think the proposals don’t go far enough, others object because they fear it goes too far. However, in reality, the bill is a diluted version of some of the Land Reform Review Group’ recommendations and there is little in the Bill that that responsible landowners or land managers should fear, despite the rhetoric of landed interests. The Scottish Government has been very cautious in is approach and ensured that all measures are ECHR compliant.

 “However, human rights should not be seen the exclusive preserve of landowners and STFA is pleased that the Bill proposes to widen the range of relatives allowed to succeed into the family tenancy. This will safeguard the investment made by generations of the same family in the tenanted farm and help reverse the steady erosion of tenants’ property rights since security of tenure was granted in 1948.

 “The Bill recognises the value of secure tenure and the need to maintain secure tenancies as a reliable and long term model of land tenure. STFA would like to see access to secure tenure widened and believes that the initial proposal to open access to secure tenancies to non-family through assignation should be reconsidered at Stage Two.

 “The Bill has, however, failed to address the difficulties tenants can experience in receiving fair compensation for their improvements at the end of their tenancy. Firstly, STFA has reiterated its proposal to create a double notice to quit procedure so that the tenant is not forced to leave the holding before compensation has been agreed and secondly STFA proposes that all improvements should be eligible for compensation, as long as they increase the capital value of the holding. This would cover improvements to houses, environmental and conservation works and so on which are not at present part of the compensation mix. These are important issues for all tenant farmers and STFA hopes they will be addressed at stage Two of the bill.

 “STFA welcomes the forthcoming debate over agricultural holdings section of the Land Reform Bill and commends the Scottish Government in taking the lead with tenancy reform. 12 years of engagement in the Tenant Farming Forum produced little bar stalemate and STFA now looks forward to working with other stakeholders, the Scottish Government and the RACCE Committee to strengthen the bill as it passes through the parliament and bring much needed change to the land tenure structure in Scotland.”

Read STFA’s submission here

Land and Tenancy Commission key to success of Land Reform Proposals

Land and Tenancy Commission key to success of Land Reform Proposals

Scottish Tenant Farmers

News Release

23rd June 2015

 

Land and Tenancy Commission key to success of Land Reform Proposals

 

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has greeted today’s publication of the Land Reform Bill as a small step on a long journey of land and tenancy reform. STFA has welcomed the bill’s proposals to strengthen the position of tenants on traditional secure leases by creating a fairer system of reviewing rents, extending succession rights and recognising the need for proper end of tenancy compensation. STFA is also pleased to see the inclusion of a Tenant Farming Commissioner as part of the Land Commission to regulate and encourage standards of good behaviour between landlords and tenant.

 However, STFA is disappointed that the Bill has rejected proposals which would have done much to address and reverse core issues in the steadily diminishing tenanted sector. The ability to freely assign 1991 secure tenancies has been excluded and the Bill has omitted any resolution to the plight of Small Landholders currently stuck with leases held under anachronistic legislation drawn up over a century ago in 1911. As the bill stands there is very little help for new entrants, limited partnership tenants whose leases have been terminated, or any positive measures to bring more land to the letting market.

 Commenting on the Bill, STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “From a land reform perspective this Bill is a welcome start to the process of modernising the land tenure structure in Scotland. The creation of a Land Commission and the land rights and responsibilities statement should send a clear message that land reform is an ongoing process with much to be done in the years to come. The establishment of a Tenant Farming Commissioner with statutory codes of practice will be key in ensuring that breaches can be effectively dealt with and disputes kept to a minimum.

 The tenanted sector has been in a state of steady decline and stagnation over the last few decades, a consequence of the CAP regime and monopolies in land ownership and land management within Scotland. Whilst proposals to extent succession and retirement provisions may slow down the decline in secure tenancies and is welcome news for existing tenants allowing farms to remain within families and, the bill falls short on any provision for new entrants, now an endangered species. Recent CAP reforms have made matters worse by triggering an unprecedented land and subsidy grab by landowners seeking to capitalise on the move to an area based support regime. These recent land clearances highlight the difficulties in balancing the wider public interest with the interests of landowning individuals and trusts.

 The fallout from the Salvesen Riddell case and fears of ECHR challenges seem to have limited the original scope of the bill. Tenants will be disappointed at the omission of the AHLRG’s original proposals for open assignation for 1991 tenancies which would have provided solutions for many of the sector’s problems; preserving secure tenancies, opening up opportunities for new farmers and breaking the investment impasse by encouraging ongoing investment in tenanted farms. These socio-economic benefits to rural communities and food production now seem to play second fiddle to the preservation of property rights.

 “We will be using the next few weeks to meet with MSPs and consult with our members to ensure that the proposed land and tenancy reforms create the necessary conditions to encourage tenant farmers in their business of producing food and drink and fulfilling their obligations to deliver benefits to the environment. As always the detail of the Bill will need to be scrutinised and we have already identified some anomalies and omissions which will have to be discussed and considered with the RACCE Committee.

