Uncategorized

STFA STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF SECURITY OF TENURE FOR ALL TENANTS

STFA STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF SECURITY OF TENURE FOR ALL TENANTS

News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

25th March 2015

 

STFA STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF SECURITY OF TENURE FOR ALL TENANTS

 In giving evidence to the Rural Affairs Committee of the Scottish Parliament the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has stressed the importance of retaining security of tenure for future generations of tenant farmers and as an option for new entrants to the industry.

 Speaking after the committee meeting STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said; “Heritable secure tenancies have been the keystone of Scottish agriculture for more than 60 years, encouraging tenants to invest and grow their businesses.  These tenancies still satisfy demands for food security while also providing stability and continuity and have, in the past afforded most of today’s owner-occupiers the opportunity to buy their farms.

 “STFA strongly believes that this system of land tenure has an important role to play in contributing to rural communities and the food and drink industry.  It is important that these tenancies are encouraged to continue by broadening family succession and by creating opportunities for new entrants and tenants on short-term tenancies to buy into existing tenanted farms.  We have, today, made the case again for introducing the ability for 1991 secure tenancies to be transferred to non-family members which will create a whole new range of opportunities for the next generation of farmers.

 “We have been heartened by the interest that the members of Rural Affairs Committee have shown in the AHLRG report and their understanding of what is a highly complex subject.  However, there are a number of recommendations in the report which have provoked extreme reaction from Scotland’s landowners.  In its submission to the RACCE committee, SL&E have challenged a number of the Review Group’s recommendations on the grounds that they may be in contravention of the European Convention of Human Rights.  They have furthermore estimated multi-million compensation claims that they would be seeking from the Scottish government if these recommendations were implemented.

 STFA believes this attitude to be unhelpful, seeking only to preserve landlords’ interests to the exclusion of any consideration of the human rights of others.  Too often human rights are seen as a way of inhibiting reform whereas, there are many occasions where human right issues should actually be seen as a stimulus for progress.  We would encourage policy makers not to be taken in by this blatant scare mongering and concentrate on bringing forward legislation in the best interests of Scottish agriculture and its rural communities.

STFA RESPONDS TO LANDLORDS CALL FOR GOODWILL

STFA RESPONDS TO LANDLORDS CALL FOR GOODWILL

News Release

 

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

stfa@tfascotland.org.uk

 3rd March

 STFA RESPONDS TO LANDLORDS CALL FOR GOODWILL

 The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is pleased that Scottish Land and Estates’ chairman David Johnston’s shares STFA’s view that a temporary ombudsman should be introduced before new tenancy legislation comes into force.

 Responding to Scottish Lands and Estates’ recent call for cross-industry goodwill, STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said; “Tenants are obviously feeling uneasy as we head into a period of uncertainty before any of the tenancy review group’s recommendations are translated into legislation.  There is general agreement that a Tenant Farming Commissioner (or ombudsman) should be established as part of the tenancy reforms, however, STFA believes that an interim body should be created in the meantime to see fair play and monitor behaviour in the sector.

 STFA is particularly concerned at the vulnerable position that the remaining 400 Limited Partnership tenants find themselves in and would like to see action taken to guarantee them a degree of security.

 “David Johnston has accused us of being adversarial and calls on us to produce evidence of bad practice, but we must reiterate that very few tenant farmers are prepared to openly complain about behaviour of landlords or factors and we are not prepared to publicly produce evidence which will expose them to repercussions.   The negative reaction of RICS (the land agents representative body) to the AHLRG report and its opposition to almost all of the Group’s main recommendations does little to inspire the confidence of tenants and encourage plain talking.  There is a strong case for professional advisers to be subject to audit so that any problems can be identified without tenants having to complain.

 “It must also be remembered that tenancy reform is not the only cause of instability, and uncertainty.  The CAP reform has had a huge influence on the behaviour of landlords and tenants.  The new CAP regime will produce winners and losers and it is likely that a new breed of sofa farmers will emerge claiming support payments with minimal activity.  The sector has been subject to a great deal of manoeuvring over the last year or two as landowners have sought to maximise opportunities.  We have seen tenancies brought to an end, rented land taken back in hand and seasonal grazings withdrawn from the market so it is no wonder that limited partnership and other tenants on short-term arrangements are nervous.

