Letter which was published in Scottish Farmer on 7 February 2014
I am sure there are many people working in farming who will have been scratching their heads in bemusement at the basis of Christopher Nicholson’s letter in Scottish Farmer ‘Lack of Investment Evident’.
Rather than flying the flag for the tenant farming sector and putting forward positive ideas to move the whole sector forward and build confidence, Mr Nichoslon, chairman of the Scottish Tenant Farmers’ Association, adopted the siren call of the most ardent land reformist urging radical measures rooted in wealth and property redistribution as the only way forward for the tenant sector.
The overwhelming majority of farming folk, not simply landlords but tenants and owner-occupiers as well, see things somewhat differently and want to focus on outputs and opportunity not ownership. Measures such as an absolute right to buy will serve to bury the tenant sector, not revive it. In creating more owner-occupied farms by such methods, not only will there be fewer farms to rent, but the climate created will paralyse efforts to stimulate the letting of farms which in turn will stifle the ability for farm businesses to expand and to deliver opportunities for new entrants.
It is also disappointing to see Mr Nicholson resort to blatant inaccuracies regarding the responsibilities of landlords towards tenants. The suggestion that landlords are reluctant to address rent reviews, tenant’s improvements and Waygo compensation is simply not correct. As an enthusiastic participant in the Tenant Farming Forum, it is common knowledge that Scottish Land & Estates has been actively involved in discussing these issues and wants to work to deliver progressive solutions that are fair to all parties in these business relationships. Indeed, Mr Nicholson would know that we are engaged in positive discussions with tenants and representatives across the sector in the Tenant Farming Forum and other meetings because he has been present during these talks. Any suggestions to the contrary would be disingenuous.
The over-simplified suggestion that tenancy legislation and landlords combine to deprive dairy farms of investment does not stand up to scrutiny. Most people in farming know that the challenges in that sector are rooted in issues surrounding supply, demand, milk price, scale and market opportunity.
While accepting that there are some areas where improvement is desired by all sides to promote a thriving tenanted sector, there is also much consensus in farming about what the issues are and no shortage of collaborative effort and goodwill to make things better, it is a pity then that the spokesman for the STFA should seek to perpetrate division.
Scottish Land & Estates