Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

 14th December 2015





The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has told members of the Scottish Parliament that it fully supports the principles behind the Land Reform Bill and commends the RACCE Committee for their thorough and well-researched report. The STFA agrees with the committee that the bill can potentially make the rent review process fairer and more transparent; improve confidence in the sector; create a better environment for investment in holdings by both landlords and tenants; provide better opportunities for new entrants and younger farmers; and help older tenants to retire more easily.

STFA believes a strong Tenant Farming Commissioner equipped with sufficient powers and statutory codes of practice will be key to regulating the sector, improving relationships between landlords and tenants and in overseeing the implementation of the proposed legislative changes in the Land Reform Bill.

Commenting in advance of the parliamentary debate on the Land Reform Bill, STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “Although the timescales are tight, this is not a rushed bill, it has been subjected to two years of research, two substantial reports and some intense engagement by government and the Rural Affairs committee. A wide range of views has been listened to and the result is a bill that strives to be radical while striking a balance between competing rights and interests.

“The changes to rent reviews, succession and compensation for improvements for tenant farmers in Part 10 of the Bill represent the biggest reform to agricultural holdings since the post war 1948 Act. However, although the bill, as it stands, strengthens the position of existing secure tenancies, it does little to help those wanting to get a start in agriculture or those on Limited Partnerships or other short term tenancies who would like to move up the farming ladder. The new Modern Limited Duration Tenancies are little different from LDTs and landlords will inevitably prefer to keep control of the land and use short-term arrangements or contract farming.  Nowadays decisions on letting land are largely opportunistic and driven by access to CAP payments.

“Against this background it is encouraging to see that the Scottish Government intends to introduce amendments at Stage 2 allowing non-family assignation under certain conditions and creating a new full repairing lease both of which will fill the gaps in the bill.

“STFA has long advocated the introduction of assignation of 1991 tenancies to non-family members and welcomes the government’s decision to include it in the bill. This new provision carefully balances the rights of landlords and tenants by creating a process in which 1991 tenants can assign their tenancies on the same terms to a new entrant or a farmer who is progressing through the industry (including tenants on short-term tenancies and Limited Partnership tenancies).  As a balancing measure, the landlord has the option to buy out the tenant’s interest during the process; otherwise the tenant can proceed with the assignation.

“Although this measure does not go as far as we would have liked, it is, in many ways the missing piece in the tenancy jigsaw and potentially a game changer in making the bill a more complete package. The assignation proposal will open up opportunities for tenants to retire with a realistic waygo valuation and allow new entrants and progressing or developing farmers access to secure tenancies with the added benefit of slowing down the decline in secure tenancies. Above all this proposal has the potential to re-instate the missing rungs in the farming ladder and widen access to secure tenancies.

“In response to the RACCE recommendation, the government has also committed to bringing forward a new repairing tenancy which would allow landlords to rent out land in need of improvement with minimal fixed equipment on at least a 35 year term to allow the tenant to reap the benefit of his improvements before handing back an improved holding to the landlord. Other provisos are that the rent should be based on the productive capacity of the holding at the start of the lease and the tenant must receive compensation for his improvements.

“The Land Reform Bill is taking shape, but it will need careful consideration and hard work at Stage 2 to get the detail right to produce the next stepping-stone on the long road to Land and Tenancy Reform.”




For further information or for a copy of STFA’s Briefing Note to the Scottish Parliament click here or contact:


Christopher Nicholson               01988 500423

Angus McCall                        01408 633275/07767 756840