News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

21st July 2021



The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed this week’s publication of the report from the“Farming for 1.5: From here to 2045 inquiry by an independent panel of farmers, scientists and environmentalists and co-chaired by Nigel Miller. The inquiry, initiated two years ago by NFU Scotland and Nourish Scotland provides a road map for agriculture’s transition to net zero and is additional to Fergus Ewing’s farmer led groups which have now published blueprints for the future of the arable, beef, dairy and hill sectors.

The final Farming for 1.5 Degrees report has taken a common-sense approach to the climate change challenge in recommending ways of reducing emissions whilst maintaining food production and is largely complementary to the work of the farmer led groups. Measures such as on farm tree planting, investment in renewables, investment in energy efficient processes, and taking a long-term view to improve soil health and soil carbon are common features of both.

However, STFA’s chairman, Christopher Nicholson has warned that unless action is taken the tenanted sector will be disenfranchised from being able to participate in many of the recommendations of the enquiry due to the restrictive nature of their leases.

“Unfortunately, it is noticeable that apart from of the farmer led hill farming group, none of the reports to date discuss the feasibility of their proposals for the tenanted sector which covers nearly a quarter of agricultural land in Scotland. It is high time that our politicians and policy makers recognised that there are a number of obstacles facing the tenant farmers which must be addressed if we are to see a level playing field between owner occupiers and tenants with nobody left behind.

“Many of these proposals will be a challenge for farm tenants who are governed by tenancy legislation developed over the last 150 traditionally focusing on food production and the maintenance of agricultural productivity. Non-agricultural diversifications, including tree planting and environmental measures, don’t sit well with existing tenancy legislation. Although there have been some changes to tenancy law aimed at permitting tree planting and other diversifications, the experience of the last two decades shows that there are still obstacles to diversification for farm tenants.

“STFA is concerned new entrants and tenants on short-term leases will be excluded from many of these proposals in an era where the emphasis on land use will inevitably shift away from agricultural production towards long term environmental and conservation measures. As any farmer will know, improving soil health and increasing soil carbon are long term operations over decades and in many cases require significant on farm investment. A tenant with short term lets is unlikely to make that level of commitment and investment.

“The risks for the tenanted sector are twofold: firstly, tenants may not be able to benefit from the new environmental and climate mitigating proposals. Countering this may require changes to tenancy legislation to allow the move away from purely agricultural production, and all future policy should be feasibility tested for the tenanted sector. Secondly, some of the proposals, eg re-wilding and forestry, may prove more attractive for a landlord than having an agricultural tenant, especially on the more upland areas, the traditional route into farming for new blood. This risk could be mitigated by ensuring a robust link between future support and continued agricultural activity.

“More consideration is required of the effects of tree planting targets on the tenanted sector. Current fiscal and subsidy support make commercial afforestation an attractive option for landlords who take land out of the tenanted sector for planting and deny new blood the traditional upland route into farming.

“The previous Scottish Government promised a level playing field for tenant farmers, to allow equal access to benefit from future policy for both tenants and owner occupiers. That is a reassuring approach, and we are pleased that Farming for 1.5 degrees panel have included our concerns in their Final Report, but further thought is required to consider the feasibility of new policy for the tenanted sector.

“The widely expected Agriculture Bill which will lay down new policy to replace the CAP must be tested to ensure fair access for tenants, and any tenancy legislation changes required to remove restrictions should be included in the Bill.”


For further comment contact:

Christopher Nicholson:                  01988 500423

Angus McCall:                                  07767 756840