Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release 

29th January 2016


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.