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CAP RELIEF PACKAGE SHOULD NOT BE MARRED BY POLITICAL POSTURING

CAP RELIEF PACKAGE SHOULD NOT BE MARRED BY POLITICAL POSTURING

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

9th March 2016

 

 

CAP RELIEF PACKAGE SHOULD NOT BE MARRED BY POLITICAL POSTURING

 

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

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

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

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

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

LANDLORD REACTION TO TENANCY PROPOSALS HYSTERICAL SCAREMONGERING

LANDLORD REACTION TO TENANCY PROPOSALS HYSTERICAL SCAREMONGERING

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release 

29th January 2016

LANDLORD REACTION TO TENANCY PROPOSALS HYSTERICAL SCAREMONGERING

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

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

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

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

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

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

TENANCY ADVISER’S RENT GUIDANCE NOTE WELCOME

TENANCY ADVISER’S RENT GUIDANCE NOTE WELCOME

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Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

27th January 2016

 

TENANCY ADVISER’S RENT GUIDANCE NOTE WELCOME

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Self Help Guide to Rent Reviews Issued

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Tenants welcome Scottish Government’s assignation proposals for secure tenants

Tenants welcome Scottish Government’s assignation proposals for secure tenants

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

 

13th January 2016

 

Tenants welcome Scottish Government’s assignation proposals for secure tenants

 

In submitting evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s RACCE Committee, the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed the Government’s proposals which will allow secure tenants to assign their tenancy to a new entrant or progressing farmer, with the landlord having the option to purchase the tenant’s interest in their lease and improvements during the process. The valuation at which a landlord would be entitled under the proposal to recover vacant possession of the holding is based on the tenant’s share of the vacant possession premium and the value of the tenant’s improvements.

Commenting on the proposal STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “This proposal is well thought out, recognising both the landlord’s and tenant’s property interests, and includes measures to ensure fairness to both parties and compliance with ECHR. Secure tenants will now have a route that allows them to exit their tenancies without relying on family members succeeding, secure tenancies will become available for newer farmers seeking a base for their developing businesses, and there is a greater likelihood of holdings remaining under secure tenure which gives incentive for tenants to modernise and invest.”

 

“However, STFA is concerned that there appears to be considerable misunderstanding within the industry around the proposed assignation measure. In a steadily declining tenanted sector increasingly bereft of opportunities, recent press claims by a small minority of Scottish estates is proof of the dogged resistance of some landlords to deny agricultural opportunity in the wider interest of Scottish agriculture. The assignation proposal appears to have been deliberately misinterpreted by some to scaremonger in a blatant attempt to undermine the proposal at the first opportunity. Contrary to press claims by these estates, the valuation of the tenant’s interest in their lease and improvements will not disadvantage landlords where there is an expectation of gaining vacant possession of a holding where the tenant has no successors.  The valuation method proposed takes account of when a landlord would otherwise have been likely to recover vacant possession from the tenant. If the tenant is nearing retirement without successors the vacant possession premium will be minimal and the cost to the landlord will be no more than their current obligation to compensate for tenant’s improvements.”

“Before passing judgement on this proposal, landlords should seek to understand fully the measures that Scottish Government have included to ensure fairness to all parties. Furthermore, included is a two stage process based around industry waygo proposals which has widespread support from landlords to allow tenants to agree compensation for improvements before committing to quit their tenancies.”

“STFA has long advocated the assignation of 1991 tenancies to non-family members and welcomes the Government’s decision to include it in the bill. This new provision carefully balances the rights of landlords and tenants and in many ways provides the missing piece in the tenancy jigsaw and makes the Bill a more complete package. Not only will this measure open up opportunities for tenants to retire but it will also provide new entrants and progressing farmers access to secure tenancies and help to re-instate the missing rungs in the farming ladder. “

 

 

 

 

LAND REFORM BILL TAKES SHAPE

LAND REFORM BILL TAKES SHAPE

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

 14th December 2015

 

 

LAND REFORM BILL TAKES SHAPE

 

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has told members of the Scottish Parliament that it fully supports the principles behind the Land Reform Bill and commends the RACCE Committee for their thorough and well-researched report. The STFA agrees with the committee that the bill can potentially make the rent review process fairer and more transparent; improve confidence in the sector; create a better environment for investment in holdings by both landlords and tenants; provide better opportunities for new entrants and younger farmers; and help older tenants to retire more easily.

