Posts by :





STFA have urged Scottish Government to ensure the new CAP regime is based on support mechanisms targeting those actively contributing to Scottish agriculture.  Following a meeting with Scottish Government officials, STFA are hugely concerned to learn that a number of vitally important issues remain unresolved with only weeks to go until CAP proposals must be announced and submitted to the European Commission.

In particular STFA, along with NFUS, view the government’s intention to abandon the use of 2013 as the reference year as deeply detrimental for the tenanted sector.  A historic based eligibility criteria is essential to halt the land grab taking place as landlords seek to benefit from additional support by ceasing letting arrangements. and to ensure support is only available those who are actively farming the land.  STFA would also agree with NFU Scotland that Scottish Government must make use of the ‘negative list’ and other criteria as further means of ensuring support is targeted at active farmers.

A decision on the architecture of the new scheme is expected in June and final details are still unclear, leaving farmers in a position of great uncertainty.  The CAP consultation and wider discussion with stakeholders have identified an issue with targeting support within the rough grazing region (RGR), with a wide diversity of land type and activity making a single payment rate impossible.  STFA has urged Scottish Government to consider a split within the RGR category or a coupled support payment for the sheep sector as a means of overcoming the issue.  STFA does not believe the recently introduced  ‘French model’ of regional redistributive payments, front loading payments on the first 54Ha, will effectively address the issue of targeting support within the RGR.

Speaking on these issues Christopher Nicolson, STFA Chairman said:

“STFA remain firmly opposed to a move away from using the farmed area in 2013 as a reference point for allocating area based entitlements in 2015.  The consequence of Scottish Governments reluctance to confirm 2013 as the reference year is already being felt, with many tenants losing land as landlords take land back in hand in a bid to benefit from the new scheme.  The evidence shows that much damage has already been done over the last few years as landlords and their agents manoeuvre to repossess land.  This gives STFA huge concern over the future of let land in Scotland.

“Much of the work of the Agricultural Holdings legislation Review Group looking at ways of reinvigorating the tenanted sector will now be put in jeopardy unless the ability fpr landlords to take land back in hand is not  restricted.  As Scotland contemplates what will be the biggest reform to its tenanted sector since 1948 it is vitally important the CAP reform helps rather than hinders this process

“We appreciate the wish of government to simplify the administration of payments but this must not take place at the expense of the objectives and desired outcomes of the new support scheme.  It surely must be imperative that we support activity and profitable agriculture which lies is at the heart of Scotland’s ambitious food and drink strategy.”

STFA survey of members gives a clear mandate for land and tenancy reform

STFA survey of members gives a clear mandate for land and tenancy reform

STFA survey of members gives a clear mandate for land and tenancy reform

 The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association recently met with the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group (AHLRG) to put forward an initial submission based on their recent survey of members.  The results and analysis of the survey show an increasingly strong desire amongst tenants to see land and tenancy reform in Scotland:  A previous NFUS survey of tenants in 2001 showed 58% support for ARTB; the STFA survey shows support for ARTB remaining at 58%, but there is now a further 26% support for a conditional right to buy for tenants.

After meeting with the AHLRG, STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson commented: ‘It is clear that the current tenancy legislation is failing to provide a platform which can support the high levels of investment in infrastructure required for businesses to remain competitive in modern agriculture.  The survey shows that 46% of tenant respondents have had no landlord investment in the last 10 years, and 85% believe that as tenants they will not receive fair compensation for their improvements at way-go.  These results point to an unhealthy state of affairs in the tenanted sector which require solutions beyond tinkering with the existing legislation.

“An analysis of the survey results show that landlord investment is the key factor that creates healthy tenancies.  The 13% of respondents with landlords willing to make investments when necessary have attitudes, experiences and relationships which set them apart from the remaining 87%; they are 4 times more likely to have a good relationship with their landlord, twice as likely to have diversified, and 3 times more likely not to have had a diversification project objected to by their landlord.”

“Recognising impasse in the tenanted sector, the STFA are developing proposals for the use of ARTB in cases where there is a clear public interest argument.  We also propose that secure tenancies become freely assignable which would put tenants on a more level playing field with owner occupiers with regard to ability to invest in their holdings as well as providing access to holdings with secure tenure for new entrants moving into and through the sector.”

