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CROWN ESTATE BILL ADDRESSES TENANT FARMING CONCERNS

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

28th January 2018

 

CROWN ESTATE BILL ADDRESSES TENANT FARMING CONCERNS

 

In welcoming the publication of the Scottish Crown Estate Bill last week the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association have welcomed signs that plans are underway to continue to manage the rural estates nationally. Farming tenants had expressed their concerns that in dividing the Crown assets the rural estates might be split up and brought under the management of local authorities.  The Crown Estates comprise a large and diverse portfolio of rural and urban land, foreshore and mining rights, including several thousand hectare of tenanted farming land and the intention behind the Bill is to give local communities greater control over these assets in their area.

However, the Cabinet Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham has recognised that the devolution of management of these assets to local communities will not be appropriate in every circumstance and in some situations, it may be necessary for some assets to continue to be managed at a national level. The tenants on the four rural estates are firmly of the view that it would be more appropriate for the rural estates to be managed directly by the Scottish Government, or a body set up for the purpose rather than becoming devolved in the future to local authorities who have neither the skills nor the experience in managing agricultural estates. This view has acknowledged by the Cabinet Secretary.

Commenting on the situation STFA director Angus McCall said: “Having been worried about their future post-devolution the farm tenants have united to form a working group with representatives from all four estates to put forward their point of view and this group has met with ministers and civil servants on a number of occasions. They will be relieved that their concerns have been taken on board in the new Bill and ministers have signalled their intention to continue to manage the rural estates themselves.

“This is an important step as the rural estates have traditionally benefitted from being part of the wider Crown portfolio which has allowed to spread some of the surplus income from one sector to another. Although the rural estates have a high capital value and make a significant contribution to local communities and the environment, they produce a relatively low-income stream and this move will allow continuing investment in the farms providing the tenants with the security and confidence for the future development of their businesses.

“The Scottish Government has been carrying out some major reforms to the tenanted sector over the last few years which have now been enshrined in the Land Reform Act, being implemented over the next couple of years. As a major agricultural landlord, the Scottish Government will now have the opportunity to take the lead in making use of these new provisions to stimulate investment by both landlord and tenant, encourage the smooth transition of farms from one generation to the next, ensure fair rents for all and create opportunities where possible for the next generation.

“In remaining under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Government, tenants on all the estates would like to continue to be consulted in the management of the estates, particularly in any decisions involving any change of land use such as sale of land or conversion to forestry.”

STFA URGES RETHINK ON SPEY VALLEY TREE PLANTING PLANS

STFA URGES RETHINK ON SPEY VALLEY TREE PLANTING PLANS

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

 19th December 2017

STFA URGES RETHINK ON SPEY VALLEY TREE PLANTING PLANS

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is calling on Forestry Commission Scotland to refuse applications for woodland creation on arable land on the banks of the River Spey in the Cairngorm National Park. STFA considers that arable land is a scarce commodity in the CNPA area and a valuable asset which should not disappear under trees for the short-term gain of taxation benefits and forestry grants.

 

The STFA has been responding to the Forestry Commission’s consultation on proposals to plant trees on arable land on Pityoulish Estate by Scottish Woodlands on behalf of the owners. Pityoulish consists of approximately 880ha, with more than 700ha being heather hill, plantations, marshland etc., about 90ha ploughable and the rest rough grazing. The estate is already quite heavily wooded and the plans are to create a further 140ha of Native Woodland, regenerate 100ha of Caledonian Pine Wood and plant over 112ha of Commercial Woodland on the better land.

The owners plan to manage the balance of unplanted land with a mixture of grazing licences, contract farming and environmental schemes. The application emphasises the relationship between commercial forestry and farming and observes that, by planting a proportion of agricultural fields the feel and appearance of a mixed farm and forestry landscape will be maintained.  However, STFA believes that the reality is that the proposed management regime will prove uneconomic, difficult to manage and will soon lead to a further application to plant trees on the rest of the land.

Commenting on the planting proposal, STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said; “This woodland creation application flies in the face of the agreement reached by the cross industry Woodland Expansion Advisory Group, that decisions on tree planting proposals should take account of the quality of the land in a local context. Plainly arable land is a scarce commodity in the Highlands in general and the CNP area in particular, and STFA believe that it should be maintained as farmland for the sake of future generations.

“STFA is aware that, influenced by the prospect of falling returns from upland farming, there are a number of landowners who are making similar plans to plant trees on farmland. The current drive to meet increased planting targets through advantageous planting grants, favourable Capital Gains Tax and Inheritance Tax regime for woodlands, a tax-free crop on harvesting, combined with the ability to continue to access agricultural payments as “in hand” farmers make woodland creation the obvious answer.