STFA believes a strong Tenant Farming Commissioner equipped with sufficient powers and statutory codes of practice will be key to regulating the sector, improving relationships between landlords and tenants and in overseeing the implementation of the proposed legislative changes in the Land Reform Bill.

Commenting in advance of the parliamentary debate on the Land Reform Bill, STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “Although the timescales are tight, this is not a rushed bill, it has been subjected to two years of research, two substantial reports and some intense engagement by government and the Rural Affairs committee. A wide range of views has been listened to and the result is a bill that strives to be radical while striking a balance between competing rights and interests.

“The changes to rent reviews, succession and compensation for improvements for tenant farmers in Part 10 of the Bill represent the biggest reform to agricultural holdings since the post war 1948 Act. However, although the bill, as it stands, strengthens the position of existing secure tenancies, it does little to help those wanting to get a start in agriculture or those on Limited Partnerships or other short term tenancies who would like to move up the farming ladder. The new Modern Limited Duration Tenancies are little different from LDTs and landlords will inevitably prefer to keep control of the land and use short-term arrangements or contract farming.  Nowadays decisions on letting land are largely opportunistic and driven by access to CAP payments.

“Against this background it is encouraging to see that the Scottish Government intends to introduce amendments at Stage 2 allowing non-family assignation under certain conditions and creating a new full repairing lease both of which will fill the gaps in the bill.

“STFA has long advocated the introduction of assignation of 1991 tenancies to non-family members and welcomes the government’s decision to include it in the bill. This new provision carefully balances the rights of landlords and tenants by creating a process in which 1991 tenants can assign their tenancies on the same terms to a new entrant or a farmer who is progressing through the industry (including tenants on short-term tenancies and Limited Partnership tenancies).  As a balancing measure, the landlord has the option to buy out the tenant’s interest during the process; otherwise the tenant can proceed with the assignation.

“Although this measure does not go as far as we would have liked, it is, in many ways the missing piece in the tenancy jigsaw and potentially a game changer in making the bill a more complete package. The assignation proposal will open up opportunities for tenants to retire with a realistic waygo valuation and allow new entrants and progressing or developing farmers access to secure tenancies with the added benefit of slowing down the decline in secure tenancies. Above all this proposal has the potential to re-instate the missing rungs in the farming ladder and widen access to secure tenancies.

“In response to the RACCE recommendation, the government has also committed to bringing forward a new repairing tenancy which would allow landlords to rent out land in need of improvement with minimal fixed equipment on at least a 35 year term to allow the tenant to reap the benefit of his improvements before handing back an improved holding to the landlord. Other provisos are that the rent should be based on the productive capacity of the holding at the start of the lease and the tenant must receive compensation for his improvements.

“The Land Reform Bill is taking shape, but it will need careful consideration and hard work at Stage 2 to get the detail right to produce the next stepping-stone on the long road to Land and Tenancy Reform.”

 

 

 

For further information or for a copy of STFA’s Briefing Note to the Scottish Parliament click here or contact:

 

Christopher Nicholson               01988 500423

Angus McCall                        01408 633275/07767 756840

 

 

ELEVENTH HOUR REPRIEVE FOR STODDART FAMILY

ELEVENTH HOUR REPRIEVE FOR STODDART FAMILY

News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

26th November

ELEVENTH HOUR REPRIEVE FOR STODDART FAMILY

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association can announce that a settlement has been reached between Andrew Stoddart and his landlord, the Colstoun Trust. The terms of the settlement are subject to a confidentiality agreement, but it is understood that agreement was reached last night following a mediation brokered by the Scottish Government.

