Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

 15th February 2018


Land Reform took a major step forward today with the announcement by Scotland’s largest landowner, Buccleuch Estates, that it is to offer 24 tenants on secure tenancies the opportunity to buy their farms. The surprise news has come in the wake of intense local controversy surrounding the management of tenanted farms in the Langholm area, particularly over plans to replace tenants with trees.

Buccleuch CEO, John Glen, has said the Estate has initiated discussions with 11 tenants who have officially registered an interest in buying their farms, or indicated an interest to do so, on the Eskdale and Liddesdale Estate. Letters have been sent today to the remaining 13 tenants on secure tenancies offering the opportunity to meet with the Estate Manager so that we may understand future aspirations.

Responding to the news STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said; “Buccleuch’s announcement has come out of the blue and represents a tremendous opportunity for the tenants who are being given the chance to buy their farms. Most tenants on secure tenancies will have invested heavily in their farms over the generations and this investment must be reflected in the purchase price of the farms which should be subject of a tenanted discount.  If Buccleuch are serious in their intentions to sell, we would expect independent and transparent valuations and a willingness to negotiate a realistic purchase price.

Unlike the Limited Partnership tenants who are faced with decision to buy their farms at open market value or quit, the secure tenants have the comfort of the option to continue as secure tenants if they decide not to purchase.

“This will also be good news for the local community who have been concerned at moves to replace tenant farmers with forestry on Buccleuch Estate farms. Although these tenancies are held under security of tenure, they are still vulnerable to bits being resumed for tree planting or other non-agricultural use.  Furthermore, landlords have traditionally been reluctant to invest in tenanted farms and ownership will give the tenants the confidence and ability to develop, invest and broaden the scope of their businesses to the long-term benefit of the community.

“Increasing the diversity of landownership in Scotland has been a longstanding ambition of the Scottish Government and selling farms to sitting secure tenants is a step in the right direction. STFA would welcome similar proposals in other parts of Scotland where initiative and investment is still being stifled by a monopoly of landownership.

“Concerns have been expressed about the shrinkage of the tenanted sector, however, farms sold to sitting secure tenants are unlikely to become vacant in the foreseeable future and these sales should not have an adverse impact on the tenanted sector.

“Whilst this news is welcome, discussions with tenants are in their infancy and it remains to see how far this is a serious intention to reorganise Buccleuch’s landholdings and how much is a public relations exercise to ward off criticism. The answer will become evident when the money is on the table and the agricultural community will be watching with interest.