Uncategorized

Summer Shows give tenants a chance to air their views

Summer Shows give tenants a chance to air their views

Summer Shows give tenants a chance to air their views

 The Agricultural Shows taking place around the country over the next week or two provide a timely opportunity for tenants to discuss the recent developments relating to the tenanted sector.  With the on-going work of Land Reform at Holyrood and Westminster, and the announcement by the Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead that there will be a review of Agricultural Holdings legislation in 2014, we now have a real opportunity to tackle the problems faced by Scotland’s tenant farmers.

This year, as usual, STFA will have a stand at the Turriff Show.  As well as being the rural heartland the SNP, Scotland’s governing party, the North East has a large population of tenant farmers whose views are important to the tenancy debate.  The show will provide an opportunity for tenants to discuss tenancy issues and speak to political representatives.

STFA is also having its first outing to the Dumfries show on Saturday; The South West has also large areas of tenanted land and is home to some of Scotland’s biggest estates

Speaking in advance of the Shows Chairman Christopher Nicholson said; “We are pleased that, following the Cabinet Secretary’s recent announcement, an open debate is developing around Land Reform and Agricultural Holdings legislation including the absolute right to buy for tenants.  Topics up for discussion include the test for setting farm rents, compensation to outgoing tenants for their improvements, and provisions for assignation and succession of farm tenancies.”

“Family farms are the backbone of many remote rural communities, and all the arguments should be explored in full to ensure long term sustainable family farming in the tenanted areas for future generations.”

“Land Reform and changes to Agricultural Holdings legislation are part of the ongoing political process and it is vital that tenants’ views are heard.  Of the 484 recently published submissions to the LRRG, over half were from estates, landowners and their professional representatives, all happy with the current status quo.  This has been interpreted by some as demonstrating little appetite for change amongst tenants, but the views heard by STFA at this summer’s shows suggest a different picture.”

 

TFF AND SAAVA LAUNCH SHORT FORM ARBITRATION FOR TENANCY DISPUTES

TFF AND SAAVA LAUNCH SHORT FORM ARBITRATION FOR TENANCY DISPUTES

POTENTIAL FOR RESOLUTION PROCESS TO STRIP TIME AND COST OUT OF TENANT AND LANDOWNER DISPUTES

 

TFF and SAAVA launch short form arbitration system

 

 Tenant farmers and landowners in Scotland now have access to a short form arbitration process to deal with disputes over rents.

The process has been developed by the Scottish Agricultural Arbiters & Valuers Association (SAAVA) at the request of the Tenant Farmers Forum (TFF).

This is the latest development in a series of workstreams for the TFF designed to facilitate good working relationships between landowners and tenants.  It follows the publication of ‘Farm Rent Reviews – Introduction and Guide to Good Practice’ in May.

In welcoming the move Scottish Tenant Farmers Association Chairman Chris Nicholson said:

“Settling rental disputes is becoming an increasingly time consuming and expensive exercise and STFA welcomes SAAVA’s initiative to introduce a fast track and cost effective arbitration process and will be encouraging members to make use of the service. 

“Tenants should never feel compelled to agree a rental increase which they believe to be unjustified because the alternative is a long drawn out, costly and stressful legal battle in the Land Court and the introduction of short form arbitration is a step in the right direction. 

We now look forward to a system of rental determination by an independent expert being developed as the preferred option for most tenant farmers.”

 Phil Thomas, Chairman of the TFF said:

“The introduction of the new short form arbitration system has full TFF support. We believe that it will be very much welcomed by both tenants and landowners as a direct and straightforward way of resolving differences in view about rents, without having to resort to the legal process of going to the Scottish Land Court.

“We also look forward to the development of the next SAAVA initiative which relates to Expert Determination. 

“The primary purpose of the Tenant Farming Forum is to help to promote a healthy farm tenanted sector in Scotland. We see simpler and less costly processes, facilitating good tenant-landlord relationships as an important part of that objective.”

