On 7 June  2014, the Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, addressed the Annual Conference of Community Land Scotland at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on the Isle of Skye. In the most significant speech on land reform since Donald Dewar’s McEwen Lecture in 1998, he provided the Scottish Government’s first substantial reaction to the report of the Land Reform Review Group which was published on 23 May 2014. The text of his speech is reproduced below. A pdf copy is available here.

 

Good morning! Madainn mhath. I hope that everyone is suitably refreshed after last night’s AGM and conference dinner.

I’m sure that most, if not all, of the land reform issues were solved over dinner, along with most of the worldwide issues as well.

I just hope that someone wrote the solutions down…

…and can I maybe have a copy?

I am particularly pleased to address you at Sabhal Môr Ostaig – which I know well from my consultancy days.

The title for this year’s conference is “Shaping Change – Towards 1 million acres”.

I’m delighted to have been invited to talk to you this morning on what the Scottish Government plans are to help meet this target, which was announced by the First Minister at last year’s conference.

But before I launch into that, it might just be worth reflecting for a minute on just how much everyone in this room has achieved.

In the fringes of an EU meeting, I was talking to one of my counterparts about the community land movement here in Scotland and how it has grown and developed over the last 15 years.

His response was that this was – and I quote – a “social revolution”, something I have to agree with and something that I am immensely proud of. I am proud that these changes are happening here in Scotland and that the government I am a member of has a played a key role in facilitating this change.

Community Land Scotland’s recently published economic indicators report makes it clear that models of community ownership work.

The study, which involved the 12 comunities who had owned land for more than 5 years, highlighted several key facts.

Between them, they have upgraded 151 houses, built 6 new houses themselves and a further 33 in partnership with others.

They have released a total of a further 141 plots of land for housing development, which has contributed significantly to the positive population trends evident in many communities.

In addition the communities studied have redeveloped 20 other estate buildings for a variety of uses.

It is often argued that community ownership threatens investment, but the study counters this, with the 12 community owners annually contributing significantly to local employment and the local economy with over £2.5m spent on staff and local contractors in 2012/13 alone.  The study estimated this was an increase of five times  the comparable figures at time of the land’s acquisition.

Direct staffing over this period has also increased from 22 employed at the time of acquisition to 103 in 2012/13, or in other words, direct employment more than quadrupled.

The 12 estates have seen their turnover increase 2 ½ times over – that is rising from £1.7m at acquisition to £6.1m in 2012/13.

Collectively – to date – they have installed almost 7MW of renewable energy capacity.

Community ownership also delivers outcomes that can neither be delivered by private ownership nor by government.

Before I set out the Scottish Government’s vision I want to read out a quote to you.

“Land, which is a necessity of human existence, which is the original source of all wealth, which is strictly limited in extent, which is fixed in geographical position

“Land, I say, differs from all other forms of property, and the immemorial customs of nearly every modern state have placed the tenure, transfer, and obligations of land in a wholly different category from other classes of property”.

Any guesses on who said this? It might surprise some to hear it’s a short extract from a speech by Winston Churchill from 1909; where he goes on to say…

“It is not the individual I attack; it is the system. It is not the man who is bad; it is the law which is bad. 

“It is not the man who is blameworthy for doing what the law allows and what other men do; it is the State which would be blameworthy if it were not to endeavour to reform the law and correct the practice”.

To me this demonstrates that the debate on land, and how land is used and contributes to the public interest, has always been of importance to those that take the time to think about it.

Over 100 years later, we are still grappling with the very issues Winston Churchill identified as being important. It is in that contextI want to set out Scottish Government’s vision for land ownership in Scotland.

Our vision is for a fairer, or wider and more equitable, distribution of land in Scotland, where both communities and individuals have access to land.

I have said it before, but I feel Scotland is on a journey to delivering land reform.

My colleagues and I believe the nation’s land should be used to benefit the people and environment of Scotland and to deliver sustainable economic growth with due regard for impacts on the environment. We believe that the land of Scotland should support improvement of  the health and wellbeing of communities across Scotland. I share the vision of many that Scotland’s land should benefit the Common Good.

To fulfil Scotland’s potential, this Government believes we need to build a society with greater diversity of land ownership.  As I have said before, if I was tasked with designing a system of land ownership from scratch, I certainly would not design a system where 0.008% of Scotland’s population owned half the private land.

Our society will thrive when  communities and individuals have access to land to fulfil their aspirations and needs.

It will thrive when our land can support business and employment in urban and rural areas,  and for provision of community infrastructure, such as housing and green space.

Clearly,this includes community land buy-outs to achieve greater distribution of land to communities, opportunities for sustainable development and to realise increased economic vitality and employment.

This aspiration for greater community ownership is sometimes portrayed as pro community and anti-private ownership. This is simply not the case.

As concentration of ownership decreases there will be room for both more community owners and, I believe, more private owners too.

It is clear that land reform in Scotland is not something solely for the Highlands and Islands, or rural Scotland.

It is for the whole of Scotland.

We need to take land reform to urban areas to tackle the blight of derelict land in our cities.

We need to encourage community groups in our cities and rural towns to take control of their own destiny and build the sort of sustainable communities that they want future generations to be proud of.

When people read the Land Reform Review Group’s report, its reflection on housing and urban Scotland may have come a bit of a surprise to some.

For most of us, our home and maybe, if we are lucky enough, a garden is the extent to which we would expect to own any land, and as well know, for many even this modest goal  is out of reach.

The ratio the review group highlight, on the change in the  price of housing relative to income since the 1930’s, is a clear reminder that change is ever present and affordability has deteriorated over time.

They associate at least some of this change in land values with successive governments’ land related policies.