With an assignable lease the value of the tenant’s improvements would be reflected in the value of the lease which if freely assignable could be used as a standard security with a bank.  This would vastly improve a tenant’s ability to borrow, and for the first time allow a tenant to benefit fully from the value of his improvements.  Furthermore, instead of relying on compensation for improvements from a reluctant landlord at way-go, the tenant would have the option to assign their leases for value to a third party.

STFA are also addressing other areas of tenancy reform including replacing the open market rent test with a test which is based on the earnings potential of the farm, and widening family succession and assignation to all family members.

Commenting on the future of the tenanted sector Christopher Nicholson went on to say: “In the event of the Scottish Government introducing ARTB it is highly likely that not all tenants will buy their farms and there will be a continuing need for a tenanted sector and so it is vital that we identify and remedy current shortcomings.  As well as recommending legislative change STFA has also proposed the establishment of a Lands Commission or a Land Agency to take on the role of tenancy ombudsman to monitor the operation of the sector and act as an interface between landlord and tenant.  We see this as key to the smooth operation of a future tenanted sector, an idea shared by 89% of respondents to the survey.

“Past efforts at tenancy reform have merely tinkered around the edges, and the time is now ripe for some root and branch change.  The Review Group have a wide-ranging remit backed up by an ambitious programme of evidence gathering.  We expect that this review will lead to the most far-reaching reform of tenancy legislation since 1949 and it is imperative that we get it right.”




Initial Analysis of STFA member survey 


The results of the survey demonstrate a high level of frustration amongst tenants with a tenancy sector that is failing to provide a platform fit for modern agricultural businesses.

The survey revealed strong support for ARTB for 1991 Act tenants, with only 16% of members opposed to ARTB.

Similarly there was strong support for introducing freedom of assignation (84% support) or ring fencing tenancies (90% support).

These results, strong support for both ARTB and wider assignation, may at first appear to be antagonistic, however they both solve similar problems for tenants, and those who responded to the survey would have assumed that their pre-emptive RTB would still exist under wider assignation.

ARTB and freedom of assignation would both improve tenants’ confidence and ability to invest in their holdings due to:  (i) Both measures would allow tenants to use the value of their improvements as collateral with banks thus improving access to finance; (ii) both measures remove the worry tenants have as to how fair their compensation for improvements will be at way-go, because they would have the option of sell freehold to a third party if they had bought their farms, or sell their leases with their improvements if they had freedom of assignation; (iii) and both measures would allow tenants to have control over succession decisions for their businesses.


Through cross tabbing of the questions asked in the survey, it is possible to analyse the survey results to see which criteria have the greatest influence on the success and wellbeing of a tenant’s business.

1.  Landlord Investment

Question 27. Has your landlord invested in the farm over the last 10   years?  
Answer Options  
Yes,   when necessary


Occasionally   when he has to





By analysing responses according to how tenants answered this question it is clear that the 13% of respondents who have landlords who are willing to make regular investments in the holding when necessary have attitudes, experiences and relationships which set them far apart from the remaining 87%.  This criteria, whether or not a landlord invests, appears to have the greatest influence on landlord/tenant issues.


These 13% of respondents with landlords who invest regularly are:

  • 4 times more likely to oppose ARTB,
  • 4 times more likely to have good landlord relationships,
  • 12 times more likely to believe that they will receive fair compensation for improvements at way-go,
  • Twice as likely to have diversified,
  • 3 times more likely not to have had a diversification proposal objected to,
  • Are more likely to have a resident factor instead of factoring by outside agents.

These are significant differences which show that in the relatively few cases where landlords are investing the tenants have significant advantages and better experiences in running their businesses.

Nevertheless, there were some strong similarities between the 3 groups of respondents to Question 27; irrespective of whether or not their landlord invested, all tenants showed equally strong support for wider family succession, open assignation or ring fencing, and changes to the rent test to remove the open market criteria and base rents on what the farm is capable of producing.

Interestingly, the 13% with landlords who invested showed the strongest support for a Lands Commission to act as a tenancy ombudsman, possibly because they had personal experience of the tenancy system working well under fair conditions.


