Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

 14th March 2016




The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is calling on the Scottish Government to reject landowners’ plea to scrap some key elements of the Land Reform Bill. Scottish Lands and Estates have written to Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead, urging him to rethink the proposal for relinquishing and assigning 1991 tenancies.

STFA has steadfastly campaigned for the right for secure tenant farmers to be able assign their tenancies for more than a decade and welcomes the Scottish Government’s new proposal for assignation which should not only help preserve these valuable tenancies, but will also make them available for new entrants of those progressing through the farming industry.

Commenting on SL&E’s 11th hour appeal to the Scottish Government, STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “STFA is urging the Cabinet Secretary not to bow to landowner pressure and weaken the assignation provisions in the Bill. Contrary to SL&E’s views, the proposal allowing tenants to assign their tenancies has been well thought out and strikes a fair balance between the rights of tenants and landlords. Tenants, thinking of retiring will now have much more control over how they go about it and a greater chance of getting realistic compensation for their investment in the farm compared to some of the pitiful payouts we have seen in the past. There will also be the opportunity to pass the tenancy on to the next generation of farmers giving them the undoubted benefit of secure tenure. Landlords, on the other hand will be given every chance to buy their land back at a realistic value, easily offset by the immediate increase in the capital value of the land.

“It is disingenuous for landowners to assert that the assignation proposal will only affect a small section of tenants when in fact, it is open to all 1991 tenants whether or not they have successors. It will not only encourage older tenants to exit the industry but could also provide opportunities for new tenants. It is also a measure which has the support of the majority of tenants. Indeed, government’s own figures show that 76% of all tenants believe assignation for value to be important.

“STFA is confident that assignation of 1991 tenancies will be of long term benefit to Scottish agriculture by maintaining numbers of secure tenancies and providing access to them for new farmers. Landed interests can threaten to withhold land, but very little land has been let out on the open market for over a decade. Recently many landowners have tended to concentrate their efforts on maximising the subsidy regime by taking land back in hand to take, rather than acting in the public interest by renting land out to stimulate the tenanted sector.

“Lessons will have been learnt from the Salvesen Riddell debacle, and the Land Reform Bill will have been thoroughly scrutinised for legal compliance. Scotland is undergoing land reform and agricultural landlords must move with the times and recognise that land tenure and land use is changing, rather than trying to hold back the tide.”