“Measures have to be put in place to create confidence and STFA would be happy to engage in discussions over a temporary Commissioner and how to manage the sector over the next two years before legislative change takes place.  Rent reviews will have to take account of economic circumstances with farm incomes expected to drop as commodity prices continue to fall and support payments are reduced.

 “Moreover, as tenancies come to an end over the next couple of years before the proposed amnesty on improvements comes into force, outgoing tenants should not be disadvantaged by missing out on fair compensation for their improvements at waygo.

 “Managing the transition to a reformed tenanted sector will test the resolve of landlords and tenants and we will see whether the fine words of those at the top will cascade down to the grass roots.”

STFA RESPONDS TO RICS BRIEFING

STFA RESPONDS TO RICS BRIEFING

News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

stfa@tfascotland.org.uk

 25th February 2015

 STFA response to RICS media briefing

STFA has responded to the recent RICS media briefing lambasting land and tenancy reform.  Amongst other things RICS has said that the tenancy recommendations “will increase disputes and confrontations between landlords and tenants. It may also result in fewer farms made available to let in the future”.

 STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson commented:  “In attempting to defend the status quo this ill-judged broadside from RICS Scotland is unhelpful and will cut no ice with Scottish Government who are committed to land and tenancy reform.  Such damning criticism of the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group’s Final Report is irresponsible and out of kilter with the wider industry recognition of the need for change.  Furthermore, it is of great worry for the tenanted sector to see RICS Scotland take this defensive position given that their membership primarily represent landlord interests.

 “RICS Scotland’s efforts to whitewash bad practice is at odds with evidence collected by the Review Group.  Despite the recent Land Agent’s Declaration where senior agents pledged to recognise industry led initiatives and codes of conduct, STFA continue to hear of cases where agents acting for landlords are ignoring best practice guidelines, and we would be prepared to share this evidence with an independent Tenant Farming Commissioner.

 “Tenants are unlikely to make official complaints against the actions of their landlord’s agents for fear of souring future relationships, and it is especially difficult for an individual tenant to make a complaint through RICS Scotland’s regulatory framework.

 “It is entirely unrealistic of RICS to believe that reliance on a complaints procedure will drive out bad practice amongst their membership, and only the naïve would think that a lack of official complaints indicates that land agents are complying with best practice.  Key stakeholders in the tenanted need to develop a new approach to ensure that best practice is adopted by land agents which does not rely on complaints being raised by tenants or landlords.

 “This latest stance of RICS will come as no surprise to tenants, and reinforces the need for an interim Tenant Farming Commissioner to be put in place to prevent any attempts by landlords and their agents taking evasive action in advance of changes to tenancy legislation.

INTERIM TENANT FARMING COMISSIONER NEEDED FOR TENANTED SECTOR

INTERIM TENANT FARMING COMISSIONER NEEDED FOR TENANTED SECTOR

News Release

 Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

stfa@tfascotland.org.uk

 25th February 2015

STFA ARGUES FOR AN INTERIM TENANT FARMING COMMISSIONER TO MONITOR TENANTED SECTOR

 Scotland’s tenant farmers have called upon the Scottish Government to establish an interim Tenant Farming Commissioner as a matter of priority to supervise and manage the transition period before reforms to tenancy legislation become law in a couple of years time.  The Government has said it will implement most of the recommendations contained in the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review report, including the creation of a Tenant Farming Commissioner, before the end of this parliamentary session in May 2016, and STFA would like to ensure measures are put in place to forestall any attempts to circumvent forthcoming changes to tenancy law.

Speaking after the STFA AGM in Perth last week, Chairman Christopher Nicholson said:  “There is general agreement that an office of Tenant Farming Commissioner linked to a Lands Commission should be created and STFA is firmly of the opinion that the Commissioner should be equipped with statutory powers.  However, it will take a year or two to establish the office of a Commissioner and STFA is concerned that some landlords will attempt to take evasive action in advance of changes to the law.

 “We believe that a temporary Tenant Farming Commissioner must be put in place as soon as possible to keep a watchful eye on what is going on.  The industry has already agreed an initiative to exert some control over rent increases but this must be backed up by a more visible and transparent body to monitor behaviour in the sector and to act as interface in relationships between landlords and tenants.