This needs to be interrogated  further, but it does raise the relevance of land to us all, through its impact on the supply and affordability of housing.

In this issue, we recognise the need to tackle the housing market to ensure that housing is available, affordable and sustainable, across the country.

The Scottish Government is committed to the provision of affordable housing across Scotland – working flexibly and in partnership, and using innovative approaches to maximise investment.

Funding for the 30,000 affordable homes over the lifetime of the Parliament is on track.

In the four year period April 2012 to March 2016, this Government plans to invest £1.3 billion in affordable housing.  At least 20,000 of the 30,000 target will be in the form of homes for affordable social rent.

Resource Planning Assumptions have been allocated to each Local Authority Area to provide affordable housing with local partners.

Higher subsidy levels are available in rural areas where a 3 person equivalent house in the West Highlands, the Island authorities and remote rural Argyll can be subsidised up to a level of £72,000 per unit as compared to £62,000 for a house meeting higher energy standards.

It is recognised that self-build plays a key role in Scotland’s housing supply system, particularly in rural areas.

We recognise that the availability of lending to support self-build projects in Scotland has been restricted, both in terms of the overall number of active lenders and the terms on which self-build mortgages are offered.

Reflecting this, housing colleagues are working  a self-build loan pilot project to be launched later this summer.

The Scottish Government has provided £4 million of loan funding to the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust for a “Rural Rent to Buy Pilot Scheme”.

This is aimed at supporting first time buyers on modest incomes to fund the deposit on a new home while also stimulating the affordable housing market.

The Trust works with those eligible self-builders, who are on modest incomes and unable to raise the deposit for a mortgage, to construct of new build properties on behalf of the identified or prospective owner.

The prospective owner rents the completed property for a period of 5 years from the Trust, with a proportion of rent being set aside to assist the prospective owner to build up a deposit to allow the property to be purchased at the end of the 5 year period.

The Scottish Government has also made available an Empty Homes Loan Fund to provide loans to organisations in order to help them renovate empty homes and make them available as affordable housing.

To date, £4.5 million has been offered, or an increase over the £4 million originally set for the fund.  The projects started on 1 April 2013 and over the ten-year life of the fund, up to 478 houses could be refurbished.

In my own portfolio, the Croft House Grant Scheme provides grant assistance for the construction or improvement of croft housing.

The scheme has a budget of £1.4 million for 2013-14 and it enables 60-70 croft housing units per annum to be constructed or refurbished.

Scottish Government is committed to a review of the grant scheme, but it is not  intended to involve provision of loans which the private sector is better equipped to provide.

However, it is recognised that rural housing needs additional policy solutions to meet need and there are a number of individual pilots and processes being developed to support rural housing.

We will continue to review and monitor the degree to which policies are successful and to assist Local Authorities to deliver housing in rural areas where their Strategic plans identify needs.

We need to be clear on how we want the ownership and use of the land of Scotland to be tailored to fit the needs of future generations.

I’m not talking about the sort of “land grabs” that some quarters have been suggesting.

Far from it.

How we change the pattern of ownership and use of land in Scotland is something that everyone has a stake in and needs to take responsibility for.

The Scottish Government, as one of Scotland’s largest landowners, is active in exploring opportunities for creation of new community ownership projects through appropriate transfers of ownership from the Scottish Government estate.

People that live on Scottish Government’s 58 crofting estates, broadly speaking – or so I am told – view us as a good landlord, and when probed on this question the answer it is because we are seen as somewhat ‘benign’.

I believe that our tenants should have higher expectations and higher aspirations for themselves. I hope that they are inspired by other community owners to approach Scottish Government and take control of their own future.

We recognise that government has not, in this respect, always been as enabling as communities might need.

In future, we aim to foster a constructive process where communities actively want to take on the opportunity of shaping their future.

It has been just over a fortnight since the Land Reform Review Group published its final report, and the recommendations contained in the report are wide ranging and comprehensive and potentially far-reaching.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Alison Elliot and the LRRG and all who fed their views into the process. The outcome has been a substantial, authoritative report, and given its depth, it will require some time to carefully consider the full contents.

It contains recommendations we may agree with and some we may not, but I very much welcome the overall direction of travel and look forward to considering the detail in the report.

In particular, I value the way in which the review group are asking all of us to question the public interest arguments that underpin policies and governance of this natural and finite resource – Scotland’s land.

I know that the report was the focus for one of the breakout sessions yesterday, and will be again today, and I will be interested to hear the outcomes of your discussions.

Perhaps my officials will have already managed to pinch a few ideas that we will pass off as our own!

I have already announced, on behalf of The Scottish Government, that we will take forward two of the Group’s recommendations.

We have committed to completing the land register within 10 years, and ensuring that all publicly owned land is registered within 5 years.

This is not an insubstantial commitment by the Scottish Government, and we are firmly of the view that greater transparency it will deliver will aid the debate around land in the future, and I see this as first of many actions that will aid transparency.

We will also be setting up a short term working group, which will be tasked with improving the existing information on the numbers and types of community land owners and the land that they own, and to develop a strategy for achieving the 1 million acre target announced last year.

This group will consider how best the Scottish Government can work with partners to promote community ownership.

This will ensure that communities across both urban and rural Scotland have the information, advice and support they need to facilitate the transfer of the right asset to achieve their aims.

This should be regardless of whether that asset is currently in public or private ownership.

On the 1M acre target, it is important to highlight progress made since the First Minister’s announcement.

Major acquisitions funded by the Scottish Land Fund in the last year include that of the Carloway Estate Trust community – at a cost of £207,500 some  11,500 acres have been secured.