Martin Hall, President of SAAVA commented:

“Our new Short Form Arbitration Process is designed to be a more straightforward and cost effective means of dispute resolution for the agricultural tenanted sector in Scotland.   SAAVA believes that our robust Short Form Arbitration tool will be extremely useful to tenant farmers and landowners and we are proud to launch this tool alongside our industry colleagues on the TFF.

“Our Short Form Arbitration Process is the result of 12 months of solid work and input from our professional members. We are now focussing on the development of further alternative dispute resolution tools, including making it easier for tenants and landowners to take the Independent Expert approach. This work will follow on from discussions in the Rent Review Working Group where there was a clear desire for cheap efficient methods for reviewing, setting and agreeing agricultural rents.

“SAAVA membership consists of practical valuers and, alongside the Short Form Arbitration, SAAVA has a panel of trained and qualified arbiters able to undertake appointments as and when cases arise.”

Scott Walker, Chief Executive of NFU Scotland added:

“NFUS welcomes the launch of this faster and cheaper way of resolving rent disputes.   We strongly encourage all landlords and tenants unable to reach an agreement on rent to make use of this alternative dispute resolution process.   Cost should never be a barrier to a fair resolution and this new process will mean there is an independent and quick system to resolve a dispute where two parties are unable to agree what the rent should be.”

On behalf of Scottish Land & Estates, Stuart Young of Dunecht Estates said:

“ScottishLand & Estates fully supports this initiative for resolving disputes.  It is an independent, efficient and inexpensive method of dealing with disputes and we would urge any landlord or tenant to consider using it where agreement cannot be reached.”

Warmly welcoming the launch on behalf of RICS Scotland, Andrew Hamilton said:

“We have worked closely with SAAVA on this project and they are to be congratulated on producing such a practical and usable tool. While I believe the Land   Court do an excellent job, I also believe as an arbiter myself that there is a role for an alternative approach such as this simplified and accelerated arbitration procedure.   Both tenants and landlords can now use that without fear of a disagreement over a rent review snowballing into a very expensive dispute”.

 

FREEDOM OF CONTRACT A RECIPE FOR DISASTER

FREEDOM OF CONTRACT A RECIPE FOR DISASTER

FREEDOM OF CONTRACT A RECIPE FOR DISASTER

  The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has branded landlord plans to deregulate farm tenancies as a recipe for disaster.  Yesterday, ScottishLand and Estates unveiled its future vision for the tenanted sector recommending the introduction of freedom of contract in the letting of new tenancies.

 Condemning the proposals, STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “Yet again SL&E have resurrected the old freedom of contract chestnut in their long-standing attempt to wind back the clock sixty years to the 1948 Act when tenants were granted security of tenure.  Freedom of contract will only work where there is a balance of supply and demand as in the commercial world.  As long as Scotland retains its current concentrated structure of landownership the rented sector will require protective legislation.

 “Furthermore, it is disingenuous to suggest that the introduction of freedom of contract will be of any benefit to new entrants when the reality is that the only beneficiaries will be existing farmers prepared to offer inflated rents for short term arrangements.  New entrants will not have any more of a look-in than they do at present. The advent of Farm Business Tenancies in England has shown that apart from County Council Holdings, opportunities for new entrants are just as limited as in Scotland, with some FBT rents achieving in excess of £200/ac.  In addition the market driven rental process in Scotland would see rents for existing tenants soar severely damaging the viability of many farming businesses.

 “We, in the tenanted sector, have bent over backwards in agreeing to legislative change which landlords have said would encourage more land to be let. Tenancy terms have been made more flexible and fixed equipment rules have been relaxed but still the tenanted sector shrinks with very little land offered for rent.  It is no wonder that the industry shares Mr Lochhead’s frustration.  This latest piece of propaganda by SL&E will convince no one.”

TENANTS RIGHT TO BUY MUST NOT BECOME A POLITICAL FOOTBALL

TENANTS RIGHT TO BUY MUST NOT BECOME A POLITICAL FOOTBALL

 The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is calling on the Scottish Government to put its’ land reform cards on the table and not to allow the debate over tenant farmers’ right to buy to become a political football.  Following discussions with members at the RHS, STFA has concluded that the government must now clarify its intentions over land reform and the extension of the tenant’s right to buy and undertake a study of Scotland’s land tenure structure as a matter of urgency. 