 “In particular, there are vulnerable groups of tenants who will need protection, such as the remaining 400 or so tenants in Limited Partnership tenancies whose tenancies can be brought to an end at the drop of a hat.  The AHLRG report has done little to secure their future beyond recommending an industry “Joint Initiative” to set out guidelines for conversion to a modern LDT.  This is unsatisfactory and Cab Sec Richard Lochhead has now been urged by Limited Partnership tenants to revisit the issue and develop a more robust way of giving these tenants greater security.

 “After all it should be remembered that Limited Partnership tenants are yesterday’s new entrants and most will be approaching middle age with well capitalised and profitable businesses and many will have families who are also looking towards careers in agriculture.  This group of tenants represents a wealth of talent and expertise which should not be lost to Scottish agriculture and strenuous efforts must be made to either extend their tenancies or to make provisions for them to buy their way into secure tenancies being vacated by retiring tenants.

 “STFA will be pressing the Scottish government to re-examine assignation proposals to provide a secure future for these tenants and their families.  Consideration must be given to allow the assignation of 1991 tenancies, or to extend the minimum term of converted LDTs from 35 to at least 75 years to provide the necessary confidence to invest in and grow businesses.

 “Long term security of tenure will ultimately benefit the land, increase its capital worth for the landowner and importantly, be good for the long term future of Scottish agriculture and its burgeoning food and drink industry”.

STFA CALLS FOR A FAIR DEAL FOR SMALL LANDHOLDING TENANTS

STFA CALLS FOR A FAIR DEAL FOR SMALL LANDHOLDING TENANTS

News Release

 Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

24th February 2015

STFA CALLS FOR A FAIR DEAL FOR SMALL LANDHOLDING TENANTS

 

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed the commitment made by Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead to find solutions to ease the plight of Small Landholding tenants.  Addressing the AGM of the STFA, the Cabinet Secretary announced that the Scottish Government would be investigating the extent of small landholdings in Scotland and what solutions can be found to bring them in to the 21st Century.

 Responding to the Cabinet Secretary’s announcement, STFA spokesman, Angus McCall said; “STFA has been pressing the government for some time now to address the difficulties faced by small landholders who are still governed by century old legislation dating from 1911.  Successive reforms to crofting and tenancy law have been ineffectual and the commitment made by Richard Lochhead last week to survey Small Landholding tenants and seek their views is most welcome.

 “Although small landholdings were once common throughout Scotland and government statistics show that there may be up to 100 of these holdings still in existence, it is not known for sure many there are and where they are, apart from those on the Island of Arran.  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.

 “The Crofting Reform Act tried to give small landholders in the designated crofting areas the right to convert to crofts, but 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.  STFA understands the government will be issuing survey forms to all known small landholding tenants in the next few weeks. Anyone in that situation who does not receive a form should contact get in touch with the government directly.

 “The recent tenancy review report paid little attention to this group of disadvantaged tenant farmers and is now important that tenancy reform does not once again leave them behind to languish in laws only fit for a bygone era.”

TENANT FARMERS WELCOME TENANCY GROUP REPORT

TENANT FARMERS WELCOME TENANCY GROUP REPORT

 

 

News Release

 Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

27th January 2015

TENANT FARMERS WELCOME TENANCY GROUP REPORT

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed the AHLRG report, published today, as a turning point in the long running debate over tenancy reform.  The report makes 49 recommendations aiming to strengthen the rights of existing tenants, encourage landlords to rent out land, create opportunities for new entrants and rectify some legislative anomalies.  The review group’s final report is the culmination of more than a decade of lobbying by STFA and a year long in-depth examination of tenancies in Scotland by the tenancy review group led by Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead.

 Speaking following the announcement of the AHLRG’s recommendations, STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “This report was never going to please everyone, but it has made a significant effort to respond to the concerns raised during the consultation process and its conclusions will be received warmly by most tenant farmers.  However, the report will not give much comfort to the 400 or so tenants who are still involved in Limited Partnership tenancies.  Most of these tenants remain farming on a year to year basis which is no way to run a business and STFA will continue to lobby for solutions for their particular situation.”

 Recommendations for change include.