2.  How the tenant is factored

Question 34. Who does most of the factoring  
  •   Answer Options
  •   Landlord


  •   Resident   factor


  •   Outside   land agent



This appears to be the next most important factor to influence landlord tenant issues.  The 51% of respondents who are factored by outside land agents are:

  • More likely to support ARTB
  • Least likely to have an interested eligible successor
  • Least likely to have had landlord investment in their holdings
  • Least likely to have diversified
  • Twice as likely to have had permission to diversify denied
  • Most likely to have a poor relationship with their landlord.
  • More likely to have grass lets as opposed to SLDTs or LDTs

It is interesting to note that although resident factors would appear to foster healthier tenancies, tenants with resident factors show the strongest support for a blanket ARTB for all 1991 Act tenancies as opposed to a qualified ARTB.  This is probably due to resident factors remaining on only the larger estates, where due to the concentrated ownership of land tenants show greater support for more diverse land ownership


3.  Length of time family have been on main holding

Question 3. How long have you or your family been farming the main farm?  
Answer Options  
0-10   years  
11-   20 years


21-50   years


50-   100 years


Over   100 years



This criteria, length of time on holding, appears to have had little effect of responses except for the 20% who have been on their main holding for over 100 years who are:

  • More likely to support ARTB
  • Least likely to have had landlord investment
  • Most likely to have had objections of diversification proposals
  • Least likely to believe that they will receive fair compensation for improvements at way-go
  • Least likely to have good landlord relationships

The differences observed with the ‘over 100 years’ group may be due to their leases being pre 1949 leases where Section 5 (landlord fixed equipment obligations) does not apply resulting in less obligations from the landlord to invest.


4.  Type of tenancy

Question1. What type of tenancy do you have? (Tick   more than one box if you have multiple tenancies)  
Answer Options  
1991 secure tenancy


1991 Limited Partnership   tenancy


Limited duration tenancy


Short Limited Duration   tenancy


Seasonal lets



Looking at differences according to type of tenancies there appears to be consistent and strong support from all tenancy types for land and tenancy reform, ARTB, ring fencing tenancies, and the creation of a Lands Commission.

It is interesting to note that support for a Lands Commission is strongest from LP, SLDT & LDT tenants, possibly because they are in the weaker positions when disputes arise.

There appears to be no difference in landlord’s investment across tenancy types.

As noted in (2) above, in the case of newly let land, SLDTs and LDTs are favoured by resident factors while grass lets are favoured by outside land agents.


5.  Type of farming

Question 2. How would you   describe your farm?  (tick more than   one box if necessary)  
Answer Options  
Mixed lowland  
Mixed upland  

Looking at responses according to farm type there were no significant differences except for:

  • Dairying was least likely to have landlord investment
  • Hill farms are most likely to have had objections to a diversification proposal
  • Hill farms are the least likely to have a diversification

The diversification situation on hill farms probably results from increased opportunities for wind and hydro projects compared with lowland farms, and these types of renewable diversifications are often strongly opposed by landlords.





2014 – International Year of the Family Farm

2014 – International Year of the Family Farm

2014 – International Year of the Family Farm

 Published in Press and Journal 29th March 2014

Angus McCall

Last December the UN General Assembly designated 2014 as the International Year of the Family Farm.  This has gone virtually unnoticed in Scotland although family farms are seen globally as the bedrock of sustainable agriculture, vital to food security and the environment.  Their value isn’t limited to small landholders in developing countries, they are equally important in larger scale farming systems such as in Scotland.  EU Commissioner Dacian Ciolos has attached huge importance to family farming in CAP reforms so maybe it is now time to move this topic up the Scottish political agenda?

 Family farms come in all shapes and sizes.  Some develop into large-scale agri-businesses which may be viewed as an inevitable consequence of the market place as producers strive towards greater efficiency with economies of scale.  However, is bigger better?  The agricultural sector is becoming increasingly dominated by a few very large players and we only need to look to the consequences of supermarket monopolies and domination to decide if this is always desirable.

