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Land and Tenancy Commission key to success of Land Reform Proposals

Land and Tenancy Commission key to success of Land Reform Proposals

Scottish Tenant Farmers

News Release

23rd June 2015

 

Land and Tenancy Commission key to success of Land Reform Proposals

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

APPOINTMENT OF NEW INTERIM ADVISER ON TENANT FARMING

APPOINTMENT OF NEW INTERIM ADVISER ON TENANT FARMING

News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

4th June 2015

APPOINTMENT OF NEW INTERIM ADVISER ON TENANT FARMING

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

 19th May 2015

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

TENANTS WELCOME COMMITTEE’S GREEN LIGHT TO TENANCY REFORM

TENANTS WELCOME COMMITTEE’S GREEN LIGHT TO TENANCY REFORM

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

 13th May 2015

 

TENANTS WELCOME COMMITTEE’S GREEN LIGHT TO TENANCY REFORM

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

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

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

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

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

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

FARMERS UNITE TO LOBBY GOVERNMENT ON SEASONAL RENTS SCANDAL

FARMERS UNITE TO LOBBY GOVERNMENT ON SEASONAL RENTS SCANDAL

News Release

 Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

 22nd April 2015

 

FARMERS UNITE TO LOBBY GOVERNMENT ON SEASONAL RENTS SCANDAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small Landholder Act Surveys are closing on 20 May.

Small Landholder Act Surveys are closing on 20 May.

Small Landholder Act Surveys are closing on 20 May.
The Small Landholder Act Surveys will be closing on the 20 May. If you have not completed your form, even to tell the Scottish Government you do not have a small landholder tenancy, it is important that you do so, to enable their records to be updated.
The Scottish Government are surveying people that appear in their records as having a tenancy under the Small Landholder (Scotland) Acts. These surveys – which cover small landholders within and outwith Crofting Counties – are part of a process for gaining a clear understanding of the numbers, location and needs of small landholders, and informing policy moving forward.
 
You can contact the Scottish Government by telephone 0131 244 9920/0131 244 9138 or e-mail tenantfarmingqueries@scotland.gsi.gov.uk
 
Farm payment application extension

Farm payment application extension

Farm payment application extension

The Scottish deadline for farmers and crofters to submit their Single Application Form (SAF) has been extended, under flexibility from the EU, until June 15, 2015.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead today confirmed the Scottish Government will allow farmers to benefit from the flexibility announced by the EU and expected to be approved next week, given the concerns raised by farmers and crofters about the complexity of the new system.

The Scottish Government will make every effort to stick to the payment schedule. Mr Lochhead has highlighted that we need Europe to give flexibility on the inspection regime that has already been asked for by member states.

Technical experts are continuing work to fix issues with the new Rural Payments and Services online system as quickly as possible after they have been raised.

Mr Lochhead said:

“Delivery of the new CAP is an absolute priority for the Scottish Government. The system is complex and has presented significant challenges in Scotland and across Europe – as shown by Commissioner Hogan’s announcement that a four week extension to the application window would be allowed.

“Having carefully considered all of the options, consulted widely with those involved in agriculture in Scotland and taking into account the hard work going on behind the scenes to maximise the performance of our online system, I have decided to extend the Scottish application window by a month until the 15th of June, subject to the approval of EU legislation which is expected next week.

“As part of our efforts to make payments as soon as possible we will look at all flexibilities permitted within the EU rules and I strongly encourage the EU to give additional flexibility, particularly around the inspection regime which has already been called for by other member states.

“Of course, paper copies of the forms have always been and continue to be available to farmers and crofters. We will also continue to respond to reports of issues with the IT system as quickly as we can and liaise regularly with industry representatives to ensure the views of farmers and crofters are taken on board every step of the way.”

STFA CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO STOP CREATION OF A NEW GENERATION OF SLIPPER FARMERS

STFA CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO STOP CREATION OF A NEW GENERATION OF SLIPPER FARMERS

News Release

 Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

 9th April 2015

 

STFA CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO STOP CREATION OF A NEW GENERATION OF SLIPPER FARMERS

 The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is calling on the Scottish Government to take action to prevent the creation of another generation of slipper farmers.  Concerns expressed by STFA over the robustness of the activity rules have been vindicated by recent evidence of a subsidy grab as landowners seek to maximise potential income from CAP payments.

Commenting on the situation, STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “ We have been receiving an unprecedented amount of calls over the last week or so from tenants and owner occupiers who are facing the loss of grass lets and/or single farm payment on seasonal grazing land to allow landowners to claim the payments themselves.

“Although there are some cases where agreements have been made between landlord and tenant balancing single farm payment claims and rent, there are many more where the grazing tenant faces loss of grazing and/or single farm payment without consultation or warning.  This is obviously deeply disruptive to businesses with some farmers having to make alternative last minute arrangements for grazing their livestock whilst facing a loss of income.

“Many hill farmers who have traditionally rented hill grazings on an annual basis will be even harder hit.  The new CAP regime, which will see some hill farmers receive substantial increases in their single farm payment, is encouraging landlords to take possession of the area payments on the land.  This will be even more appealing to the landowner if the tenant continues to rent the land, often for the same rent, providing the necessary farming activity.  Whilst this represents a bonanza for some landlords it is deeply damaging for the tenants who will face serious losses of single farm and LFASS payments putting hill farming on the cusp of viability.

“What is galling for so many farmers in this situation, is that landowners are acting on the advice of consultants and land agents who, before the ink is dry on new regulations, have been working hard to finds ways to exploit them rather than trying to help make the system work smoothly and target much needed support to those who deserve it instead of helping to create another generation of slipper farmers.

