News Release

 Scottish Tenant Farmers Association


2nd December 2014


The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed today’s publication of the Scottish Government’s consultation on the future of land reform Bill in Scotland.  Confirmation that legislation, stemming from the review of agricultural holdings, will be included in a Land Reform Bill to be brought before parliament before the end of the parliamentary session is also excellent news.

 The Scottish Government have announced a wide range of land reform proposals leading towards a more democratically accountable and transparent system of land rights promoting “fairness and social justice, environmental sustainability and economic prosperity”.

 Commenting on the news STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said; “The Scottish Government has given a clear signal that it is taking the unfinished business of land reform seriously with tenancy reform to be included in a Land Reform Bill.  The let land sector in Scotland is regulated and complex as a direct consequence of Scotland’s tenure structure where over 50% of the land is owned by just over 430 individual and this cannot be healthy.  The sector is largely dominated by relatively few large estates controlled by a small band of land agents and factors and let land is scarce.  The relationship between rent and the productivity of land has now reached unsustainable levels which must be urgently addressed.

 “Tenancy reform must be considered as part of the broader land reform agenda for a more inclusive society and to increase opportunity in the wider rural economy. Scotland’s land and people need a better deal and land reform will unlock underutilised assets for better use by more of the population. Therefore Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead’s recent statement that the government will be tackling proposals on land reform and agricultural tenancies in a joined up way is very warmly welcomed.

 “Ministers’ commitment to fairness and equality, social justice and economic prosperity strikes a chord with tenant farmers who have found themselves at the rough end of the imbalance of power over land for the last decade. Since the 2003   Agricultural Holdings Act the tenanted sector has been consistently battered by a series of crippling court cases by legislation which has proven to be no longer fit for purpose.  Rent reviews, as a consequence of the skewed rental market have  now become more of a damage limitation exercise than a routine business negotiation between equals

 “We welcome the intention to give ministers the power to intervene where the scale of land ownership or the conduct of a landowner acts against the interests of sustainable development.  There are Scottish islands and other areas where monopolistic landownership is clearly holding back farming businesses and rural economies and depopulating local communities.  The power of intervention could be managed fairly by either a Land Reform or Tenancy Commission and STFA has made this recommendation to the tenancy review group.

 “These proposals which will unlock the potential of rural Scotland have been eagerly awaited by many who have felt stultified by the concentrated pattern of land tenure.  Land reform is now firmly on the agenda and will dominate discussions over the next few years as we strive to make rural Scotland a better and fairer place.”