Mr Stoddart’s was due to quit his holding on 28th November, but following intense media coverage and public interest the Colstoun Trust agreed a couple of weeks ago that the Stoddart family would be able to remain in the farm cottage after the end of the tenancy. It is now understood that offer is confirmed until the end of January.

Andrew Stoddart has made the following statement: “Following eleventh hour mediation, we have come to a settlement with the Colstoun Trust. This has been done to protect my family from further anxiety. A short period of occupancy has been agreed to allow us to remove our animals and dispose of our equipment to better advantage.

“After 22 years, against considerable odds, I have left this farm better than I found it. It has been a hard struggle at times, and I want to pay tribute to my wife Claire who has shared the burden with me. We probably should have left many years ago when difficulties with the landlords began, but we never suspected it would end like this. We thought the 2003 Act had changed our lives, only to see our hopes dashed by the remedial order of 2014. The laws which allow landlords to arbitrarily end tenancies in order to access farming subsidies directly need amended

“All we ever wanted was just to farm this place and bring up our girls in this community which we love. I would also like to thank my two loyal employees for sticking by me for many years, and especially this year when the end was in sight. I wish them both well for the future. I would also like to thank the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association and my professional advisers.

“And finally, I would like to thank everyone who has supported us over this difficult time, and helped get us to a better place. Three special women – Michelle Wood, Jen Stout and Lesley Riddoch – have gone out of their way to help us in our fight for justice. This would not have happened without their support and pressure from everyone. We have made many good friends in the Haddington area who we will miss. We will leave East Lothian with many happy memories, on our way to a new beginning as yet unknown.”

Welcoming the news, STFA director, Angus McCall said: “This last minute agreement will be welcome to the Stoddart family, especially in the run up to Christmas. However, if the aftermath of the Salvesen Riddell Remedial Order had been managed better, Andrew Stoddart would have been able to mediate an agreement with his landlord and the Scottish government a year ago and the situation would never have gone as far as this.

“We are grateful to the RACCE committee for their support and it is largely due to their efforts and public pressure that this mediated settlement has taken place at all. We hope lessons will be learnt and the remaining seven tenants and families in the same situation will not be expected to suffer as much worry and stress as the Stoddarts.

“There are still a large number of tenants on short term agreements who are just as vulnerable to having their tenure cut short at the drop of a hat. This insecurity is something that must be tackled as Scotland contemplates land and tenancy reform over the next few years.”

RENT DEMANDS PUT OPPORTUNISM BEFORE RESPONSIBILITY

RENT DEMANDS PUT OPPORTUNISM BEFORE RESPONSIBILITY

News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

18th November 2015

 

RENT DEMANDS PUT OPPORTUNISM BEFORE RESPONSIBILITY

 

STFA is concerned to hear from members that there are a high number of rent reviews taking place this November, with more rent notices served for May 2016 reviews.  With all main farm commodity prices at low levels for a second year in a row and CAP support payments expected to be both reduced and delayed, the industry bodies must question the reasoning of landlords currently seeking rent increases.

Commenting the situation STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said:  “Landlords know that this may be their last chance to increase rents prior to the Land Reform Bill introducing a new rent test based on the productive capacity of the holding, replacing the present open market test.  All industry stakeholders including Scottish Land and Estates recognise the need for a more appropriate rent test closer to the model used south of the border for the last 30 years to ensure the setting of viable rents.  The last time commodity prices were this low for two consecutive years was back in 2005/06, but the situation is arguably worse today given the poor prospects for CAP support payments.  Landlords continuing to seek rent increases in the current climate are clearly putting opportunism before responsibility, and risk driving a wedge between tenants and landlords at a time when the tenanted sector is looking for common ground and actively promoting better relationships.

“I would like to ask Scottish Land and Estates and NFUS to encourage their members who are still driving for rent increases to consider the potential damage that they risk causing.  A number of professional agents and lawyers have expressed the view that unless a holding has not had a rent review for a very significant length of time, there is little justification to increase rents in the current economic conditions.  It is therefore ironic that tenants who have had regular rent reviews are now being threatened with referral to the Land Court unless they agree to further rent increases.

