Farming: SL&E in tenancy right to buy warning

Last week, almost 60 per cent of farm tenants indicated that they would purchase their properties if legislation allowing them an absolute right to buy was introduced.

SL&E says right to buy would be a killer blow to tenanted sector. Picture: Ian Rutherford
SL&E says right to buy would be a killer blow to tenanted sector. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Yesterday, the rebuttal to that possibility came from the landlords’ organisation, Scottish Land & Estates (SL&E).

It claimed that tenant farming in Scotland was at a crossroads: “It can either embrace changes that will be in the interests of Scottish agriculture, or face catastrophic decline because of the continuing threat of draconian measures, such as the absolute right to buy.”

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Andrew Howard who represents SL&E on the Tenants Farming Forum described the introduction of a right to buy policy as a “killer blow” to the tenanted sector.

“It has previously been roundly rejected across the industry and has all the hallmarks of a land reform-driven solution.

“It is nothing short of the enforced sale of one individual’s property to another individual and will hit small-scale landowners as well as big estates, denying young farmers the chance to get their first foot on the farming ladder.

“It is in everyone’s interested that such a measure is ruled out once and for all.”

He added that confidence was critical to providing a dynamic tenanted sector and that landlords wished to let land – but would not do so if they felt there was a possibility of losing it through a right to buy policy.

Howard’s comments were made as part of the SL&E submission to the Scottish Government review into agricultural holdings legislation, where the landowners have proposed the setting up of an office for Scottish tenant farming. This new body would, the SL&E proposes, include powers to investigate and name and shame landlords and tenants who engage in bad practice.

Last month, in another move designed to take some of the heat out of the landlord/tenant divide, SL&E announced an amnesty for farm tenancy improvements, which would be backed by statute. A move, it claimed would enable tenants to register improvements eligible for compensation at a waygoing.

In a proposal in their submission to increase the letting of land, the landlords have suggested the inclusion of a clause in limited duration tenancies that would cover which party would take responsibility for the replacement of fixed equipment.

The landlords also called for the creation of a new entrants’ hub and mentoring scheme as well as a cross-industry initiative to develop share farming.

Luke Borwick, chairman of SL&E, said landowners and farmers, big and small, right across Scotland were heavily involved in tenant farming and wanted to see a successful and vibrant sector.

“To achieve that, everyone needs to welcome changes that create a framework fit for the 21st century and inspires confidence in farmers and those who let land. There is, through this review, a real opportunity to seize the moment and embrace change that will provide a platform for a dynamic, flexible and fair sector.”