We have also seen the success of the North Harris Trust – where the Isle of Scalpay was gifted by the owner and the Scottish Land Fund assisted the acquisition by funding of £60k to assist with some transfer and development costs –in total approx. 1,700 acres were acquired.

The land fund also granted Pairc Trust £230k to assist with the acquisition and development of the Pairc Estate, which extends to some 26,700 acres.

This didn’t meet the whole cost of the purchase, which was some £500k.  The community raised the remaining amount themselves, something which I applaud and congratulate them on.

Of course, while these three acquisitions alone amount to almost 40,000 acres since last year’s conference, but it is not just the large area transfers that we should be focussing on.

The majority of rural communities are purchasing far smaller pieces of land, land which can have a transformational effect on their communities.

Groups such as Sunart Community Company who have purchased 0.25 acres in order for them to create a small hydro scheme which, when completed, will benefit their community for years to come.

It is only fair and just that these rural communities have the same support, advice and access to funding as other groups looking at large area  purchases.

Every community purchasing even a small area of land adds to the target of 1 million acres in community ownership by 2020.

It is therefore important to look at the principle behind these projects.

The Review Group themselves, throughout their report, emphasise that any decisions on land use and ownership must be made in the public interest and for the common good.

Not the private interest, or a company’s interest, or even solely a community interest, but the public interest.

It’s an important point to keep in mind as we move forward.

We will be taking the time to carefully consider everything that the Review Group has said, but as I have said I am encouraged by many of the broad themes in the report.

There are recommendations around better and more publicly available information about landownership, tenure, use and value.

The reports highlights a need to adapt, and make fit for purpose, existing legislation around, for example, compulsory purchase.

It sets out a need for a more active approach to regenerating unused land, replacing passive owners with active owners, whether or not that is the same owner.

It highlights the need to ensure that the fiscal arrangements around land are equitable, transparent, fair, and assist in getting the most out of our land resources.

Of course, asset transfer often needs support.

The Scottish Government’s Community Empowerment Action Plan and Regeneration Strategy have long highlighted the benefits that community ownership can bring to local communities.

This is why, since 2011, we have been funding the Development Trusts Association Scotland to run the Community Ownership Support Service.

This represents a £1.2m commitment to deliver a national programme that provides a focal point and central resource for asset transfer activity within Scotland.

This service supports the transfer of publicly held assets into community ownership.

To date, 18 assets have transferred into community ownership with a further 11 in final stages of negotiation.  There are currently 214 open cases of enquiry.  The process of developing a robust case for the sustainable transfer of assets can take a number of years for community groups to achieve.

The Community Ownership Support Service offers information, advice, resources and practical support to communities across rural and urban Scotland.

There are also financial support mechanisms and one of these is State Aids.

The Scottish Government sees State aid not as an impediment but as an enabler of efficient public spending.

The State Aid Unit advises public funders to apply a discerning approach to the rules, especially where local benefits far outweigh any possible distortions of the European Single Market.

As an example of this approach, we were delighted to see the acquisition of Aigas Community Forest in Beauly with help from the Scottish Land Fund.

This was purchased under the National Forest Land Scheme, a scheme which the Review Group refer to as “as a positive mechanism providing an opportunity for local communities to buy or lease land”.

I know that is has been a very long road to get to this point for the community, but I’m positive that it will be worth the wait.

The scheme has do far seen the transfer of nearly 4,000 hectares of land to 25 local communities, Non-Governmental Organisations and affordable housing bodies.

Communities have approval to purchase a further 3,000 hectares to deliver a range of projects supporting local development, such as hydro renewable schemes, forestry based enterprises, or improved recreational facilities.

Key outputs from the sales to date include 11 sites with the potential to build over 80 homes – and so far over 40 houses have been either built or are nearing completion.

Other outputs include woodland crofts, community growing projects, local wood fuel businesses, renewable energy projects, timber harvesting and marketing activity and local employment opportunities.

These transfers will help our most remote communities to become more economically sustainable and to make best use of their natural assets.

I can confirm that the Scottish Government will refresh its published guidance for funders on State aid in the specific context of interventions in remote rural locations, to ensure that we continue to enable these key transfers to communities.

The group highlights the need to get the framework right to assist communities in fulfilling their aspirations, and on this they make several recommendations.

From what I have outlined above government is taken action in several areas to address barriers, and will look carefully at best way to move forward.

I recognise that resourcing community land ownership is important.

Indeed the Review Group states in its report that “funding to finance buying buildings and land is crucial to expanding local community land ownership.”

The Group recommends that “an adequate level of funding should be available to meet an expected increase in demand for local community land ownership”.

As things stand, there will be funding for community purchase of land until 2016, and this is having an impact on the number of communities that are approaching the Fund for funding.

Indeed, the Year 2 report of the Fund, notes that “in particular we have seen a significant rise in enquiries around announcement of awards.”

“The success of other groups appears to generate interest in communities and provide them with a belief that they too could secure funding for their community.

Experience to date indicates that asset acquisition projects need time to develop and confidence in the availability of funding to do this.”

It is with this in mind I want to reassure you all that this government is committed to maintaining the Scottish Land Fund and I can confirm that we will do so until at least until 2020.

It would be inappropriate for me to put a value on what we would put in; as this is for future spending round decisions.

However I hope my reassurance will give greater confidence to communities to consider community land ownership.

It would give communities time to work up their plans.

This is an especially important consideration as plans do not just happen: projects need time to develop, and this can sometimes be a year or two or more.

It would allow for a growing interest and confidence in the sector which is important in underpinning the growth in community ownership of land.

I understand that from time to time communities come forward with very large scale projects that dwarf the size of the land fund.

Often, funding them would jeopardise the stream of smaller community acquisitions in the pipeline.