“STFA have heard that some rent cases have already been referred to the Land Court and we fear that the total number of referrals this November will be higher than previous years with tenants understandably resisting ever increasing rents.  We will monitor progress over the next fortnight, but at a time when landlords are being encouraged by both the wider industry and Scottish Government to act in a fair and responsible manner, it is clearly disappointing to hear from so many tenants who are being pushed for rent increases under a rent test that all stakeholders agree is no longer fit for purpose.  In light of the current parlous state of agriculture and the dire straits many tenants find themselves in we would strongly urge landlords to reconsider demands for rent increases and withdraw rent notices until agricultural fortunes improve.”

 

 

 

 

 

PRESSURE BUILDS TO SAVE STODDART FAMILY

PRESSURE BUILDS TO SAVE STODDART FAMILY

Scottish Tenant Farmers

News Release

4th November 2015

 

PRESSURE BUILDS TO SAVE STODDART FAMILY

 

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is pleased to hear that, in the wake of intense public pressure, government officials are at last trying to find ways of intervening in the impending eviction of tenant, Andrew Stoddart whose tenancy is due to come to an end on 28th November.

Officials are hoping to put the eviction on hold to allow Andrew Stoddart to take part in the mediation process along with the other seven tenants in the same situation.  The Stoddart family are the only ones whose homes and livelihoods face imminent threat following their landlord’s (the Colstoun Trust) decision to accelerate the end of the tenancy through the Land Court.  It is hoped that the Colstoun Trust will also be prepared to work with government officials to extend Mr Stoddart’s tenancy and to enter into negotiations to provide him with a realistic and fair end of tenancy compensation package.

Commenting on the situation, STFA director Angus McCall said; “The Scottish Government lawyers have treated these tenants poorly over the last couple of years and it is only now, as the sands run out for the Stoddart family and public pressure grows, that officials have begun to take action.

“No one, particularly the Colstoun Trust can now ignore the wave of public sympathy that “Scotland’s shame” has attracted through petitions, social media and widespread press coverage.  The plight of the family has struck a powerful chord and the online petition looks as though it will attract in excess of a staggering 15,000 signatures.

“The prospect of a tenant farmer with young children being removed against his will from his farm in mid-career has horrified the general public, especially when it appears that he will not only lose his home and livelihood, but may also be left with very little for by way of end of tenancy compensation for all the years he has spent investing in and looking after the farm.

“Scotland’s tenancy system has had a rocky and desperate journey over the last decade but this episode has highlighted some of the worst aspects.  Putting aside all the legal arguments, it cannot be right that a tenant can be faced with not only the loss of his farm and future prospects but also the value of investments and improvements he has made he has made over 22 years of being a tenant, to the undoubted benefit of the landlord who inherits a windfall.

“We are pleased to hear that government is seeking ways of assisting Andrew Stoddart in his current situation, but it must bear in mind that this is not the end of the matter.  There are another 7 tenants in the same boat and government must ensure that the commitments made to them are honoured through mediation and compensation packages to allow all the tenants to get on with the rest of their lives.”

 

UPDATE 10th November

Following the demonstration at the Scottish Parliament when the petition in support of the Stoddart family was formally handed over to members of the RACCE Committee, STFA issued the statement below on behalf of Mr Stoddart in response to the comments made by the Colstoun Trust this morning:

Mr Stoddart regards this latest statement issued by Colstoun Trust as inaccurate.  Mr Stoddart’s advisers are still in dialogue with the Colstoun Trust through the offices of the Scottish Government in response to offers of assistance from Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead and hope to begin to mediate a settlement shortly.  Only one proposal for compensation has been made by the Trust and that required immediate removal from the farm and an unacceptably low offer of compensation.  Mr Stoddart has not yet received a formal offer of an interim payment to account for future waygoing claims and it is understood, through informal channels, that this offer is conditional on the farm being vacated on 28th November.    The offer to remain in the farm cottage comes as news to Mr Stoddart.

