Bill amendments aim to let tenants retire with dignity

Tenants would be able to assign their land to a new farmer
Tenants would be able to assign their land to a new farmer
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New proposals aimed at reinstating some of the missing rungs on the farming ladder could be introduced in amendments made at Stage 2 of Scotland’s Land Reform Bill, it was claimed yesterday.

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA) said that the measures drawn up by Scottish Government officials for consideration would help tenants who wanted to retire to do so with dignity – while allowing new entrants and developing farmers the opportunity to access a secure tenancy.

Commenting on the proposal on the eve of today’s Scottish Parliament debate on the Bill, STFA chairman, Christopher Nicholson said: “Although this measure does not go as far as we would have liked, it is, in many ways the missing piece in the tenancy jigsaw and potentially a game changer in making the bill a more complete package.”

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If the Scottish Government does lodge the proposed amendment into Stage 2 of the Bill, 1991 Act tenants would be able to assign their tenancy to a new entrant or to a progressing farmer (but not to an established business which was taking on more land) – but the landlord would have first refusal to purchase the tenant’s interest during the process, as an alternative to the tenancy being assigned.

However, the scheme would still enable 1991 Act tenancies to be converted to MLDTs as is currently proposed, with the agreement of the tenant and landlord.

If the landlord decided to purchase the tenant’s interest in the unit, payment would be based on the sum of the waygo compensation for the tenant’s improvements valuation figure, plus 50 per cent of the difference between the estimated value of the land if sold with vacant possession and the estimated value of the land if sold with the tenant still in occupation. It is proposed that the Tenant Farming Commissioner would appoint a suitably qualified person to assess values.

While such a change would give a tenant wishing to leave his secure tenancy a range of options, the measure also builds in the ability to protect the interests of landlords.

The STFA said that the government had also proposed the creation of a new repairing tenancy. This would allow landlords to rent out land in need of improvement with minimal fixed equipment on at least a 35-year term to allow the tenant to reap the benefit of his improvements. It is proposed that the rent should be based on the productive capacity of the holding at the start of the lease and the tenant should receive compensation for his improvements.