I therefore want communities to know that the Scottish Government is open to discussion, on a case by case basis, on how we help these communities fulfil their aspirations, and stretch the land fund to meet that demand.

There have been calls for the Scottish Government to set out its intentions on the recommendations of the Review Group.

This is understandable. However, as I stated earlier, the report and its recommendations will need further study, and it would be irresponsible to rush into these without a thorough investigation of the facts and consequences of implement them.

Fundamentally the Scottish Government is interested in the outcomes desired by the recommendations in the Report and will focus on shaping its actions to meet these outcomes.

Having said that, the Scottish Government is already taking action on several recommendations in the report.

We have created the Crofting Legislation Stakeholder Consultation Group to develop a modern and robust statutory framework for crofting.

Members of the group include the likes of : Scottish Land & Estates; National Farmers Union Scotland; Crofting Commission; Registers of Scotland; and the Cross-Party Group on Crofting

We have the Agricultural Holdings Review, which will, amongst other things, consider the review groups recommendation on the community dimension of any right to buy.

There is, too, the Wild Fisheries review which is tasked with developing and promoting a modern, evidence-based management system for wild fisheries fit for purpose in the 21st century.

Probably one of the biggest areas where government has already made clear commitments is on the Community Empowerment Agenda and in the planned Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill.

Although it is not in my gift today to tell you what exactly is in the bill, as much as I would love to, you already know that as part of the consolation on the Community Empowerment Bill, we were proposing improving the community right to buy.

For more on this and other proposals, you will have to wait for it to be laid before parliament later this month.

When you see this, I do hope you will be encouraged by this Government’s commitment, to both the community ownership and community empowerment agendas.

However, I clearly recognise that all this will only deliver part of the measures that will ultimately need to be taken forward, and between now and December this year, the Scottish Government will consider the fuller agenda.

In our consideration of the recommendations of LRRG, the Scottish Government will take into account the views of stakeholders in taking forward the development of legislation.

I am however pleased to inform you that it is intended that a Bill will be brought forward before the end of the current term of the Scottish Parliament. Due to protocol I cannot say more than that at this stage in terms of the Bill’s content.

But we must all recognise, as the review group suggested, land reform is not an event, but a process and it will need continued perseverance to deliver meaningful change.

There are measures we can address now, and we are doing so where appropriate, but other challenges will need careful reflection on the Group’s recommendations and, perhaps, further work before formulating our response.

However, there are many areas of policy where community led activity is tackling – this includes Community Broadband Scotland, where applications from community-led broadband projects for capital assistance grants from its Start Up fund.

Funding totalling £430,587 has been awarded to these projects, five of which are making progress towards the 655 broadband connections expected. Investment of this kind can help ensure community ownership projects have the necessary infrastructure to allow communities to flourish.

I want also to welcome the publication of Scotland’s Rural College’s third Rural Scotland in Focus report.

It highlights some great examples of the outcomes that can be achieved locally and nationally to address issues facing rural Scotland.

Its authors also recognise the need for continued action by us all, with ownership of the agenda by our communities and businesses, vital.

I completely agree with SRUC’s view of the need for continued action, which is why I will ensure that we reflect on the recommendations within the Land Reform review report and come up with an inclusive strategy going forward.

Not all of the recommendations are within the Scottish Government’s powers to take forward and there has been some talk already of just how much of the review group’s recommendations lie within the gift of Scottish Ministers.

I want to be clear that devolution has enabled Scotland to progress and to address land reform in a way that would, I believe, have been nigh on impossible before the existence of a Scottish Parliament.

However without the full powers that come with independence, it will always be possible for those that want to evade the aspirations and policies of the Scottish Parliament to do so.

For example, last year this Government was considering approval of Durness Development Group’s plans to purchase the 58 acre site from the Northern Lighthouse Board.

However, apparently, the MoD felt that it had the political clout to fight the Government over this on “grounds of national security”.

Perhaps they might like to explain if it is tourists enjoying the views, locals having tea and cakes in the café, or walkers completing the Scottish National Trail that posed the greatest threat?

Thankfully the MOD ultimately saw sense on this occasion, but who’s to say something similar may not occur with another community buyout.

So, in summary, the Scottish Government commissioned a wide ranging comprehensive report on land reform, which you have seen.

Our Parliament will debate land reform vigorously and, I hope, come forward with substantial proposals.

Although I expect that the Scottish Affairs Committee report into land reform, will make important observations about reserved levers that will distort and prevent action in Scotland, it is unlikely to get any traction or interest in Westminster.

There is too much vested interest, not least from the House of Lords, a number of whom, I’m sure, do own land in Scotland.

It won’t be high on David Cameron’s agenda either….no not the one sitting here…the other one.

That David Cameron is known to enjoy holidays on the Isle of Jura on the estate owned by his Stepfather-in-law, through Ginge Manor Estates Ltd.  He is also a member of the House of Lords and the company is itself registered in Nassau in the Bahamas – outside the EU, so forgive me if I an cynical about the likelihood of action in “another place”.

This brings me squarely onto the Crown Estate.

The review groups map on the front cover of the report, indicates that ½ of Scotland’s total territorial area is seabed.

This is seabed that is administered by the Crown Estate Commissioners.

I have nothing against those who work for the organisation, but despite the number of reports that have made a clear case why decisions over the seabed should reside with Scottish Ministers, no action has yet been taken by Westminster.

With Independence, we do have the opportunity to change this, and that opportunity is now.  Scotland is approaching a critical period in its future.

We have our destiny within our own grasp, and it means we can shape and guide the political, economic, social and geographic future of this country.

