News Release


Scottish Tenant Farmers Association


1st April 2015


 The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association welcomes the Cabinet Secretary’s announcement of his intention to appoint an independent tenancy advisor as an interim measure until legislation can be brought forward to establish a Tenant Farming Commissioner with statutory powers.

Commenting on the announcement STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “The news of the impending appointment of an independent advisor to the tenanted sector is timely as we head into the parliamentary process of reforming tenancy law.  This announcement follows hard on the heels of reports that the Cabinet has agreed to introduce the Land Reform Bill before the summer recess.  The confirmation today, that an Agricultural Holdings Bill will form part of the Land Reform Bill, has now signalled the firing of the starting gun on land and tenancy reform.

“STFA is pleased that calls for a tenancy commissioner from all major stakeholders are being heeded.  There is bound to be uncertainty over the next couple of years until the new reforms become law and it is important that interim measures are put in place to advise and guide the industry as well as keep a watchful eye on what is going on.  It is also sensible for the embryonic commissioner to work with the three main stakeholders, STFA, NFUS and SL&E, rather than trying to recreate the TFF which included ancillary bodies representing professional advisors.  After all, it should be those who rent out land and those who rent in land who make the decisions, not their advisors, many of whom appear to be totally out of step with the views of the farming industry.

“We are also pleased that the Cabinet Secretary has indicated that the Tenant Farming Commissioner will have statutory powers.  We believe that this will be a necessary ingredient to ensure that the office of Commissioner will be able to enforce codes of practice and impose sanctions where necessary.  We believe that a firm hand will be needed to ensure fair play during the transitional period before new tenancy legislation is enacted in a year’s time.

“Scotland’s landowners have already said that they will oppose some of the AHLRG’s recommendations and the evidence led by SL&E to the RACCE committee last week warning that the Scottish Government will be potentially liable to pay landowners multi-million pound compensation if they implement some of these measures can only be seen as intimidatory and threatening.

“The RACCE committee and the Cabinet Secretary are right to view the ECHR opinion obtained by SL&E with scepticism.  Smiths Gore’s calculation of the Scottish Government’s potential liability for in excess of £600 million is also unreliable.  It is, by their own admission, based on weak data, using comparisons from another country and is at best a “guess-timate”.  These threats do landowners no favours and only serve to harden hearts. SL&E’s time and money would be better spent waiting for government lawyers to sort the legal niceties and the draftsmen to produce the legislation before issuing dire warnings.

“STFA is, however, disappointed that the Cabinet Secretary seems to be ruling out open assignation of 1991 tenancies.  We continue to believe that this is a mistake and will continue to lobby for open assignation to be included in the legislation. “