“STFA, however, believes this is a short-term fix driven by generous government incentives which will be regretted by future generations looking for land to produce food. In this case a potentially valuable farming unit is to be taken out of agricultural production in an area where arable land is at a premium.  STFA has recommended refusal of consent to plant trees at Pityoulish in the wider and longer term public interest.  Instead we would suggest that the owners should consider the use on the new Repairing Tenancies as a way of retaining ownership of the land whilst increasing the capital value of the land in the longer term.  Agriculture is going through a period of uncertainty but that is no reason to sterilise some of our productive upland units with trees by a short term gut reaction.”

 

 

 

 

 

STFA WELCOMES MLDTS AS THE NEW NORM FOR LETTING LAND

STFA WELCOMES MLDTS AS THE NEW NORM FOR LETTING LAND

News Release Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

 29th November 2017

 

STFA WELCOMES MLDTS AS THE NEW NORM FOR LETTING LAND

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed the commencement this week of Modern Limited Duration Tenancies created in the Land Reform Act 2016. The MLDT, replaces Limited Duration Tenancies on 30th November and will be the new letting vehicle for leases of 10 years or longer.

MLDts are very similar to LDTs although there are some important differences which are designed to make them more attractive to landlords. There is now much more freedom to agree fixed equipment provided by the landlord and, as in LDTs virtual freedom of contract to agree rent review provisions, although tenants must be allowed to initiate a rent review and upwards only rent reviews are prohibited.

An important innovation is a 5 year break clause for new entrants and a landlord will be entitled to bring the tenancy to an end after the first 5 years if he is not using the land in accordance with the rules of good husbandry or has not complied with provisions of the lease. MLDTs are subject to the same succession provisions as 1991 Act tenancies and improvements are treated the same way as 1991 tenancies and LDTs.  An important caveat remains for prospective tenants to carry forward improvements from a previous tenancy.

Commenting on the new MLDTs, STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said; “The provisions in the Land Reform are taking some time to be enacted, largely due to the amount of complex secondary legislation required so we are pleased to see that the new style MLDTs have now become available. We hope that MLDTs will soon become the norm in letting land and we are pleased to note that there are already new tenancies on the point of being signed, some for substantial periods on time.

“Since Limited Duration Tenancies were first created in 2003 there have been a number of changes to address landlords’ concerns. Minimum term lengths have been reduced from 15 to 10 years and the latest reform introduces break clauses to allow landlords to get rid of an unsatisfactory new entrant and a get out of jail card for a new entrant in an unsatisfactory tenancy.  Rent reviews are subject to virtual freedom of contract and so there are now very few reasons for landlords’ not to use MLDTs.

“Given post Brexit economic prospects, landlords may soon overcome their current reluctance to let land and be glad of MLDTs as providing a secure letting arrangement to ensure their land is looked after by a competent farming tenant.”

LANDLORDS AND TENANTS MUST FOLLOW NEW SPORTING CODES TO AVOID CONFLICT

LANDLORDS AND TENANTS MUST FOLLOW NEW SPORTING CODES TO AVOID CONFLICT

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

 1st November 2017

LANDLORDS AND TENANTS MUST FOLLOW NEW SPORTING CODES TO AVOID CONFLICT

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed the latest Code of Practice on Sporting Rights on tenanted farms as a timely reminder of the potential disputes that invariably arise where there is dual land use by agricultural and sporting tenants. The Tenant Farming Commissioner, Bob McIntosh has just issued his third code of practice for the management of relationships between agricultural tenants and those exercising sporting rights over tenanted land.

Commenting on the latest code of practice STFA Director Angus McCall said; “Generally speaking, the impact of game sports is felt most acutely on lowground and upland farms where pheasants are introduced into rough cover to provide shooting for sporting tenants. The occupying tenant farmer, depending on the farm to make a living, understandably feels that agricultural production is the main purpose of the lease and sporting activities should take second place and fit in with farming practices. Problems have increased in recent years as the income from sport has become more important to landowners and pheasant numbers have risen.  Over-enthusiastic gamekeepers, eager to provide good sport for their clients can make matters worse.  The law provides redress for game damage to crops but the conflicts between agricultural and sporting tenants are less easy to resolve.