I know that you’re all committed to seeing that, whatever decision the people of Scotland take, that our future is founded on the principles of fairness, social justice and equality, in all ways. I can assure you that this Government has the same principles in mind.   Together, we can ensure that future generations of Scots will enjoy this beautiful country of ours, secure in the knowledge that its ownership and its use will be aligned to deliver the best interests of the people of Scotland and to be managed – whether by communities, the public sector or private sector – in the public interest of the people of Scotland.

72 Comments

  1. Well, Andy,

    Very many thanks for sharing this, I would have probably missed it.
    He has talked the walk, now can they walk the talk? Or, more importantly, can I trust any political group to deliver such an outcome, even if we were to vote for them to do it?

    I will be extremely interested to hear what people who are more erudite than I on this subject have to say now.

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  2. As Paul Wheelhouse implied it’s easy to find solutions over dinner and a few wee drams, in Edinburgh or wherever. The problems always come in getting them implemented and making them work; it needs a desire for change and good will all round. Let’s hope we get it otherwise we are back where we started!

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  3. Before action comes clear words and these are clear words and I applaud them for it.

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  4. No mention of tenant farmers as far as i see.

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  5. Hector

    Traditional tenant farmers will be gradually rent racked out of their farms , then landlords will enjoy big agri-business bidding for the use of the land . Family farms will soon be just a pleasant memory .

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  6. James

    And this all happens after landlords have negotiated and been given tax concessions to make more land available . Game on !! .

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  7. Slurry Stirrer

    light on tenant farmers, but heavy on community rights to buy. So is the future for the community to buy a whole estate then join up thinking with CLS and sell off to individuals. If i were an estate owner i would sell off a few family farms to take the steam out of a possible future outright community buy out.
    No doubt Agri-Biz will just hate the idea of community right to buy, NFU will start moaning shortly. Just the same way they moan about how difficult it is to get good staff and young people to work on the 5 or so farms that their typical vocal members run. Amazing! eh… cant get any staff, no young people to work on the farms, yep because Agri-Biz, NFUS & Estates have cleared everyone off the land. Ghost farms everywhere.

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  8. Pity lochhead capped sfp at 400k
    100k would have been much better

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  9. Hebridean Farmer

    Couldn’t agree more Hector.
    I thought this government was on a path to resolve inequality, to pursue public good and to create a fairer Scotland………..a cap of 400k……..I think not !

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  10. And that is £400k after labour costs, so the will be able to deduct the wages of the cook, gardener, chauffer , personal trainer as well as the farm staff.

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  11. The lairdies think this forum is full of hate.
    I dont think it is, its just a few people who want to see a better scotland , free of the feudal yoke.
    And the latest rent outrage just reinforces that fact.

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  12. Hector

    Could you tell me about this latest rent outrage ? .

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  13. recent decisions in land court
    78% increase

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  14. Slurry Stirrer

    The Rent Rack Monster has been well and truly unleashed. It is now game over for the family farm.

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    • Andrew Howard

      SS
      “The Rent Rack Monster”? Bit over blown that isn’t it. Grade 2/3.1 ground in Moray would be about £65-70/a on a 1991 Act tenancy. So £77 in sunny Roxburghshire doesn’t sound particularly surprising. A big increase I accept but that depends where you start. The rent of £65-70 acre in this part of the world are paid by family farms who seem to be doing well enough and aren’t under threat. Perhaps the rhetoric could therefore be toned down a bit.

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      • Roxburgh mains is not grade 2, and in case you missed it, barley prices are back to 1984 levels and subsidy down by 20%
        Good case for an 80% rise?
        I think not.

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        • Andrew Howard

          Hector
          3.1/3.2 then. A good farm would be a fair description. 2009 review not now though I accept in 2009 prices were falling back from 2008 high. Been not too bad since. And reviews aren’t a snap shot.
          And I guess if things are that bad you won’t want to buy your farm will you. I find it hard to square your doom and gloom on economic prospects with your evident desire to expend a significant sum of money to own the production resource. I’m guessing coming at an annual cost of well beyond £77/a. Odd that.

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          • I would pay almost any price for land just to get out of the clutches of the factor class.
            There is rather a large difference between grade 2/3;1 and 3;1/3;2, in earning capacity, so taking your figure of £65 for moray land, roxburgh mains is 20% over rented.
            As far as i see , mr elliott has improved the farm considerably, and is now being rented on his own work.

          • And the cost/ value of that land has about four other advantages in terms of tax avoidence (development land sales roll over relief etc ) and potential for capital growth (selling for development) which are competely unrelated to its value when only agricultural commodity output is concerned. So the cost/value of buying the land is inflated well beyond its agricultural output cost/value.

            Agricultural rental values should only be based on agricultural output values using ordinary farm budgets as there are at least four other income streams (eg selling for development etc ) that can be tapped into as a landowner to augment poor returns from agriculture.

      • But with the price of feed barley heading down towards £100/tonne this harvest and most other commodities heading down including subsidies in 2015 then its at least concerning (threatening) looked at from the tenants perspective.Rent almost one tonne of spring barley on 2.5 tonnes /acre yield. Just look at the commodity graphs in the Farmers Weekly and compare to a year ago. In an ideal world everyone should share the pain and that includes rents. I would welcome rent calculations based on economic returns and not comparables

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  15. This decision beggars belief . Here we have an experienced working farmer who is highly regarded within the industry being crippled by a farm rent system that does not work for the good of the farm .
    If the landlords enjoy using comparables , why do they not compare themselves with others ? .
    We all went to school in the same classes , taught by the same teacher , but we all were not first in the class . There is an obvious reason for this as some people are more able than others . Neighbouring farms , even fields , differ but this comparable card still comes into play .
    The comparables are a landlord’s device for a rent increase . It is a financial threat with only one winner — the landlord . The family farm is the loser again . Game over !! .