 Accelerating land and rental values have made land unaffordable to all but very large businesses.  Although the pressure on smaller family farms doesn’t get much media attention, the family farm is used to stimulate the public’s interest in farming and food production making programmes more folksy and interesting for general consumption.  BBC’s popular “Lambing Live” currently has viewers tuning in nightly to get a glimpse of the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the lambing shed on several family farms throughout Scotland.  We step into the everyday lives of these families where continuity and succession is fundamental to their small businesses which successfully contribute to the wider economy and community life of the Scottish countryside.

 However the desire to pass on small family businesses isn’t exclusive to owner occupied farms.  Many tenanted livestock farms in Scotland have been in the same family for many generations and these tenant farmers would also like their successors to follow in their footsteps inheriting their farms and skills and knowledge which have been honed over many generations.  Government statistics reveal that the number of tenanted family farms in Scotland continues to diminish at the alarming rate of around a 100 farms being lost annually to the sector.  So just what is happening to those farms, farmhouses and businesses?  Is the role of the family farm in danger of being overlooked in Scotland?

 Whilst this uncomfortable aspect of family farming may be too hot a political potato for the media, it is not going to go away until it’s acknowledged and addressed.  Both land reform and farm tenancies are currently in the spotlight with review reports due later this year.  The Scottish government is looking at ways of stimulating the sector and encouraging new entrants.  Accessibility and long-term security of tenure of land have to be main objectives for any sustainable future of the tenancy system

 2014, the International year of the Family Farm has never looked like a better time to re-evaluate the role of the tenanted family farm in Scotland and realise the full potential of this very neglected sector of our rural and national economy.

28th March 2014



PERCENTAGE OF TENANTED FARM LAND BY PARISH IN 2013 (excluding tenanted croft land).

Please click on the link below to view the map-


The map shows the density of tenanted land per parish. It was produced by the Scottish Government. Please note, that where there are only a small number of tenants in a particular parish, these farms have not been included due to Data Protection legislation.

The Scottish Government Tenancy map has been edited by Andy Wightman to show some of the large estates and their dominant position over large areas of Scotland’s best agricultural land. Thanks to Andy for allowing the reproduction of his work. Please click the link below to view:

If you are interested in following Andy’s blog it can be found on his web page- www.andywightman.com



The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is cautioning land agents against expecting large rent rises in 2014.  Reacting to Smiths Gore’s claims that Scottish rents in 2013 rose at their fastest rate since 2009 STFA has warned that with CAP support set to rapidly decline over the next few years there is absolutely no justification for further rent hikes in the coming year.

 Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “Land agents must moderate their expectations for rent demands, particularly in the intensive livestock sector where the pain of CAP reform will be the most acutely felt.  Scottish tenants have seen regular 3 yearly rent increases over the last decade and it is now time to pause rent reviews while we adjust to the new CAP regime and allow the Agricultural Holdings Review to come to its conclusions.  Landowners have called a halt to letting land meantime and it is only right that rent reviews are also put on hold.

 “Smiths Gore’s rental figures add further proof of the pressing need for changes to rent reviews as we see the gap between open market rents in England and regulated traditional tenancies widening.  Open market rents south of the border are increasing at twice the rate of traditional tenancies.  According to Smiths Gore’s figures, arable open market rents in 2013 have risen by 57% to average £160/ac whilst arable rent on AHA traditional tenancies have risen by 30% to average £85/ac.

 “The restricted market for tenancies in Scotland has led to some massive rents which will inevitably drive all rents upwards with little prospect of ever falling.  Unlike Scotland, England operates a two tier system with no direct comparison made between sitting traditional tenants rents and open market rents.  As a result long-term tenants in England are not subject to the same rental pressure as their counterparts north of the border.

 “STFA has been arguing for years now that Scotland must move to a similar two tier rental system by removing open market comparables in favour of basing farm rents on what the farm is capable of producing and its potential earnings.  Already we are seeing some savage rental increases as a consequence of an over-heated open market.  Moreover, due to difficulties in resolving disputes, tenants now feel they are powerless to resist unreasonable rent demands as the alternative is an expensive, time consuming and stressful appeal to the Land Court.