“However, tenant farmers must accept the value which sporting activities may have for the landlord and his right to exercise them and be prepared to co-operate with the sporting enterprise and arrange farming activities accordingly. In return, sporting landlords should 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.  It must be remembered that the land is usually let primarily for agricultural purposes and shooting interests cannot be allowed to run roughshod over farming businesses.

“There are many example where agricultural and sporting interests work together amicably and STFA would encourage all parties to familiarise themselves with the new Sporting Rights Code of Practice, treat each other with consideration and respect and above all, communicate. However, STFA is aware of some major breakdowns in relationships which should be referred to the TFC rather than allowed to fester for years which has so often been the case in the past.”

 

 

 

STFA URGES TENANTS TO TAKE PART IN GOVERNMENT SURVEY ON AGENT’S CONDUCT

STFA URGES TENANTS TO TAKE PART IN GOVERNMENT SURVEY ON AGENT’S CONDUCT

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

 8TH October 2017

STFA URGES TENANTS TO TAKE PART IN GOVERNMENT SURVEY ON AGENT’S CONDUCT

 

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed the start of a government survey of professional agents representing landlords and tenants. The survey is an all-important first step in gathering information for the Tenant Farming Commissioner’s review of the operation of professional agents which, under last year’s Land Reform Act must be completed by next Spring.  In its Autumn newsletter STFA has alerted members to expect a call from the survey contractors and if contacted, to make sure they respond openly to the questions asked.  All answers will, of course be treated in absolute confidence.

Commenting on the survey STFA Director Angus McCall said; “This survey is an important piece of work in providing the TFC’s review with real evidence of how professional agents are operating on the ground. Although most agents behave in a responsible and professional way, STFA has long been aware of bad practice which has always been difficult to substantiate.  The TFC’s review should now be able to put some facts to the anecdotes for all to see.

“Landlords and tenants have become increasingly reliant on their professional advisers who now exert a disproportionate influence over the way in which let land is managed and on the relationships between landlords and tenants. Nowadays landlords invariably engage outside firms of land agents to factor their tenanted farms. The days of the traditional management style of the residential estate factor living on the estate and knowing the tenants are long gone to be replaced by commercially driven firms of land agents with little personal knowledge of the estate and often the workings of the tenanted system. This lack of understanding and sometimes tactless behaviour usually comes to the fore during rent reviews leading to conflict and acrimony.

“Land agents are at the sharp end of dealings with tenant farmers and we have been pleased to see that the spectre of a review of the conduct of professional agents has already seen an improvement in their behaviour. STFA is well aware that there are still some individuals who seem to have a cavalier attitude in the way they conduct their business and we hope that this survey will help flush them out and put an end to the bad practice which has given their profession such an unfortunate reputation.  There will, however, always be maverick landlords, tenants and agents who will continue to ignore codes of practice and codes of conduct and it will be up to the industry to put pressure on them to mend their ways.”

 

GOVERNMENT SURVEY ON FARM TENANTS’ HOUSING UNDERWAY

GOVERNMENT SURVEY ON FARM TENANTS’ HOUSING UNDERWAY

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

 11th September 2017

 

GOVERNMENT SURVEY ON FARM TENANTS’ HOUSING UNDERWAY

The Scottish Government is conducting a housing survey of the condition of rented accommodation in all types of agricultural tenancies. At present rented accommodation held under agricultural tenancies is only subject to a “tolerable” standard which, in other circumstances, is regarded as a condemnatory standard falling far below the minimum repairing standard expected for private rented housing.  In the long term the Scottish Government would like to bring the quality of agricultural housing conditions in line with other rented accommodation in Scotland.  This survey will cover all housing on agricultural tenancies and small landholdings including the farmhouse, farm workers cottages and sublet accommodation.

Commenting on this initiative STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “STFA has been concerned for a number of years about the state of some farmhouses and the conditions in which some tenants are expected to live. Housing held under an agricultural tenancy has always been exempt from the Housing Acts, with the landlord’s responsibility being limited to renewing and replacing what was provided at the start of the lease. Improvements are expected to be carried out by the tenant.  In practice, most tenants have improved farmhouses and other cottages to bring them up to an acceptable standard, and, indeed there are some landlords who have also invested in housing accommodation.

“However there are still many tenants occupying houses which are well below minimum repairing standards whose landlords are reluctant to even carry out their basic obligations to keep buildings wind and watertight. In these situations, tenants have been unwilling to invest in improving the farmhouse without any guarantees of compensation at the end of their tenancies, especially where landlords have not fulfilled their side of the bargain.