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  16. AHRG report quite good, mostly.
    Not radical enough though. Too much questioning of the benefits of ARTB.
    There is no doubt over the benefits to all.

    Reply

    • Slurry Stirrer

      Isn’t this land reform debate amazing…sometimes Scotland is referred to as a useless bog and we should be grateful that a millionare has decided to allow us to exist. And then when it suits, Scotland is an amazing fertile land and the tenant should take the rent increase because that’s what the market demands. The establishment appears to have won this round, but it certainly has not helped the image of Landlordisim. Hence the reason SLAE AKA Land Owners Federation are spitting mad. Salaried Factors are now pretending to wonder why us tenants moan about costs and also want to buy. Landlordisim is a tax on the working family of the land. And their servants are continually trying to put the fear of god into us, education for the rich and religion for the poor. Setting the initial rent demand super high, and threatening with the land court, two of the best tools in any factors box.
      Lets hope this land reform is all about removing the parasites from our land system, those parasites that produce nothing, absolutely nothing! draining away life, hope and funds, simply to preserve the establishment.

      Reply

      • Andrew Howard

        SS
        Clearly my suggestion that the rhetoric was a bit over blown hasn’t had much effect. You’ve reached new and colourful heights. Much as you’d like it portrayed as such this isn’t a them and us situation. Whilst I appreciate your own circumstances may be less than ideal (in landlord tenant terms) it works for the vast majority. The court is there to sort out the very small minority of cases where agreement can’t be sought. It’s not an enforcement route for the establishment.
        I wonder who you’ll want to turn your ire on next if you do get ARTB? The bank? When you have a mortgage with them and your income goes down for a while good luck looking for sympathy from them.

        Reply

  17. Slurry Stirrer

    AH, enough of the ‘them and us’ nonsense, my Landlord is actually a really nice man. As for not taking your guidance on the rhetoric levels, i am really sorry that you feel superior enough to issue how the tone should be set.
    ‘Vast majority’ ‘very small minority’ excellent stuff AH, i like your focus on the individual and turn away from the fall out from all of this. Imagine how crazy it is to base our land and people working on it, to be faced with market climate for finding rent levels, this system has now collapsed, neoliberal landlordisim. Just like the banks, and factors are blaming tenants for the unrest!
    and finally thanks for the personal dig with the Ire comment, what was that about play the ball not the man?

    Reply

    • Andrew Howard

      SS
      You may think him a really nice man but if I recall from previous threads you had a poor view of his role as a landlord. Hence my reference. Tone is important – and I’m not trying to set it – because the emotive language is part of clever and sustained campaign to achieve a political aim. That doesn’t mean it’s not heartfelt in some instances.
      Why should rents be different from any other matter which needs a price setting. I know the market for rents is not “perfect” but then it really is for anything else but it’s almost always better than the alternatives.
      No dig intended I assure you. Clumsy language perhaps.

      Reply

  18. Slurry Stirrer

    AH, market value, i recon is the poorest way to set rents because it is stoked by demand and the very prospect of ‘we could get x if you were not here’ this has led to complete mistrust. And it exposes the Family farmer to Agri-Biz rent levels.

    Reply

    • SS, have to agree with AH that some of your recent comments on this thread have been pretty daft. I say that because, mostly, your comments are the ones that influence me most in this debate.

      Your last comment, though (“AH, market value …”) is a good one. If we’re talking about the Roxburgh Mains case and the family farmer/agri-biz tension (way off topic but very interesting), do you think there were agri-biz offerors for Palace?

      Reply

      • Slurry Stirrer

        Neil, not sure about Palace farm, other than that the land court used it as open market evidence. I assume this farm is close to Elliot’s place, is Palace LandLord also CAPITAL INVESTMENT CORPORATION of MONTREAL? perhaps i have got all this wrong.

        Reply

        • SS – yes, Palace is about 5 or 6 miles from Roxburgh Mains (Elliott’s place) and was the comparable open market letting the Land Court used to fix the rent of RM. The landlord of Palace is Lothian Estates (Marquess of Lothian – the ex-Tory politician Michael Ancram as was).

          Reply

    • SS
      When does a family farming business become agri-biz. All the keen bidders in this area are family businesses. Not agri-coporations or the like.
      The market has the advantage of the largest body of evidence of what players in the market think something is worth. The land court adjusts for distortions and then applies a sense check. Does the rent seem reasonable. Haven’t seen anything convincing yet which suggests the rent set isn’t reasonable.

      Reply

  19. Rents should be set on what the landlord has provided, and in many cases that is next to b. all.
    The rent at roxburgh mains fell in 1999 by a small amount, when it should have halved.

    Reply

    • providing the land counts for nothing?

      Reply

      • Bare land, covered in scrub, boulders and ponds is by and large what the landlords have provided. Worth perhaps £2/acre in rent
        Every improvement carried out since by tenants has created the fine, level, drainedfields we see today,which and which the lairds seek to collect rent on.

        Setting a rent by comparison with another farm is totally unjust and bizarre and should be banned.
        if the palace tenant wishes to work for nothing, that is his business, but his choices should not be inflicted on others.

        Reply

        • Hector
          I’m sorry but the suggestion that most landlords originally let scrub, boulders etc to tenants and played no role in the current state of the land is plain wrong. Not one of our tenants, even those of very long duration, would have taken on land in anything other than the state it is now in – fully improved.

