Number of tenanted farms 'continues to fall' in Scotland

A range of radical proposals aimed at revitalising tenant farming in Scotland has been unveiled by Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead.

Measures including the creation of a Tenant Farming Commissioner, opportunities for apprentices and new types of tenancy are among 49 recommendations for the Scottish Government following a review of Agricultural Holdings Legislation.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Mr Lochhead - who led the review - said the final report contained seven recommendations to strengthen tenant farmers’ right to buy, including proposals intended to provide tenant farmers with a solution to ‘escape the clutches of bad landlords’.

Recommendations for the Scottish Government include:

• enabling 1991 Act tenants to apply to the Scottish Land Court to force the sale of the holding where a landlord does not meet their obligations

• measures to widen succession rights for 1991 Act tenants

• creating a Tenant Farming Commissioner

• improving how rents are set

• creating the potential for apprenticeship opportunities for new entrants

• providing long term and flexible letting vehicles to encourage the release of more land into tenancy.

The Cabinet Secretary said: “Tenant farming is vital to the agricultural economy and sustaining our rural communities. Having a farm tenancy is often the gateway to career in farming.

“But despite previous efforts to improve the industry, the amount of tenanted agricultural land in Scotland continues to fall - almost halving in the past 30 years – and we are in danger of closing the door on future generations of farmers unless we act.

“This is a once-in-a-generation review with wide ranging and radical recommendations aimed at ensuring a secure and vibrant future for the sector. Some of these proposals relate to right to buy and are intended to provide tenants with a solution to escape the clutches of bad landlords – but for the vast majority of landlords, who have positive relationships with their tenants, these recommendations will pose no threat.

“The review process has been very positive and credible, with wide ranging engagement that has taken into account the views of industry bodies, tenant farmers, landowners across Scotland

“I am confident this report is the turning point for tenant farming and Scottish agriculture, and I hope it will instil confidence and enable those working in the sector to strengthen relationships and build a strong future together.

“I look forward to working with my Ministerial colleagues, the industry and Parliament to consider how best to take these recommendations forward to secure a successful and sustainable future for tenant farming in Scotland.”