 Speaking after the Show chairman Christopher Nicholson said; “We are pleased that after the Cabinet Secretary’s comments at the RHS the way is now open for an open debate over land ownership and an absolute right to buy for tenant farmers.  For the last decade ARTB has been the elephant in the room and the mere mention of it drives landlords to man the barricades but it is now time to take a good look at the underlying reasons for the drive for it and an examination of the detail and implications of implementing ARTB. 

“There is a general mood to create a more diverse land ownership structure in Scotland and extending the tenants right to buy may or may not be part of the equation.  However, an informed debate over ARTB can only take place if we know what we are talking about. So it is imperative that the government commissions a survey of land ownership and land tenure throughout Scotland as soon as possible.  The Cabinet Secretary’s recent comments on ARTB have moved the goalposts and STFA has written to the recently re-invigorated Land Reform Review Group to request that their decision to exclude consideration of tenancy matters be reversed and their remit extended to include a scrutiny of land tenure in light of changing circumstances.  

“The agricultural industry is facing a huge amount of uncertainty just now with CAP reform and the independence question.  On top of that the tenanted sector is in decline and beset with endemic problems such as a failing rent review system and a lack of opportunity for new entrants.  These and many other issues will be considered during the promised review of agricultural tenancies, but that review must take place in light of the broader policy issues which will emerge following a thorough study of land ownership and tenure.  We cannot discuss the merits and demerits of ARTB in a vacuum and a review must take account of the different challenges faced by tenants and rural communities in different parts of the country and identify appropriate solutions.”

ROYAL HIGHLAND SHOW 20 – 23 JUNE

ROYAL HIGHLAND SHOW 20 – 23 JUNE

STFA at the Highland Show will again be welcoming members and friends on to the stand which will be located on 4th Avenue by the West Gate.

Come by, rest your legs, meet friends and fellow tenants and have some refreshments. We look forward to seeing you there!

STFA CALL FOR ACTION ON LAND TENURE

STFA CALL FOR ACTION ON LAND TENURE

STFA CALL FOR ACTION ON LAND TENURE

 Dr Jim Hunter’s recent stinging attack on the SNP government’s lack of progress with land reform represents the latest twist in the saga of the ill-fated Land Reform Review Group and comes as no surprise to the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association.   STFA has already expressed its’ incredulity and disappointment at the LRRG’s decision to reject consideration of farm tenancies in its review of land reform despite almost a third of Scotland’s farmland being tenanted and ample evidence of the pressing need for reform.

 Commenting on Mr Hunter’s statement STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “We had our reservations about this review from the start when it seemed to suffer from confusion and a lack direction.   STFA expressed these deep concerns in January to the Chair, Dr Elliot, particularly on the lack of any tenancy expertise on the advisory panel and the work programme.  This featured a disproportionate amount of time being devoted to visiting large estates.  Indeed, the only invitation taken up to meet with tenants took place on Islay.  Meetings there, both privately with tenants and a wider public meeting, clearly illustrated to the LRRG the problems and challenges being experienced by tenants and the wider community but this appears to have had no effect on the outcome of the report. 

 “Having been billed as a radical and far reaching review the work of the LRRG has turned out to be yet another anodyne report which sets out to defend and justify the status quo rather than looking for radical solutions to the land tenure system.

 “Last years’ Rent Review Group report was met with similar disappointment.  Instead of trying to modernise the rent formula to give tenants a level playing ground with affordable rents the Rent Review Group merely rubber stamped the existing system and recommended a few tweaks to the process of reviewing rents.  This major flaw in the tenanted sector will continue to cause division and bedevil relationships between landlord and tenant unless positive action is taken. 

 ““The tenanted sector is not in a good state of health, the number of tenancies is falling, opportunities for new entrants are limited as larger units swallow up any available land, farm rents are escalating on the back of a scarce open market and relationships between landlords and tenants are as bad as ever. The family farm which is the backbone of many rural communities is under threat. 

