RESPONDING to public comments by STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson which suggest political intervention is necessary to ensure tenanted land remains within the rented sector, Scottish Land & Estates’ Chief Executive Douglas McAdam hit back:
“The STFA Chairman has been very selective in his interpretation of the census statistics. He points to a “staggering” fall in the tenanted area yet fails to also highlight that, while the drop of 21,171 ha is obviously disappointing, it is actually an improvement on the previous year. He also fails to mention that despite this year’s reduction in the tenanted area the proportion of our agricultural area that is rented remains at 24%. Similarly, he points to a 5% drop in the number of tenanted holdings whilst failing to acknowledge that the methodology for estimating the number of holdings with tenancies has been revised since last year. In 2012 the Scottish Government thought there were 6,670 holdings with tenancy agreements; this year there are thought to be 7,069.
“Chris Nicholson then suggests that there is spare agricultural capacity while ignoring the fact that the agricultural area has remained the same. He talks about increasing examples of under-utilisation of farmland and chronic lack of investment on farms whilst ignoring the bigger picture of the hiatus caused by CAP reform.
“While these figures are useful they do not give the full picture and misdirected criticism based on bald speculation creates unnecessary tension in the whole sector - undermining the confidence of all involved. There are in fact many factors at work which could have caused the decrease – farms being sold, farms not being re-let and taken in-hand or worked via contract agreements – tenant farmers purchasing their farms, land being planted for forestry, amalgamation of units – and a whole host of other possible explanations. None of these mean land is left unproductive and may well be worked by the same farmers, but using different contractual arrangements.
“What is lacking is detail in the census methodology to examine the reasoning behind the 1.5% drop. It would be helpful, and avoid speculators reaching self-serving conclusions, if the government could provide better data on the actual cause of the adjustment in tenancy figures in order to enable constructive discussion rather than simplistic finger pointing.”