Crown Estate gives farmers the right to buy tenancies

In what could mark the start of a new policy, Crown Estate Scotland is offering farming tenants on some of its rural assets the opportunity to purchase outright or share in the sale value of their farms.

The organisation, which manages about 30,000 ha of tenanted land over several estates, has been consulting on the sales with a view to raising capital for reinvestment – and the recent consultation and pilot project have been welcomed for taking the interests of tenant farmers and local communities into account.

The pilot farm sale initiative is being offered to secure tenants on Applegirth Estate in Dumfriesshire and at Auchindoun in Moray - and if successful could be extended to the other estates.

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It is believed that eligible tenants on the two estates will have the opportunity to either buy their farm at an agreed price, relinquish their tenancy for value along the lines set out in the Land Reform Act 2016, to enter into a joint sale of the farm to a third party on an agreed share basis or to maintain the status quo, with the tenant remaining as before with the Crown Estate as landlords.

Commenting on the proposals, chairman of the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association, Christopher Nicholson, welcomed the approach stating that Crown Estate Scotland was making history as the first large scale landlord to give tenants such an open range of voluntary options. He also revealed that the tenants and their representatives including STFA and STFA agents Tom Oates and Hamish Lean had been consulted during the development of the strategy.

Tenants’ representatives also had the opportunity to discuss the farm sale initiative with Mairi McAllan MSP, Minister for the Environment and Land Reform with responsibility for Crown Estate, during a visit to Glenlivet Estate.

“In general tenants are enthusiastic about the proposed farm sales and the opportunities they are to be offered,” said Nicholson.

But, he added: “Some have expressed concerns about the future of a fragmented rural estate following farm sales, especially if the majority of remaining tenants are non-secure tenants with fixed-term leases.”

He also said that with the current boom in afforestation and the resulting increase in the value of land for planting trees, fixed-term tenants were concerned about their future when the time comes to negotiate new leases to continue farming their holdings.

“However, reassurances have been given to tenants that Crown Estate Scotland will continue to act as a responsible landlord fulfilling its statutory and traditional obligations to its tenants whatever the type of lease.”

He indicated that if the pilot project was successful, Crown Estate Scotland could decide to roll out similar policy across their remaining rural estate, offering more tenants similar opportunities in the future.

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“In the meantime, whatever choice tenants on Applegirth and Auchindoun make, STFA strongly recommends they take good professional advice, particularly in the negotiation of the purchase price or in agreeing a settlement for relinquishing the tenancy,” said Nicholson.

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