Scotland’s Tenant Farming Forum (TFF), which aims to promote a healthy tenanted farm sector in Scotland, has discussed a Scottish Parliamentary Committee’s report on agricultural holdings legislation and the recent Court of Session ruling on the Moonzie rent review case.
TFF Chairman, Phil Thomas said:
“In discussing the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee’s Stage 1 Report on The Agricultural Holdings (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, published on the day of the meeting, TFF was encouraged by the interest and insights the Committee had shown on a number of key matters. These reflected areas in which TFF has already agreed to focus its work to address problems raised by tenants and landowners.
“The Parliamentary Committee had also recognised that changes needed to be made step by step so as to achieve consensus, where possible. In that regard, whilst the aspirations of some TFF members to broaden rights of succession were recognised, it was felt that these would be better addressed if based on thoroughly researched proposals outside the terms of the present Bill.
“The TFF also considered the implications of Lord Gill’s decision in overturning the Scottish Land Court’s determination of the rent of Moonzie Farm. The consensus was that the decision had provided a clear Court of Session interpretation of the provisions of the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act, and in that sense was definitive.
“However, there were differing views on the ‘primacy of the open market’ model detailed by Lord Gill as a basis for setting rents. Some members felt that, particularly for 1991 tenancies, there was a long-term ‘back to back’ business relationship between the landowner and the tenant, and the long-term viability of the farm was a key consideration.
“However, it was pointed out that, throughout the period of consideration of the Moonzie Farm case, rent assessments had continued to be set taking a wide range of factors into account. Thus, TFF professional body representatives felt that, whilst Lord Gill’s decision was a legal clarification, it should not be regarded as a watershed leading to a step change in rent assessments.”