“Responding to this government survey may not be top priority for many tenants still pre-occupied in gathering in harvest and other autumn work, but STFA would strongly advice all tenants’ wives and families to seize the initiative and complete and return the survey as soon as they can. This is the first comprehensive survey to be carried out on the condition of the housing stock on tenanted holdings and will help build a picture of and give an indication of the scale of the task to bring all tenanted housing up to acceptable standards.

“Housing standards have improved immeasurably over the last few decades and there is no reason why the tenanted sector should lag behind the rest of society. Landlords must be prepared to carry out their renewing obligations during the tenancy and, if they are not prepared to invest in improving the housing stock, they should not stand in the way of tenants who are prepared to do so and be prepared to treat their tenants’ improvements as eligible for compensation should the tenancy come to an end.”

STFA is urging all tenants to respond to this important survey which is running from 25th august to 20th October 2017.  Responses to the survey will be treated in strictest confidence.

 

 

TFC REVIEW A MILESTONE IN TENANCY REFORM

TFC REVIEW A MILESTONE IN TENANCY REFORM

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

17th August 2017

TFC REVIEW A MILESTONE IN TENANCY REFORM

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has hailed the news that Scotland’s Tenant Farming Commissioner, Bob McIntosh, has begun work on the review of agents as a major milestone towards the improvement of relationships between landlords and tenants. The review will look at the views and experiences of tenant farmers and landlords with regard to the conduct of professionals engaged by either party to act on their behalf in matters relating to agricultural holdings.

Welcoming the announcement STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “Over the last few decades land agents have had an increasing influence on the tenanted sector and the relationships between tenants and their landlords. Nowadays landlords invariably engage outside firms of land agents to factor their tenanted farms. The days of the traditional management style of the residential estate factor living on the estate and knowing the tenants are long gone to be replaced by commercially driven firms of land agents with little personal knowledge of the estate and often the workings of the tenanted system. This lack of understanding and sometimes tactless behaviour usually comes to the fore during rent reviews leading to conflict and acrimony

“The spectre of a review of the conduct of professional agents has already seen an improvement in their behaviour and the creation of a Tenant Farming Commissioner has provided tenant farmers with an independent ombudsman to whom they can have the confidence to refer complaints and seek advice. This review should pave the way for the creation of recognised codes of conduct to complement the codes of practice already being established.

“Landlords’ increasing reliance on the advice of professional agents as the rural economy and the tenanted sector becomes increasingly complex puts them in a pivotal position to influence land management in Scotland. In light of the undoubtable impact that estate management has on the wider community and rural economy STFA believes the TFC’s review should also examine the advice being given by professional agents on the management of that land.

“A handful of land agent firms factor Scotland’s let land and exert disproportionate control over the way in which it is managed. Farms to let are at a premium despite evidence of land becoming vacated, such as on the island of Bute, where there will be a number of empty farms in the next year or two.  On Bute and on many other estates there must be a compelling public interest argument to relet these farms and encourage new blood in to agriculture.  A more positive attitude on behalf of land agents towards the tenanted sector could bring many of these farms back onto the letting market.”

 

 

 

 

Time to be proactive in winning markets, livestock representatives urge Government

Time to be proactive in winning markets, livestock representatives urge Government

Press Release

 14 August 2017

Time to be proactive in winning markets, livestock representatives urge Government

 

Brexit presents a tremendous opportunity for the UK livestock sector, but Government needs to start acting now to help achieve progress in winning new markets around the world and retaining existing markets, according to the UK Livestock Brexit Group.

While the livestock sector, alongside its levy bodies and Government departments, as well as the poultry sector, has commenced the important process of finding new markets since the referendum, the UK and devolved Governments have a necessary and critical role in helping to support and accelerate the long hard work required.

That is the message from UK Livestock Brexit Group chairman, Chris Dodds of the Livestock Auctioneers Association. Only effective action by Government can open some doors for new markets overseas, with the rules set by other countries.

The UK Livestock Brexit Group is urging Government to engage now with livestock farming sector organisations to put in place a strategic framework for the future of the industry with high standards at home and energetic promotion abroad.

“The UK is a high-quality producer of premium meat products, with traceability, good health and welfare and food safety among the key attributes of the UK livestock supply chain. We need to champion Great British produce and make sure that trade deals enable our producers to maintain high standards,” says Mr Dodds.

The UK Livestock Brexit Group believes if high UK standards are to see a premium price, Government should emphasise the provenance of UK produce and its existing high standards in trade promotion. That will help to replace imports at home, as work progresses to ensure standards are not undermined through those imports that do enter the market.