“With seasonal grazings representing nearly 15% of let land, this abuse of support payments will cause a severe leakage of land and public money to the undeserving and will have a serious impact on the livestock sector.  This issue cannot be deflected by a no can do attitude on behalf of the government and must not be swept under the carpet.”

TENANCY ADVISOR GOOD NEWS FOR INDUSTRY

TENANCY ADVISOR GOOD NEWS FOR INDUSTRY

News Release

 

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

stfa@tfascotland.org.uk

1st April 2015

 TENANCY ADVISOR GOOD NEWS FOR INDUSTRY

 The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association welcomes the Cabinet Secretary’s announcement of his intention to appoint an independent tenancy advisor as an interim measure until legislation can be brought forward to establish a Tenant Farming Commissioner with statutory powers.

Commenting on the announcement STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “The news of the impending appointment of an independent advisor to the tenanted sector is timely as we head into the parliamentary process of reforming tenancy law.  This announcement follows hard on the heels of reports that the Cabinet has agreed to introduce the Land Reform Bill before the summer recess.  The confirmation today, that an Agricultural Holdings Bill will form part of the Land Reform Bill, has now signalled the firing of the starting gun on land and tenancy reform.

“STFA is pleased that calls for a tenancy commissioner from all major stakeholders are being heeded.  There is bound to be uncertainty over the next couple of years until the new reforms become law and it is important that interim measures are put in place to advise and guide the industry as well as keep a watchful eye on what is going on.  It is also sensible for the embryonic commissioner to work with the three main stakeholders, STFA, NFUS and SL&E, rather than trying to recreate the TFF which included ancillary bodies representing professional advisors.  After all, it should be those who rent out land and those who rent in land who make the decisions, not their advisors, many of whom appear to be totally out of step with the views of the farming industry.

“We are also pleased that the Cabinet Secretary has indicated that the Tenant Farming Commissioner will have statutory powers.  We believe that this will be a necessary ingredient to ensure that the office of Commissioner will be able to enforce codes of practice and impose sanctions where necessary.  We believe that a firm hand will be needed to ensure fair play during the transitional period before new tenancy legislation is enacted in a year’s time.

“Scotland’s landowners have already said that they will oppose some of the AHLRG’s recommendations and the evidence led by SL&E to the RACCE committee last week warning that the Scottish Government will be potentially liable to pay landowners multi-million pound compensation if they implement some of these measures can only be seen as intimidatory and threatening.

“The RACCE committee and the Cabinet Secretary are right to view the ECHR opinion obtained by SL&E with scepticism.  Smiths Gore’s calculation of the Scottish Government’s potential liability for in excess of £600 million is also unreliable.  It is, by their own admission, based on weak data, using comparisons from another country and is at best a “guess-timate”.  These threats do landowners no favours and only serve to harden hearts. SL&E’s time and money would be better spent waiting for government lawyers to sort the legal niceties and the draftsmen to produce the legislation before issuing dire warnings.

“STFA is, however, disappointed that the Cabinet Secretary seems to be ruling out open assignation of 1991 tenancies.  We continue to believe that this is a mistake and will continue to lobby for open assignation to be included in the legislation. “

SMALL LANDHOLDING TENANTS URGED TO RESPOND TO GOVERNMENT SURVEY

SMALL LANDHOLDING TENANTS URGED TO RESPOND TO GOVERNMENT SURVEY

News Release

 

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

stfa@tfascotland.org.uk

 31st March 2015

 SMALL LANDHOLDING TENANTS URGED TO RESPOND TO GOVERNMENT SURVEY

 The Scottish Government’s survey of tenants of Small landholdings heralds the potential start of long overdue reform for a forgotten class of tenant farmer, ignored by successive legislative reforms to the tenanted sector.  As a consequence of STFA’s lobbying, Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead pledged to look into the situation of Small Landholders and STFA is pleased that he is now honouring that pledge.

 The Government has, this week, initiated a survey of tenants of small landholdings in order to update its register of statutory Small Landholdings and as part of its commitment to modernise tenancy legislation. The survey is being sent to all those who have indicated on their IACS that they may be small landholders and STFA urges all who receive the survey to respond, whether or not they think they may be statutory Small Landholders under the 1911 Act.

Government census figures estimate there may be as many as 118 Small Landholdings in Scotland, covering 5,000ha from Stranraer to Strathspey.  Many of these holdings may not be statutory Small Landholdings and the government survey seeks to distinguish the differences between the types of small tenant.

 These tenants find themselves in a unique and unenviable situation – although they share similar rights of security with crofters and 1991 tenants, they have few of the benefits.  They have had to provide the entire infrastructure of their farms; housing, buildings fencing and drainage but they have neither the rights of purchase of the crofter nor even the pre-emptive rights of the agricultural tenant.  Moreover, they have limited assignation rights and little in the way of end of tenancy compensation.  Small Landholders are still forced to operate under century old legislation which is in dire need of modernisation.

 Small Landholders have a similar background to crofters and the Crofting Reform Act 2010 tried to give small landholders in the designated crofting areas the right to convert to crofts. However, the legislation has proved to be too cumbersome and complex to operate and, as yet no small landholdings have been converted to crofts.  The Small Landholding tenants are now looking for a simpler and more practicable route to give them the same rights as other tenant farmers and crofters.  The Land Reform Review Group’s simple solution of granting these tenants a statutory right to buy similar to that enjoyed by crofters has yet to be taken up by government.

 Any small landholder who has any queries or anyone who has not received the survey form should contact Fiona Buchanan (Leslie) by email fiona.leslie@scotland.gsi.gov.uk or telephone 0131 244 9138 /07855 180858.