• enabling 1991 Act tenants to apply to the Scottish Land Court to force the sale of the holding where a landlord does not meet their obligations
• measures to widen succession rights for 1991 Act tenants
• creating a Tenant Farming Commissioner
• improving how rents are set
• creating the potential for apprenticeship opportunities for new entrants
• providing long term and flexible letting vehicles to encourage the release of more land into tenancy

 “The tenanted sector has suffered badly over the last few decades with declining relationships between landlord and tenant which have resulted in some high profile disputes and many low profile areas of dissatisfaction.  The creation of a Tenant Farming Commissioner with powers to establish and regulate codes of practice is a welcome initiative and its statutory basis will be key to the success of many of the Review Group’s proposals.

 “Numbers of secure tenants and the area of land under secure tenure has been declining rapidly over the last few years and the proposal to widen succession and family assignation rights will ensure that family tenancies are not lost to succeeding generations. The continuation of family succession is very much in the public interest and will be seen as a very positive step forward for the 80% of tenant farmers who hold secure tenancies and do not currently have direct heirs to inherit the family farm.

 “However, many tenants will be disappointed that the report has chosen to propose powers to force the sale of a tenanted farm to escape the clutches of bad landlords rather than introduce a more general right to buy.  Although this proposal deals with the problem of bad landlords it does not address the difficulties faced by tenant farming businesses whose progress is inhibited by their tenancy.  There is no doubt that on becoming owner occupiers, tenanted businesses invariably grow and prosper.  We consider that the Group has made a grave error in not taking this into account in its research.

 “Similarly, STFA is disappointed that, having spent last summer examining the merits of assigning 1991 tenancy for value the Group has elected instead to opt for the less valuable proposal to allow conversion of a 1991 tenancy to a long term LDT.  However, this in itself, is a valuable step forward and will encourage some tenants without successors to realise value from the tenancy by transferring it on the open market.

“STFA is embarking on a series of member meeting over the next few weeks to explain the implications of the AHLRG report and to gauge tenant farmers reaction to the report. Today’s announcement marks the opening of a new chapter in the story of tenant farming in Scotland and during the next few months we look forward to fine tuning the detail as the recommendations move through the legislative process.  It is imperative that the 49 recommendations in the report are treated as a package and not as a “pick and mix” and are dealt with as soon as possible as part of the Land Reform legislation.

 “There is a real fear in the tenant farming community that there will be pressure to deal with agricultural holdings legislation as a stand-alone bill and/or consider some of the more controversial measures at a later date.  This will inevitably lead to the bill being postponed to the next parliamentary session and many of its proposals kicked into the long grass.  This is too important a bill to be delayed or become a political football.”

STFA TAKES TO THE ROAD WITH TENANCY AND LAND REFORM

STFA TAKES TO THE ROAD WITH TENANCY AND LAND REFORM

News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

 21th January 2015

 STFA TAKES TO THE ROAD WITH TENANCY AND LAND REFORM

 The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association will be taking to the road next week embarking on a round of meetings to discuss tenancy and land reform proposals with its tenant farming members.  Top of the agenda will be the long awaited report of the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group which is expected to be released next week.

 Speaking ahead of the meetings STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said; “The publication of the AHLRG’s report heralds the next phase in the long journey to reform the tenanted sector.  STFA will be using these meetings to outline the Group’s proposals for reform to members and listen to their views before making detailed comment on the many recommendations for change.

 “Although the Cabinet Secretary has said that the report will be radical and far reaching it will inevitably disappoint some and satisfy others.  However, the industry has spent more than a decade agonising over tenancy law and endlessly discussing the same issues that dominated the debate in 2003.  Our current tenancy legislation is not delivering and it is now time to use the AHLRG recommendations as a stimulus for much needed change.

 “We expect the report to reflect the ideas contained in the AHLRG’s Interim Report.  In particular we would like to see recommendations that will provide for fairer and simpler rent reviews, removal of the uncertainty linked to tenants improvements, the establishment of full and proper waygo compensation for tenant’s improvements and the tenant’s interest in his lease, the widening of family succession, and improving the levels of investment on tenanted holdings.  We also look forward to the creation of a tenancy commission or ombudsman to oversee, regulate and see fair play in the sector.  However, we have some concern that fears about non-compliance with the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) may prevent the recommendation of some enabling measures that have been up for discussion in the past year.

 “STFA will be using the meetings to discuss the Scottish Government’s proposals for land reform.  The consultation on the “Future of Land Reform in Scotland” closes on 10th February and STFA will be seeking views from members as well as urging them to respond individually.

