Scottish Land & Estates said today that ‘distorted’ lobbying from a small group of tenant farmers for a measure that would give tenants the right to assign their tenancies for cash undermines Scottish farming.
A group of 14 tenant farmers have claimed in a letter to the Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee that opposition to the Scottish Government’s proposal from the National Farmers Union Scotland is not ‘fair’ and does not reflect the views of tenants.
David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “It appears that sections of the Scottish Tenant Farmers’ Association who are also members of NFUS will stop at nothing to further their own interests at the expense of the future of tenant farming and Scottish agriculture. Sadly, this letter undermines the industry, the agricultural holdings review process and the NFUS’s duty to represent the majority view of its members. It also tries to pull the wool over the eyes of parliament.
“For this group of tenants to claim that landowning interests dominated recent NFUS open meetings is absurd and inaccurate.
“Everyone is entitled to their view and the prevailing view of farmers in that consultation was that conversion of secure tenancies to new modern limited duration tenancies is the best way forward for the industry. NFUS represents the vast majority of tenants in Scotland and has been in favour of conversion for some time. It would be a gross distortion of the true picture if the view of a small minority of tenants was accepted as opposed to the rest of the industry, particularly farmers, who see the danger to farming all too clearly.
“The effect of Scottish Government’s proposal to enable secure 1991 Act tenants to assign their tenancies for value will drive a coach and horses through property rights and will crush the letting of land in the future. The alternative conversion model is certainly not a pro-landlord solution and many of our members will be disadvantaged by it. However, we recognise the need for tenants to retire and that is why conversion is the less damaging option for all across the industry.
“The Scottish Government’s proposal has all the hallmarks of a marked bias against landowners in favour of pandering to a small group of people whose prime motive is to maximise the cash they receive for leaving farming. This will offer nothing to new entrants or those wishing to progress in the sector, indeed it will damage them. It is these farmers that the Cabinet Secretary should be listening to, rather than the siren voices he is apparently being guided by.”