          Reply

          • Sorry Andrew I BEG TO DIFFER our tenancy started in the 1800s and my great grandfather employed a local crofter/ contractor to reclaim open moorland in the late 1800s using a single furrow plough and two oxen with a further 12 men carting off the stones to build dykes between the new fields and hand digging and laying stone drains up to 12 feet deep as I have seen them when installing modern drains.This took about 10 years to do and I also have the old maps to prove it . I still speak to the contractors great grandson and only a few years ago he was up here in a few springs helping to take off stones which we still do every spring removing between 25 and 50 tonnes of stones every year. Touched a very raw nerve as even the family know I am a grumpy old farmer when we are lifting stones
            This process doubled the size of the farm and is ongoing. I am sure you are correct about your own estate but I am sure our situation is not unique and thousands of tenants over the centuries have reclaimed land for their landlords from scrub and gorse.

          • Andrew Howard

            I don’t doubt your position. I can only speak from my own 20 yrs in practice. If the position of this work as an improvement is clear then it’s not rented.

  20. Andrew

    I find your boast hard to believe . Maybe you could define what ‘ ‘ fully improved ” means ? .

    Reply

    • Andrew Howard

      GD
      Boast? Our oldest family tenancy would have started in the early 1900s. When those farms were taken on the land was aleady cropped / improved grassland / drained etc etc. Houses built, steadings etc etc. Clearly much has been added since, often by us. So Hectors suggestion that landlords let scrub to tenants at the start of the tenancy – at least that’s what he seems to be saying – and is now in a different condition is just erroneous.
      So not a boast just a statement of fact on my part. And we’re no exception.

      Reply

      • Andrew, what became of the tenants who carried out all the work in the 1800,s?
        I would wager they were rent racked to bankruptcy on their own improvements and evicted without a backward glance.
        Huge areas of land were also broken in during the 1970,s are you saying nothing was done on moray estates at that time?

        Reply

        • Andrew Howard

          Hector
          Re the tenants of the 1800s I don’t know. But whatever the case the focus should be on the existing parties.
          As regards Moray Estates not in the 1970s. Hill draining in the post war era the last reclamation work a lot of which is being deliberately undone to improve water management and habitat. That draining, whilst improving pasture will have contributed to flooding episodes down stream. A good chunk of the post war work paid for by State.

          Reply

  21. Andrew

    Your assertion is very off the mark . I know of many tenant farmers who have vastly improved their farms by turning almost wilderness into good productive upland land . This is where a major breakdown happens when the likes of yourself claim at a rent review that the land has always been like that . But then you would say that , wouldn’t you ?.

    Reply

    • Andrew Howard

      GD
      I don’t claim anything. If it’s a tenants improvement it’s a tenants improvement and not rented. I try wherever they’re available to work to facts. That would be the starting point in reviewing a rent. If you can agree these first then the rest of the process is a good deal easier.

      Reply

  22. Question for “A Tenant”. Are you saying you are now being rented on the improvements carried out by your GGfather when he reclaimed the moor in the late 1800s?

    Reply

    • I am afraid yes as we have no doumentary proof and were issued with a new lease in the 1940s which set the area out as it is today. Any evidence the family may have had was lost in a house fire The only evidence are the old maps which I have recently obtained online dated in the late 1800s showing half the farm as scrub and moorland and word of mouth down the generations. Out of interest we have a valuation document from that period for an additional small piece of land which was added by the estate to us when nobody else wanted it (another farming slump,nothing new there !!!!! ) and the only cost to us was 7s/6d the valuation of the fences.This remained rent free for a number of years.

      Reply

  23. Andrew, if the state paid for the improvements post war, then the landlord wont be able to complain if the state takes the added rent?

    ARTB is merely returning ownership of improvements to those who made them or their successors. reversing a historical wrong ,as ireland did when all improvements were deemed to be the tenants property unless the landlord had a receipt.

    Reply

    • And will the tenant be paying the state the extra profit he made in exploiting the improvement? No, thought not. It was a public policy driven support for the industry as a whole to meet food production targets. That fact that individuals gained from that was still undoubtedly cheaper than the state buying land and doing the growing themselves.

      Reply

      • The tenant probably made no extra profit as the laird took it in rent, as they still do.
        A classic example is when a tenant installs a wind turbine entirely at his own expense, and the landlord demands 10% of the REVENUE , not profit, for absolutely zero investment.

        Reply

        • Andrew Howard

          Hector
          Sorry but thats not correct. The landlord can’t rent the improvement including the element from grant although in some cases the tenant would be compensated for it!
          As we have a stand alone turbine there’s room for 10% rent to be paid and still make a handsome return. And why should the site be free? If the tenant wanted to put it somewhere else they could either rent or buy a site elsewhere. The land is let, and rented as a farm. There are clear and sensible rules on diversification and how to address them.

          Reply

          • Who said the land was free? The tenant is paying rent for it and has a RIGHT to diversify.
            Taking 10% for zero investment or risk is no different from victorian rent racking improvement stealers, it is theft of TENANTS capital.
            That 10% could have gone into a fund to help buy the farm or other essential work. Instead it probably funds the school fees for Eton.

          • Andrew Howard

            Hector
            Yes he can diversify but the rent will be reviewed taking into account the activities on the farm. If the turbine is for use on the farm no extra rent. If it’s for selling electricity to the grid then the rent should reflect this change in use. There is a market for sites of that nature, irrespective of farm tenancies, and 10% would be at the low end of the rent the site owner would get.

  24. Slurry Stirrer

    clear rules yes, but as we have gone over and over again, the factor can squeeze in an allowance for diversification and improvements. This can be done verbally and no trail of illegality left. Now i know this is not allowed and the rules are clear but that is not what goes on in practice. I have been surveying tenants and the vast majority have experienced this underhand method of rent setting. Take the issue to land court? what issue? the factor will deny it.
    I have been rented on an increased level for ground my grandfather improved and ground i have improved. ‘Verbal reason’, unlocked the intrinsic value of the land. ‘Letter instructing registration to the land court’ no mention of improved land and no mention of diversification. This is the system. AH, please don’t tell me that i shouldn’t agree to any rent i find unreasonable, and please don’t offer me your help. Family farmers like me are now terrified of whether we will be in our homes and farms come the next rent review.