 “Dr Hunter has called for tenants to be given the right to buy their farms. There are some tenant farmers who feel trapped in a feudal time warp and see radical land reform and the right to buy as the key which would unlock their businesses and communities from economic and social stagnation.  However, STFA represents members who hold a diverse range of views on the subject and is focussing on issues currently inhibiting the tenanted sector.  STFA believes these problems being faced by tenants can be resolved by a review of the Agricultural Holdings Acts but after 10 years the TFF has failed to find workable solutions which will make a difference, and tenants are becoming increasingly frustrated.  The tenanted sector is in danger of becoming an economic backwater without the necessary investment to allow tenants to meet changes and enable their holdings to develop in line with those of owner occupiers.

 “Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead has promised a review of tenancy legislation in 2014, but this should take place with a land tenure review in the background which has identified where the tenanted sector should be in 20 or 30 years time.  This vision can only be created away from the infighting which is a regular feature of an industry influenced by powerful sectoral interests.  The Cabinet Secretary should intervene now to either direct a newly constituted LRRG to carry out this task, or to create a Lands Commission to do so instead.”

 

 

STFA WELCOMES GOVERNMENTS COMMITMENT TO REVIEW TENANCIES

STFA WELCOMES GOVERNMENTS COMMITMENT TO REVIEW TENANCIES

 

STFA WELCOMES GOVERNMENTS COMMITMENT TO REVIEW TENANCIES

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead’s commitment to honour his pledge to carry out a top to bottom review of the operation of Agricultural Holdings legislation in 2014.  The commitment was given at yesterday’s NFUS’ Land Tenure seminar where the Cabinet Secretary also confirmed that the government’s review would take account of any solutions which had been agreed by the Tenant Farming Forum, but also warned that the government would be prepared to intervene in the absence of agreement.

Speaking after the event STFA Chairman, Christopher Nicholson said; “We are delighted that Richard Lochhead fully intends to proceed with a thorough review of tenancy legislation.  We are only disappointed that this review is not taking place in tandem with a more holistic overview of land tenure in Scotland.  This work should have been undertaken by the Land Reform Review Group and we now believe the government has a responsibility to consider the establishment of an independent Lands Commission, untainted by sectoral interests, to look at big picture land tenure issues and paint a future vision for rural Scotland.  

“It is vitally important that the Scottish rental sector is able to accommodate the different needs and aspirations of existing tenants and new entrants.  Those attending the conference seemed to agree that while there was some need for greater flexibility in the system it must take place within the framework of existing legislation.  The importance family farms, the dangers associated with expanding agri- business and the importance of security of tenure were also stressed along with innovative ideas such as share farming.” 

STFA REACTS TO LRRG REPORT’S DECISION TO IGNORE TENANCY MATTERS

STFA REACTS TO LRRG REPORT’S DECISION TO IGNORE TENANCY MATTERS

STFA REACTS TO LRRG REPORT’S DECISION TO IGNORE TENANCY MATTERS

 The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has greeted the Land Reform Review Group’s report with incredulity.  The LRRG acknowledge considerable problems exist within the tenanted sector but state in their interim report that to address tenant farming issues would be to “stray considerably away from our remit which focuses on communities rather than relationships between individuals.” 

Most Scottish tenant farmers consider land tenure is fundamental to communities and had expected the group to address basic issues which currently prevent the best use of land in Scotland and inhibit the rural communities which the land could be sustaining.  So it is a bitter pill that the preliminary report of the LRRG indicates that the final version will sidestep core land reform questions which must be addressed in any meaningful review, if rural Scotland is to move forward in the future. 

In it’s submission to the LRRG’s call for evidence STFA contended: “There are significant problems within the tenanted sector, particularly with regard to the operation of tenancy legislation and relationships between landlords and tenants.  However, there is a further requirement to consider the bigger picture and conduct a wider examination of the role that the tenanted sector will be expected to play in the future and what contribution it should make to food production, the environment and the economic and social prosperity of local communities.  Whilst some of the technical tenancy issues can be tackled by the industry, the Land Reform Review presents an opportunity to carry out a more holistic overview of the future of Scotland’s rural communities.   This view has now been rejected by the LRRG.   

