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Landowners highlight fears for future of tenant farming sector

Scottish Land & Estates said today that proposals by the Scottish Government to enable tenant farmers to ‘sell’ their tenancies will cause unprecedented damage to the tenant farming sector and fail to strike the right balance of property rights for landowners and farmers.

The Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment committee today voted by majority in favour of the proposals as part of their deliberations on the Land Reform Scotland Bill. The Scottish Government’s would allow tenant farmers with ‘secure’ tenancies - to assign their tenancies for value to a new ‘secure’ tenant. The Bill also widens the category of relatives who can succeed to a tenancy. Landlords would have a right to intervene in an assignation case but only if they are willing to pay a higher price than an incoming tenant.

Legal advice provided to Scottish Land & Estates by experts on European human rights legislation has stated that such provisions would be a clear breach of property rights. Industry experts calculated that compensation claims against the Scottish Government could be several hundred millions of pounds.

David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “It is deeply regrettable that the Cabinet Secretary has dismissed genuinely held concerns from across the industry on these measures. We fully understand the need for tenant farmers with no successors to retire with dignity and believe that striking the correct balance of property rights for all parties is essential.

“An alternative and fairer model where farmers could convert their tenancies to a long-term fixed date tenancy would have helped achieve those objectives. Many landowners’ interests would have been damaged by it but there would be less of a risk of widespread eye-watering compensation claims.

“Landlords want to let land on a long term basis but it is being made as unattractive as possible. It feels very much as though legitimate farming businesses are being legislated against in the name of radical land reform, rather than what is best for agriculture.

“The assignation proposals today will mean that many secure tenancies will be perpetuated, effectively further denying the owner access to his own property. A great many landlords are small scale businesses with one or two let farms and will not be in a position to buy out tenancies. We would appeal to the Scottish Government to take heed of these concerns in the final stage discussions on the Bill.”


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