 “We will also be lobbying the government to ensure that it continues with the proposal to include changes to agricultural holdings law in the Land Reform Bill.  We are concerned that there is a high probability that a stand-alone agricultural holdings bill would be postponed to the next parliamentary session due to the pressure on the parliamentary timetable.  Such a delay is not an option for the tenanted sector.

 STFA expects the AHLRG report to be unveiled in parliament on Tuesday 27th January and its meetings begin the following day in St Boswells.  Membership will be available for non-members wishing to join on the night.  All tenants are urged to take part in the debate over the future shape of the tenanted sector and help ensure that we create a viable and fair tenanted sector for the next generation”

 STFA meetings take place as follows:

Borders     Buccleuch Arms The Green St Boswells    Wed  28thJan

SW              Urr Valley Hotel Castle Douglas                   Thurs 29thJan

Arran         Douglas Hotel Brodick                                   Fri  30thJan

Bute           Kingarth Hotel Ardchattan Bay                     Mon  2ndFeb

Aberdeen  Porterhouse Restaurant Thainstone           Tues   3rd Feb

Inverness  Fairways Golf Distributor Rd Inverness     Wed   4th Feb

Perth          Huntingtower Hotel Hotel Crieff Rd           Tues  10thFeb

Islay            St Columba Centre Bowmore                        Mon  16thFeb

 

All meetings commence at 7.30pm

 N.B These meetings are open to members and any tenant farmer wishing to join on the night

Tenants urged to respond to Land Reform proposals

Tenants urged to respond to Land Reform proposals

News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

 7th January 2015

 Tenants urged to respond to Land Reform proposals

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is urging tenant farmers to respond to the government consultation on Land Reform before the deadline on 10th February.  The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the consultation on the future of Land Reform as part of her programme for government last November.

 The consultation, which is being led by Environment Minister Aileen Mcleod, is seeking views on a radical programme of land reform creating a fairer and more equitable distribution of land in Scotland, delivering greater public benefits through a democratically accountable and a transparent system of land rights which will promote fairness and social justice, environmental sustainability and economic prosperity.

 STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said; “This consultation is picking up the threads of the land reform process that was started over a decade ago and it is important the government hears the views from as many people as possible.  This is especially important for tenant farmers who will shortly be debating on the report from the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group.

 “Tenancy reform is an integral part of land reform and we welcome the government’s decision to bring forward legislative reforms to the tenanted sector as part of a land reform bill.  After all the highly regulated and complex tenancy system in Scotland is a direct consequence of the land tenure structure and its future should be considered as part of the wider land reform agenda.  Moreover there will inevitably be significant overlaps between the recommendations of the AHLRG report and the proposals for land reform.  For example, the proposal on the table to give ministers power to intervene “where the scale of landownership or the conduct of a landlord is acting as a barrier to sustainable development” is very similar to the proposal being floated in the AHLRG’s interim report to introduce procedures to enable a tenant to acquire the holding if the landlord was found to be in persistent breach of his contractual obligations.

 “On a practical note, the government’s packed legislative programme leaves a limited amount of time available in this parliamentary session for extra bills and there is a real fear that if legislative time is restricted, an agricultural holdings bill may get shelved until the next parliamentary session.  It may suit landlords to postpone impending changes but it will be devastating for a tenanted sector desperate for reform as soon as practicably possible.

 “STFA will be consulting with its members over the next few weeks, but I would urge all tenant farmers to make their voices heard, either through representative organisations or individually, so we can all play our part in influencing land reform in Scotland and help create a fairer and more equitable society for all.

TENANTS WELCOME LAND REFORM PROPOSALS

TENANTS WELCOME LAND REFORM PROPOSALS

News Release

 Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

 

2nd December 2014

 TENANTS WELCOME LAND REFORM PROPOSALS

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed today’s publication of the Scottish Government’s consultation on the future of land reform Bill in Scotland.  Confirmation that legislation, stemming from the review of agricultural holdings, will be included in a Land Reform Bill to be brought before parliament before the end of the parliamentary session is also excellent news.

 The Scottish Government have announced a wide range of land reform proposals leading towards a more democratically accountable and transparent system of land rights promoting “fairness and social justice, environmental sustainability and economic prosperity”.

