STFA welcomes Tenant Farming Commissioner’s Review of Buccleuch Estate Agricultural Tenancy Negotiations

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

18th July 2018


STFA welcomes Tenant Farming Commissioner’s Review of Buccleuch Estate Agricultural Tenancy Negotiations

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed the recently published Review by the Tenant Farming Commissioner (TFC) on the conduct of the Duke of Buccleuch’s agents tasked with reviewing end of tenancy arrangements for Buccleuch tenants in the South of Scotland.

Following adverse publicity resulting from the end of tenancy reviews for non-secure tenants on Buccleuch’s Bowhill and Langholm Estates, Buccleuch Estates asked the TFC to look into the concerns and allegations which had been raised publicly.

The TFC’s report concludes that although none of the actions by the Buccleuch agents were illegal, best practice had not always been followed by the agents and the principles contained in industry agreed guidance may not have been adhered to.

Commenting on the report, STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: ‘This report has proved to be a valuable exercise in providing a clear example of the need for the cultural changes which the Scottish Land Commission are seeking to achieve. While there are no allegations of acting illegally, the report demonstrates the wider duty of landlords to their tenants and the public. Clearly it is unacceptable in the 21st Century for landlords and their agents not to be following industry agreed best practice and conducting negotiations without sensitivity and without a moral compass. Landlords who operate without regard for best practice will attract damaging criticism, as Buccleuch have discovered, which only stregthens calls for further legislation.

‘The TFC’s report also addresses the need for landlords to be accountable to the wider public. This recent exercise by Buccleuch of reviewing the future of 26 non-secure tenancies and planning for forestry on significant areas of farmland has implications not just for the farm tenants but also the wider local communities. The TFC highlights the need for landlords to seek an appropriate balance between their own business needs and the interests of the wider local community. To achieve that requires good planning, communications and public engagement, plus sensitivity for the needs of tenants and communities.

‘The findings of the Buccleuch Review can only add support to the recommendations made earlier this year in the TFC’s Review of the Conduct of Agents. These included the need for land agency firms to focus on training in interpersonal skills, to seek feedback on the behavioural aspects of agents, and to achieve professional standards that promote an appropriate balance between their duty of care to their client and their duy of care to others including the reputation of their profession.

‘This report shows that land agents are still in the public spotlight, and that there is still room for improvement. It is not enough for agents to simply stay within the law, they also need to act in a fair and reasonable manner with sensitivity for the needs of other parties.

‘Buccleuch Estate deserve some credit for allowing an investigation into the conduct of their agents. There is a clear message to other landlords that they should be prepared to monitor and take responsibility for the conduct of the agents they employ.’