 

APPOINTMENT OF NEW INTERIM ADVISER ON TENANT FARMING

APPOINTMENT OF NEW INTERIM ADVISER ON TENANT FARMING

News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

4th June 2015

APPOINTMENT OF NEW INTERIM ADVISER ON TENANT FARMING

 STFA has welcomed today’s announcement of the appointment of Andrew Thin to the newly created post of Independent Adviser on Tenant Farming.  This appointment will be a short-term interim measure to bridge the gap before a permanent Tenant Farming Commissioner with statutory powers can be appointed.

 Commenting on the appointment STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “We are pleased that Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead has listened to industry concerns and started to implement recommendations of the AGLRG.  The industry has acknowledged the need for an independent ombudsmen or commissioner to see fair play in the sector and act as an interface between landlords and their tenants and we welcome this as a first step towards the establishment of a permanent commissioner with statutory powers.

“Andrew Thin is already well-known to the tenanted sector and as a member of the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group is well equipped to fulfil the role of independent adviser to the Cabinet Secretary whilst liaising with stakeholders in guiding the sector, creating codes of practice and helping resolve disputes as they arise.

“There is bound to be uncertainty over the next couple of years until the new reforms become law and it is important that interim measures are put in place to advise and guide the industry as well as keeping a watchful eye on what is going on. Relationships between landlords and tenants may well become fraught as the bill makes its way through parliament and this appointment help will help create confidence and revive some of the industry initiatives which were in danger of floundering.

“It is also important that Andrew is able to intervene in disputes and provide strong leadership when engaging with stakeholders.  Ten years of the TFF and the difficulty in making any headway in rectifying the defaults of the legislation and resolving disputes has been a salutary experience.  Therefore news that the interim Adviser on Tenant Farming is an independent appointment responsible directly to the Cabinet Secretary is most welcome.  We look forward to working with Andrew Thin in his new role and have already identified a number of issues for his immediate attention.”

 

 

Daily Telegraph’s attack on land reform plans “simply preposterous”

Daily Telegraph’s attack on land reform plans “simply preposterous”

News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

 19th May 2015

 

Daily Telegraph’s attack on land reform plans “simply preposterous”

 

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has branded today’s claims in the Daily Telegraph that the SNP’s land and tenancy reform plans put at risk Scotland’s family farms and food production as simply preposterous.

Commenting on the article by the Telegraph’s Scottish correspondent, Simon Johnson, STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said; “The tone of this article shows an unhealthy bias and a lack of understanding of land and tenancy reform in Scotland.  Today’s publication is nothing more than political scaremongering, obviously timed to coincide with Land Reform Minister, Aileen Mcleod’s address to the Scottish Lands and Estates’ annual conference in Edinburgh.

“Family farms are the back bone of Scottish agriculture and have been core to the rationale for reform.  The current land and tenancy reform proposals will only serve to strengthen family farming businesses.  The review of tenancy legislation over the last 18 months has been thorough and evidence based, resulting in much needed recommendations which should form part of the Land Reform Bill.  Key to the tenancy review has been the need to increase tenant’s ability to invest in their holdings and ensure that tenancy legislation is reformed to enable tenants to remain competitive in an industry with ever increasing fixed capital requirements.

“Mr Johnson’s assertion that the Scottish Government’s land reform proposals will put Scotland’s food production at risk has no basis in fact and relies on RICS’ views which run counter to progressive thinking on land and tenancy reform in Scotland and are not shared by many of their members, especially those who represent tenant farmers.  The Daily Telegraph may describe RICS as impartial, but anyone who took the time to look through the RICS submission and the RACCE report of their evidence session with RICS would come to a different conclusion.

“Scotland’s land and tenancy reform is about getting the best out of the Scotland’s land and the people who occupy it.  Land and tenancy reform is long overdue, and Scotland now has an opportunity to modernise large parts of our rural landscape which are locked in a feudal time warp no longer fit for purposes of modern agriculture and the wider rural community.”

To view Telegraph Article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/SNP/11614062/SNP-land-reforms-forget-about-food-production.html

 

TENANTS WELCOME COMMITTEE’S GREEN LIGHT TO TENANCY REFORM

TENANTS WELCOME COMMITTEE’S GREEN LIGHT TO TENANCY REFORM

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

 13th May 2015

 

TENANTS WELCOME COMMITTEE’S GREEN LIGHT TO TENANCY REFORM

 The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has described the Scottish Parliament’s RACCE Committee’s letter to the Cabinet Secretary expressing its views on the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group’s final report as a welcome and important milestone in the long journey to reform Scotland’s tenanted sector.

In setting out its thinking, the RACCE committee has given its support and backing to the AHLRG’s 49 recommendations for change, but has recognised that the detail in many of the proposed changes will need further consideration.

In response to the RACCE Committee’s views STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said; “Tenants will be pleased to hear that long awaited reforms to the tenanted sector have now received the green light from the Rural Affairs Committee and are on track to proceed through the parliamentary process to become law.  STFA has campaigned for fundamental change to tenancy laws for the last decade and has been fully committed to the recent review process.  Although there will be disappointment that some of the proposed measures do not go far enough, most of the AHLRG recommendations have been lobbied for by STFA.

