Scottish Land & Estates, which represents landowners across Scotland, today published proposals for a ‘modern, dynamic and flexible’ tenanted sector that actively supports enterprising farm businesses and importantly encourages the next generation of aspiring farmers to flourish.
The proposals are set out in an initial submission to the group established by the Scottish Government to review agricultural holdings legislation. The full submission is attached and can also be read online on the Scottish Land & Estates website.
Tenant farming is at a crossroads. It can either embrace changes that will be in the interests of Scottish agriculture or face catastrophic decline because of the continuing threat of draconian measures such as the absolute right to buy - widely regarded as an unwarranted attack on property rights and destructive to the farming industry.
Luke Borwick, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: "Landowners and farmers big and small across Scotland are heavily involved in tenant farming and want to see a successful and vibrant sector. To achieve that, everyone needs to welcome changes that create a framework fit for the 21st Century and inspires confidence in farmers and those who let land. There is, through this review, a real opportunity to seize the moment and embrace change that will provide a platform for a dynamic, flexible and fair sector.
"The alternative is the introduction of measures that are rooted in radical ideology and narrow self interest which, instead of revitalising the sector, will run it into the ground. It is a scandal that the fate of much of the current, but especially the next generation, of Scottish farmers is being jeopardised by agricultural issues being turned into a land-reform political football.
"We have put forward initial recommendations to the Review Group. We will be developing a number of the suggestions and submitting further detail."
In its submission, Scottish Land & Estates suggests re-invigorating the let sector and tackling existing problems, including bad practice and stalemate over compensation at waygo, by:-
- An extension of the remit of the proposed Office for Scottish Tenant Farming developed by the Tenant Farming Forum to include powers to investigate and name and shame landlords and tenants who engage in bad practice.
- An unprecedented ‘amnesty’ for farm tenancy improvements – backed by statute - to enable tenants to register improvements eligible for compensation at waygo.
- A complete rejection by Government of calls for an absolute right to buy.
Scottish Land & Estates makes the following recommendations to help make the tenant farming sector more vibrant.
- Government and industry should set out a shared vision of a modern, flexible tenanted sector as confidence will be the key to the creation of opportunity and the success of tenant farming in the future.
- In order to increase letting of land, further improvements, such as allowing contractual resumption and freedom to agree which party takes responsibility for the replacement of fixed equipment , could be made to Limited Duration Tenancies (LDTs) – measures that should increase their use.
- A major campaign should be undertaken to highlight existing and potential flexibility within the LDT tenancy vehicle.
- The creation of a new entrants’ hub and mentoring scheme.
- A cross-industry initiative to develop share farming.
Andrew Howard, a Scottish Land & Estates representative on the Tenant Farming Forum, said: “We recognise that to give confidence to tenants and those letting land there are issues to be dealt with before moving forward.
“Our recommendations in relation to the proposed Office of Scottish Tenant Farming and our suggestion for an amnesty on improvements, which has been widely welcomed, should make a significant difference.
“The killer blow to the tenanted sector would be an absolute right to buy – which has previously been roundly rejected across the industry and has all the hallmarks of a land reform- driven solution. It is nothing short of the enforced sale of one individual’s property to another individual and will hit small-scale landowners as well as big Estates, denying young farmers the chance to get their first foot on the farming ladder. It is in everyone’s interested that such a measure is ruled out once and for all.
“Confidence is the key to everything and there needs to be confidence for both tenants and landlords. We want to see a dynamic tenanted sector and we want to let land.”