Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

 10th May 2018




The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is urging the Scottish Government to make every attempt to accelerate implementation of the section of the Land Reform Act covering the relinquishment and assignation of tenancies to encourage tenancy succession. Government officials are concentrating their efforts in favour of finalising the rent test, but STFA is concerned that this is holding up progress with other equally important sections of the Act.

The implementation of the agricultural holdings sections of the Land Reform Act has proved to be more difficult and complex to implement than anticipated and it now appears that it will take more than 3 years before some of the new measures will be enacted. The Relinquishment and Assignation measures which will encourage elderly tenants to retire and to allow tenanted farms to be passed to the next generation have been eagerly awaited and are now causing a logjam in the system. Brexit is also exacerbating the situation as farmers plan for the future.

Writing to the Cabinet Secretary, Fergus Ewing STFA Director Angus McCall said: Early implementation of the Relinquishment and Assignation section is becoming crucial to an increasing number of tenants who are endeavouring to plan their retirement or exiting from the sector to make way for the next generation.  As you will appreciate agriculture is going through a period of extreme change and many tenant farmers who have been planning retirement but waiting for the legislation to be implemented now feel that they can wait no longer.   We are getting weekly calls from members and their advisers in this position and, bearing in mind the timescale required for relinquishing a tenancy and the need to work with bi-annual term dates, the years are slipping by and many these tenants will be deprived of the opportunity to take advantage of the benefits granted to them through the 2016 Act.

 “This situation is becoming more and more urgent as the months slip by and I would urge you to prioritise the implementation of this section, even at the risk of slippage with the rent test, although I would have thought we are not far away with that.  I understand from officials that work has hardly started on the Relinquishment section and as it requires an affirmative procedure, implementation will still be some way off and, as time goes by, many tenants will not be able to afford to wait.   Although some retirement deals are being brokered we know of many other situations where the tenants are leaving their farms with minimal compensation and the longer implementation takes the less amenable landlords may become to agreeing a reasonable end of tenancy package without the backdrop of imminent new legislation.

 “I hope you will be able to facilitate a faster turnaround of implementing the Relinquishment and Assignation to allow this valuable new piece of tenancy legislation to play its part in encouraging those who wish to leave, a dignified exit from the sector making way for the next generation of tenant farmers. 

“STFA has been reassured by the Cabinet Secretary that he understands tenants’ frustrations and “meaningful work” will take place on relinquishment and assignation and this will be officials next priority. However, STFA is aware that there are a significant number of tenants planning their retirement and time will soon be passing them buy and believes that this section should now be treated with equal importance to the rent test. The Tenant Farming Commissioner has produced guidance to the legislation but it is voluntary and no substitute for the statutory provision.”