“STFA is pleased that the committee has recognised the need for a Tenancy Commissioner with statutory powers to enforce codes of practice underpinned by statute.  We view this as a vital ingredient to regulate the sector and to encourage better relationships between landlords and tenants.  In giving evidence to the committee six weeks ago, the Cabinet Secretary announced his intention to appoint an interim independent adviser to encourage positive working relationships between stakeholders.  However, it is disappointing that this has not yet taken place, and there is a danger that some of the initiatives to resolve outstanding issues may flounder unless an independent adviser is put in place immediately.

“STFA also welcomes the RACCE Committee’s recommendation that the Scottish Government gives further consideration to extending assignation proposals to allow similar rights of assignation to different types of tenancy.  STFA continues to believe that open assignation of 1991 tenancies has the potential to revitalise the tenanted sector not only by giving increased confidence to existing tenants but also by opening opportunities to make secure tenancies available to new tenants as they ascend the farming ladder.  Open assignation was a major plank of the AHLRG review until the latter stages of the final report.  We firmly believe that further consideration should be given to its introduction and that balancing measures could be put in place to safeguard the rights of tenants and landlords.  STFA agree with the RACCE Committee’s view that the AHLRG’s recommendations on investment should not be considered as a panacea for tenants that currently have difficulty raising finance, though we believe that the issue would be helped by extending assignation proposals for secure tenancies.

“STFA commends the RACCE Committee on its positive response to the agricultural holdings review and looks forward to working with the Committee in bringing forward a new Agricultural Holdings Bill.  There will be much work to do in getting the detail right but we agree with the general direction of travel.  STFA also agrees with the Committee that all stakeholders should look to the common good and strive to make positive contributions to reforming the tenancy sector.  Scaremongering assertions that some proposals may give rise to potential claims against the Scottish Government are unhelpful and destructive and will only hinder progress.”

FARMERS UNITE TO LOBBY GOVERNMENT ON SEASONAL RENTS SCANDAL

FARMERS UNITE TO LOBBY GOVERNMENT ON SEASONAL RENTS SCANDAL

News Release

 Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

 22nd April 2015

 

FARMERS UNITE TO LOBBY GOVERNMENT ON SEASONAL RENTS SCANDAL

 Scotland’s main farming organisations have joined forces to write to Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead to urgently seek a meeting to discuss the industry’s continuing concerns over the potential damage that could be caused by the lack of robust activity requirement which allows non-producing landowners to claim Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) support payments on seasonally let land.

 The joint approach from the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association,  NFU Scotland, the National Sheep Association Scotland and the Scottish Beef Cattle Association, follows numerous calls from farmers to each of the organisations expressing frustration and disappointment as they face disruption to their businesses caused by the loss of grass lets and/or BPS and LFASS payments on seasonal grazing land.

 Commenting on the initiative STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “Seasonal lets represent about 15% of the tenanted sector and the movement of public support payments away from active farmers will have a serious impact on the livestock producers who rely on seasonal grazings.

 “There is also growing concern amongst tenants with limited duration tenancies (limited partnerships, SLDTs and LDTs) due to end in the next few years who can see that this behaviour of non-active landowners claiming support payments reduces the chances of non-secure tenants being able to renew viable long term leases for the future.

 “We are receiving calls for tenants and owner-occupiers from the length and breadth of Scotland who are facing disruption and uncertainty.  The hardest hit are likely to be hill farmers, where increasing support payments provide a strong incentive for non-active landowners to make claims for support.  While this is good news to the non-active, it is damaging to the active farming businesses who face the loss of BPS support and LFASS payments, putting at risk fragile hill livestock production.

 “We would like to discuss with the Cabinet Secretary ways to build in more robust and stricter activity criteria to ensure that only genuinely active farmers are able to draw down Basic Payment Scheme payments.”

 Speaking on behalf of NFUS Allan Bowie said: “The new CAP direct support payments should go to those actively farming the land.   Support should be there to underpin productive businesses not simply a reward for owning land.   As soon as the decision was made in Europe to move away from payments linked to production people who have animals but not control of the land are at risk of losing support payments.

 “We are concerned by the situation facing many of our members who are now losing access to land that they previously farmed.   We will continue to work with the Scottish Government to close the loopholes in the EU regulations that tie support only to land rather than to farming and production.

“Our members need to know that the rules on activity have been pushed to the limits and that the barriers introduced against slipper farming are going to be effective.   The principle of support being targeted at those taking on the risks that are inherent in farming the land is embedded in the European regulations.   Allowing the active farmer to use the land to claim support payments upholds that principle while any grab for entitlements risks damaging and undermining agricultural production in Scotland.”

 George Milne, regional manager NSA Scotland said, “The outcome of this is totally against the original principles and policies of the Scottish Government who have always said that the genuine active farmer, the person looking after the livestock, should receive the payments.”

 Commenting for the Scottish Beef Cattle Association Chairman Scott Henderson said that he wholeheartedly supported the joint initiative and looked forward to meeting with the Cabinet Secretary at the earliest opportunity.