“STFA has, however, welcomed the LRRG’s intention to give further consideration to the establishment of a Land Agency, as proposed by Community Land Scotland, and would hope that its’ remit would include powers to intercede in the public interest where there is clear evidence of mismanagement or inappropriate use of land.  Achieving a healthy tenanted farm sector is undoubtedly within the public interest of rural Scotland.  

 Reacting to the report STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “I fail to understand how this review of land reform can take place without considering land tenure. With nearly a third of our farmland held under some form of tenancy agreement it is hard to believe that the LRRG has chosen to remove key agricultural land tenure matters from its land reform remit and concentrate on community issues.  When questioned at the STFA, AGM earlier this year on what constitutes a community, Dr Elliot expressed the view that the definition of a community embraced any group of people with a common interest or denominator but if that doesn’t include tenants in this review, surely the LRRG has been seriously misguided in their evidence gathering?  An opportunity is being missed for the LRRG to highlight to the Government the need to address best land use and tenure in Scotland in the next decade and beyond.

 “From the outset STFA has expressed their grave concerns about the composition of the advisory group to the LRRG and the evidence gathering.  There was a lack of agricultural and tenancy expertise and despite invitations from communities of farm tenants, only one visit has taken place so far.  However several visits have been made to estates owned by individual landlords around Scotland.

 “On the LRRG visit to Islay at the invitation of the tenant farmers on the island, the LRRG heard first hand of the difficulties experienced by the tenant farming community, views which were reinforced in a later wider public meeting that day by the local community. 

 “The LRRG report will prove to be ineffectual if it continues to ignore such burning and basic issues and abandons tenancy reform to the long grass of a stakeholder group, dominated by landed interests.  The TFF is unlikely to come up with solutions to some of the problems which tenants have managed so far to highlight to the LRRG.   There is now a strong and justifiable mood of cynicism amongst tenant farmers that they have been sidelined and an opportunity is being missed to provide vision and direction for this neglected rural community of Scotland.”

Recommended Guide to Good Practice in Rent Reviews

Recommended Guide to Good Practice in Rent Reviews

The Tenant farming Forum  recently launched a Guide to Good Practice in Rent Reviews for agricultural landlords and tenant farmers.  The aim of this Guide is to encourage  good practice and regularise the way in which rent reviews are conducted and it is hoped and expected that this guide will accompany rent review notices due to be issued in the next few days.

 To view the recommended Guide:

http://www.tfascotland.org.uk/member_website/downloads/The%20Tenant%20Farming%20Forum%20-%20Guide%20to%20Good%20Practice%20(SYREV230413)%20010513.pdf

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT LOSES SALVESEN RIDDELL APPEAL

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT LOSES SALVESEN RIDDELL APPEAL

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has recorded its extreme disappointment that the UK Supreme Court has refused the Scottish Government’s appeal against the Court of Session’s ruling in the Salvesen Riddell case.  The UK’s highest law court has now confirmed that the provision in S72 of the Agricultural Holdings Act in 2003 to give additional protection to tenants in Limited Partnerships contravenes ECHR and is outside the competence of the Scottish Parliament.

In recognising the complexity of the legislation the Supreme Court has given the Scottish Government a year to correct the defective legislation and to find solutions for the competing interests of the individuals involved.  The Government will be working closely with the Parliament and industry stakeholders in identifying a suitable way forward.

Commenting on the Court’s ruling STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said; “This news will come as a bitter blow to those tenants, families and businesses who will be affected by the court’s ruling.  The original legislation was enacted in a genuine attempt to put a stop to Limited partnerships being terminated and it is very disappointing that, 10 years on, we are  now told that the law is not competent.

“Our priority will now be to try and safeguard the interests of tenants who are affected by the legislation. Tenants who have used the legislation in good faith must not be penalised further and it is important that the rights of the 500 or so tenants still in Limited Partnerships are not prejudiced by this decision.  We have already been in discussion with government officials to this end and will be working closely with them and other stakeholders in the coming weeks and months. “