STFA welcomes the latest release of public sector land for the creation of starter farms

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

                                                                                                                    30th May 2019

 Scottish Tenant Farmers Association welcomes the latest release of public sector land for the creation of starter farms

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association welcomes the news from Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing that more than 6,400 ha of publicly owned land will be made available to new entrants and young farmers looking to grow their businesses. Much of this has come from Forestry and Land Scotland’s portfolio of purchased farm which is not suited to tree planting.

This is part of the Scottish Government’s commitment to make available publicly owned land for letting to new entrants and the amount of available land from public bodies is expected to increase, with 2,800 ha already having been identified on the Forestry Estate.

Commenting on the initiative, STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: ‘Creating opportunities for new entrants to get into farming can only be good news. Historically, Scottish new entrants have been at a disadvantage compared with south of the border where over 2,500 County Council owned farms have traditionally provided an entry to the tenanted sector.  However, Scottish Government are making progress by finding farming opportunities on publicly owned land, an initiative STFA campaigned for over a decade ago.’

‘It is important to remember that it is not just starter farms which are required, but also the next rung on the farming ladder, so that having built up capital and stock these new entrants can progress on to larger holdings. It is reassuring to see that there has been a good uptake of the new style limited duration leases (SLDTs and LDTs) in Scotland over recent years, with an increase in land let under SLDTs and LDTs of over 140,000 ha since 2014.  Clearly there are opportunities, but it is difficult for those starting out to compete with established owner-occupiers and many farms are let privately without being put on the open market.

‘However, there is still more that can be done to create further rungs in the farming ladder for those coming out of starter farms: The important Relinquishing and Assignation provision of the Land Reform Act 2016 is yet to be commenced which will work to allow secure tenants without successors to retire by assigning their leases to new entrants and developing farmers should their landlord not wish to take the holding back in hand.  DEFRA are currently consulting on a similar proposal for England and Wales as part of a package to improve their tenanted sector.’

‘Further improvements to the tenanted sector could be brought about by reviewing the fiscal framework within which landowners operate. With fiscal policy largely reserved for Westminster, the Tenant Farmers Association of England and Wales have identified a number of fiscal changes needed to encourage more land lettings and longer term lengths.  Ireland identified a similar problem and in 2015 introduced tax changes to encourage longer lettings which are already having a positive effect.’