It is also essential for individual Governments to work closely together, thereby ensuring a unified approach to negotiations and trade deals.

Mr Dodds adds, “While the group’s view is that maintaining access to the EU market should remain the priority, we have also opened up export markets that many British consumers may not even realise exist. Products such as chicken feet and pig’s trotters have limited demand from the UK consumer, but there is good demand for these, along with prime meat products, in new Asian markets, adding value for UK producers.

“This is the ethos of successful trade relationships, but it is best done in close alliance with Government, since winning these markets takes hard, sustained work, involving Government.”

Recognising there is much to do, and much to clarify, the group believes now is the time for the Government to take a proactive stance.

“We know it takes time and commitment. Livestock production and trade is a long-term, complicated and technical subject. We are pleased that ministers have now been talking about transition periods, giving the time needed for the work to be done. Countries don’t take short cuts with food; why would they? But it means this takes time, and to be ready with markets after Brexit we need to be working hard now,” continues Mr Dodds.

“As a group of independent dedicated livestock organisations, we offer unrivalled knowledge, understanding and representation of the entire UK livestock industry. We want to work with Government to assist in the development of a dynamic industry for future generations and the UK economy.”

As the largest and most progressive group across the sector, the UK Livestock Brexit Group was formed in August 2016 and now includes representation from 21 of the leading bodies with livestock interests   across England, Scotland and Wales.

 

ENDS

 

Notes to editors

 

About the UK Livestock Brexit Group

The UK Livestock Brexit Group was formed in August 2016 as a collaborative group of key stakeholders from the livestock sector across England, Wales and Scotland to help positively support the UK and devolved Governments to plan a route forward for farming after Brexit.

 

The collaboration of the livestock farming industry organisations, working as The UK Livestock Brexit Group, brings together specialist knowledge and industry representation to consider the potential consequences and implications of the many decisions in the Brexit process for the livestock industry, and offers support and help to the Governments and their administrations.

 

The group has grown to include representation from 21 of the leading trade organisations

 

Livestock Auctioneers Association (LAA), National Sheep Association (NSA), National Beef Association (NBA), British Poultry Council (BPC), Tenant Farmers Association (TFA), National Pig Association (NPA), Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF), Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS), Tenant Farmers Association Cymru (TFA Cymru), Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland (IAAS), Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA), National Farmers Union (NFU), National Farmers Union Scotland (NFU Scotland), National Farmers Union Cymru (NFU Cymru), Country Land and Business Association (CLA), The Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV), British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW), Scottish Beef Association (SBA), British Pig Association (BPA), Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW).

 

For further information please contact:

Chris Dodds, appointed group chairman

UK Livestock Brexit Group

016974 75433 / 07885 731502

Chris.dodds@laa.co.uk

 

 

Stuart Booker, account manager

Kendalls

02476 992360

stuart.booker@kendallscom.co.uk

GOVERNMENT URGED TO EXEMPT AGRICULTURAL TENANCIES FROM PUNITIVE LAND TAX

GOVERNMENT URGED TO EXEMPT AGRICULTURAL TENANCIES FROM PUNITIVE LAND TAX

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

2nd August 2017

GOVERNMENT URGED TO EXEMPT AGRICULTURAL TENANCIES FROM PUNITIVE LAND TAX

 

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is calling upon the Scottish Government to exempt agricultural tenancies from a new land tax which will penalise new entrants by levying a tax on new lettings and the assignation of existing tenancies.

Research conducted on behalf of STFA has confirmed that one of the unintended and little understood consequences of the Land and Business Transaction Tax (LBTT) is the impact it will have on the agricultural letting market. LBTT was introduced in April 2015 to replace Stamp Duty Land Tax with a simpler and fairer way of levying tax on property sales and other transactions.

It is the tenant’s responsibility to make an LBTT return if the lease period is for more than 7 years, or if the tenant ‘buys’ the lease for more than £40,000; and/or where the rent is of a high enough level to bring it within the LBTT threshold for leases (£150,000).

Commenting on the news, STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “The impact of this land tax on the tenanted sector has only just become apparent now that LBTT is in operation.   The new tax regime affects leases granted after 1st April 2015, usually 10 year minimum Limited Duration Tenancies, but a 1991 lease being re-granted for tax purposes will also be liable. So tenants should be wary of a landlord’s request for a new 1991 lease to address his tax concerns.