 “STFA will be meeting the Agricultural Holdings Group shortly and is in the process of analysing responses from our survey of members who have, almost unanimously, called for a long overdue overhaul of the rent system.   In responding, 88% of tenants thought the rent review process was becoming unworkable, 95% would like to see rents reflecting the productive capacity of the farm and 90% would like to see a statutory cap placed on annual rent increases.

 “In contrast with most commercial situations, rent reviews are the single most contentious issue and cause the greatest disruption in relationships between landlord and tenant.  It is high time that this festering sore was dealt with and we hope the Review Group will now do so once and for all.”




The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is delighted at the news that the Scottish Government, through the Forestry Commission, is releasing another starter farm at at Achnamoine, near Halkirk in Caithness.  This will be the eighth starter unit in Scotland and the first in the Highlands.
Welcoming the announcement STFA spokesman Angus McCall, who farms in Sutherland, said;  “This is good news and I am pleased that the Scottish Government is sticking to its commitment to roll out starter farms throughout Scotland and I am also pleased to note that the intention with the Caithness unit is to integrate farming with woodland management, which makes sense.
“The tenancy market has all but dried up and new entrants are finding it harder and harder to find land to farm.  The private sector has shown little interest in creating a starter unit programme since new entrants became a priority for the Scottish Government.  The Forestry Commission starter farm programme is now virtually the only route into a tenanted farm for a new entrant and new units will inevitably be heavily subscribed.  Aspiring Scottish new entrants will look wistfully over the border where the 2700 county council farms provide regular opportunities for new entrants.  Scottish Ministers are the largest landowner in Scotland and I am sure that there must be scope for creating more agricultural units, even if they were not to be equipped to the same standard as the Forestry Commission ones.
“This is an exciting chance for a new entrant to make a start in farming.  Caithness is a very productive stock farming area with a vibrant farming community and an active Young Farmers Club.  I am sure any new entrant will soon find himself at home and taking advantage of the many opportunities that will present themselves in such a keen livestock area.”




 The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association joins the whole agricultural industry in mourning the loss of Joe Watson, award winning farming editor of the Press and Journal who sadly passed away yesterday.

STFA Director Angus McCall said; “I have known Joe since he became editor for the P & J and have always had a huge respect for his honesty, integrity and tenacity as an agricultural journalist.   He was never frightened to ask those difficult questions and relentless in pursuit of an answer.  Big Joe will be sorely missed amongst not only the agricultural community in the North, but all over Scotland.  Our sympathy lies with his family and close friends at this difficult time.”




The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has greeted the proposal from SL &E for an amnesty for tenants’ improvements as a step in the right direction.

Responding to the landlords’ proposals STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said:  “Although we have been discussing way-go compensation in the TFF ad nauseum over a decade, this proposal has now come out of the blue.  Whilst we  welcome the general thrust of these proposals it is difficult to understand why this extremely contentious issue has never been resolved or concluded and is now being  brought up at the eleventh hour in the wake of a ministerial led review of Ag Holdings.

“Compensation for improvements and rent reviews are the most contentious issues between landlords and tenants and little or no progress has been made on these in the TFF.   This suggestion of an amnesty could have been made long before now  rather than coming as a knee jerk reaction from an organisation, obviously feeling under pressure.  This is a very complex subject and the SL& E proposal needs to be studied in detail before STFA makes its recommendations to the Review Group.

 “If such an amnesty is to take place it must have a statutory basis and any disputes over the eligibility of an improvement must be referred to an independent panel of experts.  Many landlords will undoubtedly resist this proposal even if it has the backing of SL&E and the tenanted sector must not find itself tied up in endless expensive legal wrangles.  We have already seen how ready some landlords and their professional advisors are to challenge parliamentary legislation.”

“STFA has just concluded a comprehensive survey of members which has given the association compelling evidence of dire situations which many tenants find themselves in.  These results give STFA the mandate to call for radical change.  Way-go compensation is highlighted as one of the major concerns of tenants with 85% of respondents believing they would not receive proper compensation should their tenancies come to an end.  This is unacceptable in a modern inclusive society and the results of the survey will be published in full shortly.

“It has also to be remembered that any legislative change will not take place for at least two years and provision must be made to safeguard the interests of tenants whose tenancies will come to an end in the interim.”

