News Release

 Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

27th January 2015


The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed the AHLRG report, published today, as a turning point in the long running debate over tenancy reform.  The report makes 49 recommendations aiming to strengthen the rights of existing tenants, encourage landlords to rent out land, create opportunities for new entrants and rectify some legislative anomalies.  The review group’s final report is the culmination of more than a decade of lobbying by STFA and a year long in-depth examination of tenancies in Scotland by the tenancy review group led by Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead.

 Speaking following the announcement of the AHLRG’s recommendations, STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “This report was never going to please everyone, but it has made a significant effort to respond to the concerns raised during the consultation process and its conclusions will be received warmly by most tenant farmers.  However, the report will not give much comfort to the 400 or so tenants who are still involved in Limited Partnership tenancies.  Most of these tenants remain farming on a year to year basis which is no way to run a business and STFA will continue to lobby for solutions for their particular situation.”

 Recommendations for change include.

• enabling 1991 Act tenants to apply to the Scottish Land Court to force the sale of the holding where a landlord does not meet their obligations
• measures to widen succession rights for 1991 Act tenants
• creating a Tenant Farming Commissioner
• improving how rents are set
• creating the potential for apprenticeship opportunities for new entrants
• providing long term and flexible letting vehicles to encourage the release of more land into tenancy

 “The tenanted sector has suffered badly over the last few decades with declining relationships between landlord and tenant which have resulted in some high profile disputes and many low profile areas of dissatisfaction.  The creation of a Tenant Farming Commissioner with powers to establish and regulate codes of practice is a welcome initiative and its statutory basis will be key to the success of many of the Review Group’s proposals.

 “Numbers of secure tenants and the area of land under secure tenure has been declining rapidly over the last few years and the proposal to widen succession and family assignation rights will ensure that family tenancies are not lost to succeeding generations. The continuation of family succession is very much in the public interest and will be seen as a very positive step forward for the 80% of tenant farmers who hold secure tenancies and do not currently have direct heirs to inherit the family farm.

 “However, many tenants will be disappointed that the report has chosen to propose powers to force the sale of a tenanted farm to escape the clutches of bad landlords rather than introduce a more general right to buy.  Although this proposal deals with the problem of bad landlords it does not address the difficulties faced by tenant farming businesses whose progress is inhibited by their tenancy.  There is no doubt that on becoming owner occupiers, tenanted businesses invariably grow and prosper.  We consider that the Group has made a grave error in not taking this into account in its research.

 “Similarly, STFA is disappointed that, having spent last summer examining the merits of assigning 1991 tenancy for value the Group has elected instead to opt for the less valuable proposal to allow conversion of a 1991 tenancy to a long term LDT.  However, this in itself, is a valuable step forward and will encourage some tenants without successors to realise value from the tenancy by transferring it on the open market.

“STFA is embarking on a series of member meeting over the next few weeks to explain the implications of the AHLRG report and to gauge tenant farmers reaction to the report. Today’s announcement marks the opening of a new chapter in the story of tenant farming in Scotland and during the next few months we look forward to fine tuning the detail as the recommendations move through the legislative process.  It is imperative that the 49 recommendations in the report are treated as a package and not as a “pick and mix” and are dealt with as soon as possible as part of the Land Reform legislation.

 “There is a real fear in the tenant farming community that there will be pressure to deal with agricultural holdings legislation as a stand-alone bill and/or consider some of the more controversial measures at a later date.  This will inevitably lead to the bill being postponed to the next parliamentary session and many of its proposals kicked into the long grass.  This is too important a bill to be delayed or become a political football.”