Landowners pledge to support tenant farmer amnesty

Scottish Land & Estates chairman David Johnstone. Picture: ContributedScottish Land & Estates chairman David Johnstone. Picture: Contributed
Scottish Land & Estates chairman David Johnstone. Picture: Contributed

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While issues of land reform have been taking a back seat to Brexit in recent weeks, landowners' organisation Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) yesterday said that its members were wholly committed to making the amnesty on tenant improvements work 'well and fairly'.

Due to begin later this spring, the three-year amnesty, part of the recent Land Reform Act, allows tenant farmers to have certain works which they have carried out on their farms recognised as improvements benefiting the holding, even if the required notification was not served to the landlord at the time.

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SLE chairman David Johnstone said that it had been his organisation that had put this proposal to the Scottish Government and clearly they wanted it to succeed.

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He said that, given the debate surrounding how specific aspects of the amnesty would work in practice, he was happy to clarify the organisation’s position on the issue of tenant improvements to farmhouses.

“As the law currently stands, we believe that some improvements to farmhouses are eligible improvements. While this does not necessarily mean that all types of farmhouse improvements are covered, compensation – where it is due – would be payable if there is value to an incoming tenant and the works were deemed to be proportionate to the holding,” said Johnstone.

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA) chairman Christopher Nicholson welcomed the SLE’s recognition of work carried out by tenants in this area.

“The amnesty may involve considerable work for tenants in looking out evidence that the tenant or his predecessors carried out the improvements, such as invoices and past correspondence,” he said.

“The more evidence that can be put together, the stronger the tenant’s case will be that it is fair and equitable that compensation should be paid.”

Nicholson said that it was important that tenants looked far and wide when making a list of improvements, adding: “The definition of an improvement is broad, being ‘any building or structure affixed to land and any works on, in, over or under land’.

“The Scottish Government has now published a useful guide on preparing for the improvements amnesty on their website – and I would encourage tenants to use this to start planning their submissions.”