 Commenting on the news STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said; “The Scottish Government has given a clear signal that it is taking the unfinished business of land reform seriously with tenancy reform to be included in a Land Reform Bill.  The let land sector in Scotland is regulated and complex as a direct consequence of Scotland’s tenure structure where over 50% of the land is owned by just over 430 individual and this cannot be healthy.  The sector is largely dominated by relatively few large estates controlled by a small band of land agents and factors and let land is scarce.  The relationship between rent and the productivity of land has now reached unsustainable levels which must be urgently addressed.

 “Tenancy reform must be considered as part of the broader land reform agenda for a more inclusive society and to increase opportunity in the wider rural economy. Scotland’s land and people need a better deal and land reform will unlock underutilised assets for better use by more of the population. Therefore Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead’s recent statement that the government will be tackling proposals on land reform and agricultural tenancies in a joined up way is very warmly welcomed.

 “Ministers’ commitment to fairness and equality, social justice and economic prosperity strikes a chord with tenant farmers who have found themselves at the rough end of the imbalance of power over land for the last decade. Since the 2003   Agricultural Holdings Act the tenanted sector has been consistently battered by a series of crippling court cases by legislation which has proven to be no longer fit for purpose.  Rent reviews, as a consequence of the skewed rental market have  now become more of a damage limitation exercise than a routine business negotiation between equals

 “We welcome the intention to give ministers the power to intervene where the scale of land ownership or the conduct of a landowner acts against the interests of sustainable development.  There are Scottish islands and other areas where monopolistic landownership is clearly holding back farming businesses and rural economies and depopulating local communities.  The power of intervention could be managed fairly by either a Land Reform or Tenancy Commission and STFA has made this recommendation to the tenancy review group.

 “These proposals which will unlock the potential of rural Scotland have been eagerly awaited by many who have felt stultified by the concentrated pattern of land tenure.  Land reform is now firmly on the agenda and will dominate discussions over the next few years as we strive to make rural Scotland a better and fairer place.”

STFA SAYS NO TO FORESTRY ON ARABLE LAND

STFA SAYS NO TO FORESTRY ON ARABLE LAND

News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

2nd December 2014

STFA SAYS NO TO FORESTRY ON ARABLE LAND

 The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has written to Forestry Commission Scotland to urge it not to plant trees on what was once intensive agricultural land.

 STFA is responding to a consultation being carried out by FCS in Aberdeenshire on tree planting plans on farms purchased by the Commission before the Woodland Expansion Advisory Group (WEAG) curtailed what had been an unbridled acquisition policy buying agricultural land for forestry.

Commenting on the Commission proposals STFA director Angus McCall said; “As a member of the WEAG, we continue to support the recommendations of the group, including the requirement to consult with stakeholder groups and the local community and the recommendations calling on those considering planting whole farms to keep better grades of land in agricultural use.

“The Forestry Commission has led the field in creating starter units for new entrants to farming and has recently had a good track record in responding to concerns raised by tree planting plans.  The consultation on Corniehaugh Farm, for example, seems to have taken account of the wishes on the local community and we hope that these farms will be treated in a similar manner.

“Much of this farmland being considered for woodland creation is productive land.  The arable land at Culdrain, for example, is described by the Forestry Commission themselves as “being mostly intensive agricultural land”, planting with trees would be totally inappropriate.  The land has been recently cropped and the farm would provide an ideal starter unit for a new entrant.  Similarly some of the land at Upper Tullochbeg is good grassland and really should be added to the existing starter farm to increase its viability.  We have also suggested that the better land on the remaining farms be retained in agriculture.

“We acknowledge the need for increased tree planting to meet climate change targets and to satisfy the demands of the timber industry, but this should not take place at the expense of agriculture and its prime purpose of producing food.  The government has stated its woodland creation ambitions but it also has committed to making more land available for new tenancies. These two ambitions could surely go hand in hand, with agriculture retained on the better land and tree planting on the remainder.  There may even be scope for agro-forestry schemes.”

 

 

For further information:

Contact:  Angus McCall 01408 633275 / 07767 756840

 

 

Notes for editors:

Farms referred to are:

(a)    Culdrain Farm – 64.2ha of arable and 7.2ha rough grazing near Huntly

(b)   Upper Tullochbeg and Ittingstone, near Huntly  – 80.6ha arable, 33.8ha permanent pasture and 100.1ha rough grazing.  Buildings plus 44.7ha have been already leased out as a starter farm.

(c)      Curlusk and Broadfield – 180ha of grazing land near Keith