“The new assignation proposals in the Land Reform Act for 1991 tenancies may also be affected. As it stands, it is possible that an assignation for value will trigger an LBTT liability. The incoming tenant is, ultimately, paying for an interest in land and therefore, a notification to Revenue Scotland seems likely to be required if the consideration for the assignation is above the £40,000 threshold. He would then be responsible for the return and the LBTT liability and thereafter the three-year returns. We have already seen the assignation of a 1991 tenancy take place where the incoming tenant’s purchase price for the lease is greater than the £150,00 threshold and he faces a tax liability on top of the price he has paid for his new tenancy.

“Tenants taking on a long-term LDT will find themselves in even greater difficulty as they will be faced with being taxed on the accumulated rent over the period of the lease. For example, a 20 year lease of a 400ac farm with an annual rent of £15,000 would create rental payments over the 20 year period of £300,000 giving rise to a tax bill of over £4,000 to be paid at the start of the lease. Rent rises over the period of the lease could give rise to subsequent tax demands.

“This amounts to penal treatment of the let sector and is obviously not what was originally intended. It flies in the race of government policy to encourage longer-term tenancies and the transfer of existing tenancies to new entrants and developing farmers. STFA has already brought this to the attention of the Scottish government and will be seeking the support of fellow stakeholders to lobby for an exemption for the agricultural tenanted sector.

The potential to grow the tenanted sector as support rules tighten and farming becomes less attractive to landowners in the more marginal areas, is one of the of the few silver linings in the Brexit cloud and it would be a spectacular own goal if government tax policy accidentally killed this prospect dead in the water.

 

 

 

BUCCLEUCH’S SALE OF FARMS TO TENANTS WELCOMED BY STFA

BUCCLEUCH’S SALE OF FARMS TO TENANTS WELCOMED BY STFA

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

1st June 2017

 BUCCLEUCH’S SALE OF FARMS TO TENANTS WELCOMED BY STFA

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed the announcement from Buccleuch Estates that the Estate is in advanced discussions with a number of tenant farmers on Limited Partnership agreements with a view to either them purchasing the farms they rent or converting the Limited Partnership tenancies to alternative long-term arrangements. This announcement follows concerns raised by STFA regarding the reports that some of Scotland’s largest estates were taking steps to bring Limited Partnership tenancies to an end, often with a view to replacing them with trees.

Limited Partnership tenancies were originally devised as a way of circumventing security of tenure and between the 1980s and the creation of limited duration tenancies in 2003 they were just about the only type of tenancy available. There are now less than 400 of these tenancies still in existence, comparted to 1200 in 2003.

LP tenancies were either let for a set period of time, occasionally up to the retirement date of the tenant, or for an initial period which was either renewed when it came to an end for a further defined period or, more commonly the tenancy rolled on under tacit relocation on a year to year basis. Tenants holding their leases under tacit relocation will usually be those who will have occupied the farm for longest and have invested the most, but are also the most vulnerable.

Commenting on the situation STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “STFA has been concerned about the future of tenants in Limited Partnership tenancies and the vulnerable position in which they find themselves and we share the views of the AHLRG and the Tenant Farming Commissioner that this as an unsatisfactory situation and discussions should take place between landlord and tenant to ensure that there is a long-term approach to land management leaving ample time to discuss the aspirations of both parties before decisions regarding the future of the farm are made.

“We appreciate that many landowners will want to move Limited Partnership tenancies on to a more satisfactory basis, but we have been concerned that some of the actions taken have been insensitive and on occasion callous with little consideration for the tenants concerned and scant regard to industry agreed guidlines.   We are therefore pleased to hear that Buccleuch Estate is taking steps to enter into discussions with their tenants to agree a mutually beneficial way forward for their farming businesses in line with Guidance issued by the Interim Government Adviser, andrew Thin, soon to be incorporated into a Code of Practice by the Tenant Farming Commissioner.

“Buccleuchs decision to sell some farms and to grant longer term tenancies to others is a constructive move and welcome.  STFA hopes that other landlords will follow suit in their dealings with Limited Partnership tenants, abiding by the codes of practice which lay out a procedure which should be followed when initiating discussions about bringing a LP tenancy to an end.  In particular, if partnerships are to be dissolved or tenancies brought to an end, formal notices should not be served before discussions have taken place and attempts made to reach a mutually agreeable solution.

“It should also be remembered that most of  tenants in limited partnership arrangements will be in mid-career having farmed the land for well over twenty years and many will also have sons or daughters who would like to follow in their footsteps. The circumstances and aspirations of these farming families should be taken into account before decisions are made about the future of their farms.”