Scottish Land & Estates, which represents 2,500 landowners across Scotland, today issued the following statement in the wake of publicity generated by the publication of statistics by the Scottish Government relating to the tenant farming sector in Scotland.
Chief Executive Douglas McAdam said:
“The number of tenancies in Scotland has been declining at a steady rate over the last 30 years and the latest figures show that trend continuing.
“There are many reasons for this happening but it should be noted that this does not necessarily mean a decline in agricultural output nor quality of land management. Although there may be fewer tenancies, most of that land is still being farmed through other arrangements, including tenants buying their farms, or by contract, or in-hand farming operations.
“The latest research we have conducted within our membership shows that virtually all land that becomes available for let is being let through the vehicles created by the 2003 Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act. In the minority of cases where it is not re-let there are a number of key business reasons why that decision is being taken - including concern about the continuing clamour for an absolute right to buy and land reform.
“The plain fact is there is a finite supply of land available for let. There is a considerable amount of work to be done in trying to explore the opportunities to find land to let particularly in the owner-occupier sector and also in addressing the issue of farmers’ retirement.
“We do not accept the tenant farming sector is in terminal decline. This situation is resolvable. It requires politicians and all sectors of the industry to recognise that to encourage landowners and farmers to let land you need to give them confidence that they will not regret that decision at the next review of the legislation. It is as much in landowners’ interests as it is in tenants’ interests to have a vibrant tenanted sector. Letting land is a fundamental part of business for many landowners and that activity should be appreciated and encouraged.
“It has been recognised in the Scottish Government statistics that the introduction of Farm Business Tenancies in England and Wales has had a positive impact on the letting of land. It is clear that there is more confidence to let in the absence of threats to property rights. We believe lessons can be learned here and consideration should be given to a similar vehicle in Scotland.
“It is our experience that sensible business decisions are agreed between landlord and tenant in the overwhelming majority of cases. Day in, day out all over Scotland tenant farmers are getting on with their businesses and landlords with theirs. Of course, there are issues which arise and can lead to friction as in all contractual relationships. However, it is to the great detriment of the sector that agricultural holdings legislation has become such a political football.
“The continuing public onslaught against landowners from representatives of a small minority of tenants does nothing to encourage constructive dialogue. If the experience of the last several years has taught us anything it is that as a sector it would be more constructive for those directly involved to work together to resolve the issues arising. Our members are fully committed to the tenanted sector and we will continue to tackle the issues through the Tenant Farming Forum.”