The Scottish Tenant farmers Association has welcomed the Cabinet Secretary’s announcement today that he is to take charge of a thorough and wide ranging review of the tenanted sector including consideration of extending tenants’ rights to buy their farms. 

 In response to the announcement STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “We are pleased that the Cabinet Secretary has recognised that the tenanted sector is ailing and in need of an overhaul.  We are still working with 65 year old legislation, long past retirement age, and we look forward to working with government and other industry bodies to make tenancy law fit for the 21st century. 

“It is also good news that the Cabinet Secretary has  confirmed that, if implemented, ARTB will only apply to 1991 fully secure tenancies.  This must remove the fear held by landlords that rights to buy could be extended to short-term tenancy arrangements.

 “STFA also welcomes confirmation that the absolute right to buy for tenant farmers is to be considered as part of the review.  It is high time that the emotion and rhetoric surrounding ARTB is put to one side in favour of a rational debate, taking into account not only the effect it would have on individual lives and businesses but also the impact it would have on Scottish agriculture and the benefits it would bring to rural Scotland. 




In response to concerns about the often conflicting interests between field sports and agriculture the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is urging landlords and their shooting tenants to play fair with farming tenants.  Autumn is frequently the time when the competing demands of farming and shooting can flare into dispute as ripening crops are subjected to marauding pheasants causing crop damage and heated tempers.

 Commenting on the situation STFA spokesperson Angus McCall said:  “Field sports can be a major source of disagreement between landlord and tenants especially where shooting is rented out with keepers eager to provide good sport for their clients.  Tenant farmers, trying to make a livelihood from the farm, understandably feel that agricultural production is the main purpose of the lease and sporting activities should take second place and fit in with farming practices.   Relationships deteriorate rapidly when crops are damaged by birds or deer and shooting parties interfere with the day to day running of the farm. 

 “This conflict could all too easily be resolved if landlords and gamekeepers treated farming tenants with respect, consulted with them and tried to work together.  Although the TFF Guide to Good Relations provides some advice on relationships between the shooting tenant and the agricultural occupier, the Code of Good Shooting Practice* is deafeningly silent on relationships with the farming tenant – the full time occupier on the land.  The Code waxes lyrical on respect for the countryside and on the welfare for the shooting quarry, but nowhere is there any mention that the sport is taking place over another person’s workplace whose interests also have to be taken into account.  If this Code is to be credible, this flaw should be addressed immediately and recommendations made to improve relationships between shooters and farmers.


“As the shooting season approaches we will be encouraging Scottish Lands and Estates and their members to treat farming interests with consideration and respect, make good any game damage promptly and make sure that the sporting activity takes place within clear guidelines agreed at the start of the season.  In return, the farming tenant will undoubtedly co-operate with the sporting enterprise and arrange his farming activities accordingly.”




The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is concerned that the recent publicity claiming record highs in farmland prices will heighten landlords’ expectations in the next round of rent reviews in November.

Last week the surveyors professional body RICS, announced that a survey of members opinions was indicating that farmland prices had trebled in the last decade and were expected to rise even further over the next few years. Furthermore, the RICS spokesperson said  “The growth in farmland prices in recent times has been nothing short of staggering.  In less than ten years we’ve seen the cost of an acre of farmland grow to such an extent that investors – not just farmers – are entering the market.  If the relatively tight supply and high demand continues, we could experience the cost per acre going through the ten thousand pound barrier in the next two to three years.”

STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “This would seem to be yet another attempt to talk up the land market and we can expect to see this hype reflected in the rental sector in a couple of month’s time as the rent term date approaches and land agents try and use the open market to drive up rents. 

“The capital cost of land rarely reflects its agricultural productivity and this is as true in the rental market as scarcity causes rents to overtake profitability.  It is high time that commonsense was brought to bear and sitting tenant rents become based on the real worth of the land, that is, what the farm can produce rather than what it could fetch in an over-heated market stoked by profit driven land agents. 

“The failure of last year’s report by the Rent Review Working group to recognise the weakness of the rent review formula and recommend change was a major disappointment to the tenanted sector.  The  Group’s lacklustre report is widely regarded as a lost opportunity to stabilise these unsustainable farm rents. 

STFA will be using the forthcoming review of agricultural holdings to press for radical change to the way in which farm rents are set to ensure tenants’ businesses are not crippled by unreasonable rent demands.  The issue of farm rents is a major problem and one of the main causal factors in calls for serious land reform in Scotland.  The tenanted sector will continue to stagnate unless these real issues are addressed as a matter if urgency.

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 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”.





  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.”



 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.”



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!




 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.”







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.”