News Release

 Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

 25th February 2015


 Scotland’s tenant farmers have called upon the Scottish Government to establish an interim Tenant Farming Commissioner as a matter of priority to supervise and manage the transition period before reforms to tenancy legislation become law in a couple of years time.  The Government has said it will implement most of the recommendations contained in the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review report, including the creation of a Tenant Farming Commissioner, before the end of this parliamentary session in May 2016, and STFA would like to ensure measures are put in place to forestall any attempts to circumvent forthcoming changes to tenancy law.

Speaking after the STFA AGM in Perth last week, Chairman Christopher Nicholson said:  “There is general agreement that an office of Tenant Farming Commissioner linked to a Lands Commission should be created and STFA is firmly of the opinion that the Commissioner should be equipped with statutory powers.  However, it will take a year or two to establish the office of a Commissioner and STFA is concerned that some landlords will attempt to take evasive action in advance of changes to the law.

 “We believe that a temporary Tenant Farming Commissioner must be put in place as soon as possible to keep a watchful eye on what is going on.  The industry has already agreed an initiative to exert some control over rent increases but this must be backed up by a more visible and transparent body to monitor behaviour in the sector and to act as interface in relationships between landlords and tenants.

 “In particular, there are vulnerable groups of tenants who will need protection, such as the remaining 400 or so tenants in Limited Partnership tenancies whose tenancies can be brought to an end at the drop of a hat.  The AHLRG report has done little to secure their future beyond recommending an industry “Joint Initiative” to set out guidelines for conversion to a modern LDT.  This is unsatisfactory and Cab Sec Richard Lochhead has now been urged by Limited Partnership tenants to revisit the issue and develop a more robust way of giving these tenants greater security.

 “After all it should be remembered that Limited Partnership tenants are yesterday’s new entrants and most will be approaching middle age with well capitalised and profitable businesses and many will have families who are also looking towards careers in agriculture.  This group of tenants represents a wealth of talent and expertise which should not be lost to Scottish agriculture and strenuous efforts must be made to either extend their tenancies or to make provisions for them to buy their way into secure tenancies being vacated by retiring tenants.

 “STFA will be pressing the Scottish government to re-examine assignation proposals to provide a secure future for these tenants and their families.  Consideration must be given to allow the assignation of 1991 tenancies, or to extend the minimum term of converted LDTs from 35 to at least 75 years to provide the necessary confidence to invest in and grow businesses.

 “Long term security of tenure will ultimately benefit the land, increase its capital worth for the landowner and importantly, be good for the long term future of Scottish agriculture and its burgeoning food and drink industry”.