STFA hits out at rise in rents for tenant farmers

The Scottish Tenant Farmers' Association (STFA) last night reacted angrily to the latest Scottish Government figures on agricultural tenanted land that revealed an average rise of three per cent in farm rents in the past year.

STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson. Picture: Contributed
STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson. Picture: Contributed

Chairman of the organisation Christopher Nicholson, after referring to the most recent farm income figures that showed a 26 per cent fall on the previous year to the lowest level since 2009, said: “While half of Scotland’s farmers are now working for less than the minimum wage, over the same period farm rents paid to landlords continue to increase at above the rate of inflation.”

Nicholson claimed this was further evidence that the current open market rent test was failing the sector and measures in the recently passed land reform bill to allow fair rents linked to farm profitability were long overdue.

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He also referred to the joint industry voluntary guidance on the setting of rents, which has been in place for almost two years. This encourages rent changes to follow inflation or farm income levels. “These Scottish Government figures for farm rents show above inflation increases at a time when farm incomes are falling.”

As far as STFA was concerned, this was clear evidence that many landlords and their agents have continued to pursue rent increases without regard for the joint initiative.

The figures, released by Scotland’s Chief Statistician, showed rent for land was £39 per hectare in 2014-15 compared to £38 per hectare the previous year. The official figures also confirm rent increases have been above inflation since 2008.

For NFU Scotland, Gemma Thomson, said: “Given the huge pressure on farm businesses, it is difficult to envisage any circumstances that would support an increase in rents.”

She encouraged members with concerns over a tenancy to make contact to allow them to refer issues to the tenant farming commissioner, Andrew Thin.