Following the announcement today by Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, that an absolute right to buy for tenant farmers would be considered as part of a review of the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act later this year, Scottish Land & Estates issued the following statement.
Chairman Luke Borwick said: "This announcement is extremely disappointing and a real setback for tenant farming in Scotland.
"By allowing ARTB to be brought back to the table when it has been rejected by the farming unions and landowners alike flies in the face of listening to the farming industry.
"ARTB has been comprehensively rejected for good reasons - it does nothing to encourage the letting of land. It does nothing to assist new entrants gain their first foot on the farming ladder and it is a fundamental attack on property rights which apply to every property owner in Scotland.
"The Cabinet Secretary himself turned away from the ARTB some time ago having been told in no uncertain terms what it would do to tenant farming. Confidence to let land is everything and today's announcement serves only to shatter that confidence.
"The farming industry has spent years trying to rebuild confidence to let land following previous attempts to put ARTB on the agenda. It is deeply regrettable that when we are trying to move forward and create progressive proposals that will really help Scottish farming, news such as this drags us all backwards.
"It is a great pity that there are people with a wider land reformist agenda who are using agricultural holdings and tenancy legislation to pursue their own interests. These are separate matters and do not serve the interests of agriculture when they are entwined. Also, today's announcement seems to contradict the First Minister who only last week said he was not in favour of the enforced sale of property as it would inevitably lead to protracted legal action in the courts.
"We will make every effort to persuade the Cabinet Secretary that ARTB is not the future. We have devised proposals for a more flexible Scottish Rural Business Tenancy that would genuinely enable tenant farmers to diversify and generate greater opportunities for land to be let. We hope this is given serious consideration.
"At a recent conference on land tenure organised by NFUS the message was clear that greater flexibility of contract arrangements and less political interference were what the sector needed. It is very disappointing that this message has fallen on deaf ears."