Mr Stoddart would also like to correct persistent claims that the tenancy of Colstoun Farm was intended to be of fixed duration.  The lease signed by both parties was for an initial term of 15 years to continue year by year hereafter until terminated by either side.  The expectation at the time, was that this lease, in common with most Limited Partnership tenancies signed at the time, would continue for the foreseeable future.  It was also confirmed verbally by the factor of the day that the tenancy would in all likelihood be extended. Mr Stoddart has farmed the land accordingly.

Moreover, Mr Stoddart would also like to make it clear that the date of quitting the holding was formally set by the Land Court and was not willingly agreed.

 

 

WITHOUT ACTION, FARM EVICTIONS WILL BECOME SCOTLAND’S SHAME

WITHOUT ACTION, FARM EVICTIONS WILL BECOME SCOTLAND’S SHAME

Scottish Tenant Farmers

News Release

21st October 2015

 

WITHOUT ACTION, FARM EVICTIONS WILL BECOME SCOTLAND’S SHAME

 

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed the focus given to land and tenancy reform at last week’s SNP conference and the clear signal from SNP grassroots support for strengthening the land reform proposals in the current bill. The delegate’s call followed a powerful news item on Channel 4 TV which highlighted what are seen as some of the worst areas of bad land and estate management in Scotland.

The conference also heard pleas to halt the impending eviction of tenant farmer Andrew Stoddart whose tenancy on Colstoun Mains in East Lothian is due to come to an end in a few short weeks. Andrew Stoddart, who also spoke at a fringe event, is the first of the Salvesen Riddell tenants to be forced to quit their farms following the Remedial Order passed by the Scottish Parliament last year.

Commenting on the grassroots “rebellion” at the SNP conference, STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “STFA has been concerned that the government may have been wilting in the face of intense pressure from landed interests, intent on weakening what can only be seen as an already diluted bill. We hope that this message from the conference will strengthen the government’s resolve to deliver more radical and much needed reforms to create fairer conditions for tenant farmers, stimulating investment on agriculture, greater access to land and encouraging opportunities for new entrants.”

STFA has also become appalled at the recent treatment of tenant farmers affected by the Salvesen Riddell Remedial Order, including Andrew Stoddart who faces imminent eviction without having had the opportunity to take part in the government’s mediation process or be considered for any recompense which should be due from the government following the implementation of the Remedial Order.

STFA Director, Angus McCall who has been involved in the Salvesen Riddell debacle for the last few years said: “This whole episode has become Scotland’s shame which has seen the victims of a legal error hung out to dry by uncaring government lawyers and an inflexible government process.

“This tragic episode stemmed from legislation passed in 2003 which was proved to be defective. The UK Supreme Court then instructed the Scottish parliament to remedy the situation and, as a consequence, 8 families will lose their farms and livelihoods. However, rather than seeking to fulfil commitments made by government to parliament and the industry, government lawyers are abdicating all responsibility and liability and refusing point blank to consider any compensation package for the affected tenants. These tenants are now faced with a lengthy and expensive court battle to exert their rights.

“STFA has already written, and is writing again to the First Minister, Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead, the RACCE committee and MSPs to get the matter resolved and allow these tenants and their families to move their lives on, but all to no avail. Ministers, MSPs and some officials have expressed a willingness to help, but seem to be held to ransom by lawyers.

“We all appreciate that this is a complex situation, but the rulers of this country must accept a moral responsibility for the damage done though the actions of a previous government to these families and move without further delay to find a way towards an equitable settlement rather than forcing them into a long drawn out, expensive and life sapping legal battle. This has been devastating for all concerned and, after 18 months of prevarication, the tenants’ lives are still on hold and they are no further on in knowing their future.

“This affair has been a well-kept secret, but it must be time for the Scottish people to wake up and realise what is going on and allow common decency and a sense of fair play to prevail and put an end to this sorry affair before any lives are tragically lost as has happened in the past.”

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!”