The Scottish Government has recently published a report that sets out what are thought to be key barriers to the existence of a vibrant and thriving tenant farming sector in Scotland.
The report was produced by the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group, led by Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead, which has spent six months investigating the issues facing tenant farmers.
The main obstacles identified in the interim report are:
• Scotland’s shrinking tenant farming sector: Scotland has one of the lowest proportions of rented land anywhere in Europe and there are concerns that shorter leases are replacing longer letting arrangements. This lack of availability of new lets is affecting new entrants and established farmers wishing to expand, which is creating stagnation in the sector.
• Constraints on investment caused by: increasing use of short-term lets leading to potential difficulties in obtaining finance; lack of access to direct farm payments for new entrants; restrictions imposed by the statutory framework for 1991 Act tenancies which may be affecting landlords’ and tenants’ willingness to diversify and invest.
• The balance of rights and risk for tenants and landlords: while there are examples of good tenant-landlord relationships, the Review Group has also heard anecdotal evidence suggesting uncertainty is putting landlords off letting land, while some tenants feel they are disadvantaged by current contractual arrangements.
Having completed its investigations, the Review Group now intends to develop specific recommendations on how best to tackle these barriers. These will be set out in its final report, which is expected to be released by the end of 2014.
“A vibrant tenant farming sector is the foundation of a sustainable future for Scottish agriculture and I am determined to do all I can to reverse its decline,” commented Mr Lochhead. “No industry can expect to flourish when there are such significant barriers to new entrants and successful businesses that want to improve, diversify and expand.”
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