Scottish Lands and Estates press release can be found at:


Tenants optimistic about Holdings review

Tenants optimistic about Holdings review


The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed the Scottish Government’s call for evidence launched today as part of the review of agricultural holdings led by the Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochchead.  The Review Group has set out its vision for a dynamic and successful tenant farming sector and is now inviting people with relevant experience and insights to contribute evidence and views.

STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said:  “Policy making decisions emerging from this review will have far reaching consequences for the next few generations of tenant farmers and it is vitally important the government gets it right.  The Review Group’s vision of the future shape of tenant farming is a useful starting point for what will be a long journey.  Times have changed since the last major shake up of tenancy law in 1948 and there is an urgent need to ensure that our tenancy system is fit for the challenges of modern day agriculture.

“STFA is pleased that the Review Group will, amongst other issues, be giving consideration to the absolute right to buy for tenant farmers in secure 1991 secure tenancies.  We hope that this debate will take place in a rational and informed manner taking account of what will be in the long-term public interest of rural Scotland, its economy and communities and the future of agricultural production.

“STFA is just concluding an extensive survey of members and early indications show a desire for radical change.  We will be representing our members’ views and aspirations to the Review Group and will arrange farm visits so the group members can see and appreciate the challenges tenants face first hand.  We will also be encouraging our members to approach the group directly.  There is undoubtedly a mood for change amongst tenant farmers and an optimism that this will be translated into action.”

Angus Mccall – Comment in Press and Journal

Angus Mccall – Comment in Press and Journal

2014  – Year of Change?

19th February 2014

 2014 looks set to be a seminal year for the tenanted sector of Scottish farming.  Reviews on land and tenancy reform against the backdrop of a new CAP regime and Scottish referendum in September promise the ingredients in a recipe for potentially positive change.  Land reform and tenancies are now in the spotlight, and high time too.

 This is welcome news as the intervening decade since the last attempt at tenancy reform has seen the sector take a serious battering.  The 2003 Act, despite its good intentions, has been continuously challenged, relationships between landlords and tenants have deteriorated, the let land market has closed down and opportunities for new entrants have all but disappeared.

The cross industry stakeholder body the TFF has become an ineffectual talking shop, failing to address the central isues holding back the tenanted sector.  Inhibited by powerful sectoral vested interests, it was always doomed as a handy patch of long grass for tricky problems and is now facing redundancy with the advent of the ministerial tenancy review.

Having given the industry a sporting chance to sort itself out, Cabinet Secretary Lochhead’s patience has now worn thin and he has taken personal charge of this all-important review of agricultural holdings.  He has a well balanced team and I hope they will grasp the nettle and recommend some far-reaching changes to the tenancy system.

Travelling around Scotland over the last decade visiting tenant farmers I have witnessed the consequences of lack of confidence and short-termism.  Seasonal lets, short term tenancies and contract farming do not encourage investment in land and infrastructure.  Empty farms, farmhouses and degraded land are testimony to lost opportunities for new entrants and the under-utilisation of any nation’s two most fundamental assets of their land and people.

Yet it needn’t be like this.  The demand for production exists. The food and drink sector is burgeoning at home and abroad with plenty room for expanding exports. There is a new generation of enterprising young people waiting , full of ideas and eager to farm the land.  The burning issue is of course, access to land, both for new entrants and for those wanting to grow and develop their businesses.

Scotland has a highly regulated tenancy sector as an inevitable consequence of its concentrated pattern of landownership where an estimated 430 or so individuals, out of a population of 5.3M, own half of Scotland.  This is a serious statistic worth taking stock of.  Richard Lochhead’s review group has set out its vision of what it believes a dynamic and successful tenanted sector will look like in the future to meet the aspirations of the Scottish Government.  However , the challenge it really faces is whether that vision can be achieved within our present land tenure structure or will more root and branch reform be needed?

The tenant farming population is now engaging in the process, looking forward to contributing to the debate and providing the evidence needed to bring about reform.  There is a huge appetite for positive change and wider opportunities for successive generations to participate in a fairer, more inclusive rural economy.  Let’s hope this will be met with the action needed to rejuvenate land tenure and bring about this brighter future which the rural communities of Scotland now so desperately need and deserve.