Government survey shows value of farm ownership and security of tenure

News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

12th November 2014

 Government survey shows value of farm ownership and security of tenure

The Scottish Government has now completed its research into the tenanted sector with the publication of a survey of owner occupiers’ views on tenant farming.  This follows an extensive series of studies carried out over the last few months.

The latest study elicited 337 responses representing a 12% response rate compared to landlords 35% and tenants 53%.  The area of land owned by the sample of respondents has hardly changed since 2000 and is made up of medium sized farms of about 350acs.  More than half of respondents were over the age of 60.  This survey clearly only represents the views of a small number of owner occupier farmers and may not be representative of the whole.

Commenting on the results of the survey STFA chairmen Christopher Nicholson said; “The majority of farmland in Scotland is owner occupied and it is surprising that there was such a low response rate to this survey, but although this survey is limited in statistical significance it has produced some interesting results.

“Contrary to the expectations of many landlords there would seem to be considerable support for granting tenants the absolute right to buy, probably because owner-occupiers appreciate the value of owning their own farms.  More than half of those taking part in the survey (56%) thought that all or certain categories of 1991 tenants should be granted an absolute right to buy their farms.

“87% of the sample of owner occupiers had taken ownership of their farm since 1945, and it is likely that majority of these family businesses were originally tenants who have had the opportunity to buy their holdings.  It comes as no surprise to us that these former tenants recognize the value of ownership in terms of enabling their businesses to borrow, invest and grow. Indeed there are examples of owned and tenanted land up and down the country which show the contrast and different levels of investment between tenanted and owned farms.

As well as agreeing with ARTB for tenants the majority of owner occupiers sampled also recognized the importance tenants’ being able to pass on a viable business to a family member.  Succession provisions are a significant hurdle for tenants and it is only commonsense that the AHLRG are working on proposals to allow wider family succession for tenants, but they must not lose sight of the importance of opening assignation opportunities to allow a wider group of aspiring tenants access to secure tenure.

“History has shown that the purchase of holdings by tenants has allowed much higher levels of investment compared with those that have remained in the tenanted sector.  Putting tenants on a level playing field with owner-occupiers with regard to ability to invest is a key challenge for the AHLRG.  Maintaining and preserving the secure tenure model must be a priority of the review to provide future generations of tenant farmers with the confidence to invest in and grow their businesses .”