News Release


Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

 3rd March


 The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is pleased that Scottish Land and Estates’ chairman David Johnston’s shares STFA’s view that a temporary ombudsman should be introduced before new tenancy legislation comes into force.

 Responding to Scottish Lands and Estates’ recent call for cross-industry goodwill, STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said; “Tenants are obviously feeling uneasy as we head into a period of uncertainty before any of the tenancy review group’s recommendations are translated into legislation.  There is general agreement that a Tenant Farming Commissioner (or ombudsman) should be established as part of the tenancy reforms, however, STFA believes that an interim body should be created in the meantime to see fair play and monitor behaviour in the sector.

 STFA is particularly concerned at the vulnerable position that the remaining 400 Limited Partnership tenants find themselves in and would like to see action taken to guarantee them a degree of security.

 “David Johnston has accused us of being adversarial and calls on us to produce evidence of bad practice, but we must reiterate that very few tenant farmers are prepared to openly complain about behaviour of landlords or factors and we are not prepared to publicly produce evidence which will expose them to repercussions.   The negative reaction of RICS (the land agents representative body) to the AHLRG report and its opposition to almost all of the Group’s main recommendations does little to inspire the confidence of tenants and encourage plain talking.  There is a strong case for professional advisers to be subject to audit so that any problems can be identified without tenants having to complain.

 “It must also be remembered that tenancy reform is not the only cause of instability, and uncertainty.  The CAP reform has had a huge influence on the behaviour of landlords and tenants.  The new CAP regime will produce winners and losers and it is likely that a new breed of sofa farmers will emerge claiming support payments with minimal activity.  The sector has been subject to a great deal of manoeuvring over the last year or two as landowners have sought to maximise opportunities.  We have seen tenancies brought to an end, rented land taken back in hand and seasonal grazings withdrawn from the market so it is no wonder that limited partnership and other tenants on short-term arrangements are nervous.

“Measures have to be put in place to create confidence and STFA would be happy to engage in discussions over a temporary Commissioner and how to manage the sector over the next two years before legislative change takes place.  Rent reviews will have to take account of economic circumstances with farm incomes expected to drop as commodity prices continue to fall and support payments are reduced.

 “Moreover, as tenancies come to an end over the next couple of years before the proposed amnesty on improvements comes into force, outgoing tenants should not be disadvantaged by missing out on fair compensation for their improvements at waygo.

 “Managing the transition to a reformed tenanted sector will test the resolve of landlords and tenants and we will see whether the fine words of those at the top will cascade down to the grass roots.”