    Reply

    • Andrew Howard

      SS
      Are you suggesting that tenants have been rack rented out of their farms? I’d be interested to see the evidence of that. That would suggest rampant rental growth and as there’s absolutely no evidence of that in publicly available stats I’m curious at the suggestion. In the last stats I saw rental growth in Scotland was slower than it was in England and Wales where interestingly productive capacity of the holding has more weight.

      Reply

      • Andrew, I suppose where SS is coming from is that the rent review criteria is, in effect, “what would someone pay to be in your shoes?” which must be frightening if you can’t afford the shoes you’ve got on …

        Reply

        • Andrew Howard

          Neil
          Understood. But, and I know this will lead to a torrent of complaint, but the system is not supposed to keep those in place who for whatever reason can’t make it work but others could. Having said that I am yet to see any eveidence that rents on Scottish 1991 Act tenancies are in anyway unfair or unaffordable. i can understand concern that they may rise if Moonzie is applied inappropriately but I’ve seen no evidence that it is – even if it gets cited in initial rent discusisons by some agents in correctly. It should be said that some tenants propose initial rents that are far, far too low which doesn’t help the speed of negotiations either. BOTH sides have to be reasonable.

          Reply

          • The ones in place usually can make it work if they are left alone, but the stealing of improvements and charging rent on them undermines not just the business but the will of the farmer to continue to invest.
            Once the tenant loses confidence, a downward spiral then takes over .
            it doesnt take many visits from some of the idiots who masquerade as factors to destroy a tenants confidence in his future.
            But then that is the aim , isnt it?
            Bring on ARTB

  25. Question for hector (and any of the other tenants who’d like to comment).

    We know from the evidence which emerged in the Roxburgh Mains case that the Land Court fixed the open market rental value of Palace at £43,000 (before applying a deduction for scarcity). We also know that one of the offerors who bid £43k for Palace did so on the basis of offering as rent “something like 60%” of their budgeted pre-rent surplus. If we call that 60%, then that means that bidder was budgeting a post-rent surplus of around £28,500.

    So, when you (hector) said “if the Palace tenant wishes to work for nothing, that is his business, but his choices should not be inflicted on others.”, do you mean that £28.5k is “nothing” as an annual reward for running a farm like Palace or do you mean that his budget is hopelessly over optimistic and, despite his predictions, he will inevitably in practice end up with nothing (or hardly anything)?

    Reply

    • Slurry Stirrer

      Neil, this might kind of answer your question. a significant problem with the ‘open market’ rent setting is that an open rent is and will include bidders who have no intention of investing in meaningful fertility and drainage. So therefore they will throw this potential cash on top of the rent offer. They may then win the short tenancy and in they go for 1 to 10 years lets say. They farm the place and take advantage of previous investment in fertility until it runs out. The problem for me (91 act) is that i lime, fertilise (balanced and tailored, not just nitrogen) and maintain drains and grassland with the attitude that i need to protect the farms quality and potential and i need to put aside say £20k a year to do this. Now when i get market value rent forced upon me i just think ‘well to hell with keeping you farm in good order’ if you don’t have the decency to see what i have done to your property. Plain stupid to force open market onto family farm 91 act holdings. Unless you don’t give a jot about the land or the families on it.

      Reply

    • Speaking as one who was second in his year at college in farm economics, not being modest which is most unlike me.

      The experience I have is that in farming you can make budgets as often as you like but it is just a snapshot in time and the values you use can change dramatically in a matter of weeks. (This year grain prices on a downward trend since spring.)

      The next door farm was let on the open market just prior to 1996 and BSE to the highest bidder who had a lot of cattle. Within a year cattle values were down 40% and he had to leave a few years later as it took 11 years for cattle prices to recover.Add to the mix grain prices collapsing 40% in1997 as the result of cuurrency issues with the pound and the euro and you see what I mean by budgets not being a 100% foolproof.

      A local estate farm manager at the time was full of enthusiasm with his new computer on which to do budgets but I said to him that there were two buttons missing the weather button( eg..1985 wet late harvest) and the politician button(eg…currency pound/ euro 1997). He is no longer the estate farm manager.

      I agree with Slurry Stirrer that new high rent payers do not do any maintenance and the estates will eventually find that they have to drain, refence, lime etc.. these units themselves if they want to keep on letting them. Having said that a lot of pride seems to missing in estate management today.
      I think what I am saying is that budgets are fine, figures can be accurate on the day but they can be shot to pieces in six months time by circumstances outwith your control. This leads to if you like sensible tenants not getting into a bidding war as there is a need to keep a bigger margin for the budget to go wrong . 40 years of experience has taught me a large risk element has to be built in.( eg..currently climate change)

      For the tenants among us a current example of a positive weather budget wrecker. Local livestock unit has outbid everyone in the area for grass and got every acre they can after last summers dry weather.After the last six weeks of nearly tropical growth in this area they have filled every silage pit with no where left for the last 100 acres( making hay of this) or so or the second cut. Am I right in thinking free standing pits in fields will not be allowed for the second cut?

      Reply

      • Andrew Howard

        I completely concur that budgets are essentially a snapshot in time which is one of the reasons for not being too reliant on them in any rent review mechanism. Please note AHRG. A wider perspective is needed which is what a market place tends to give – that is many players all taking a view of circumstances which when looked at in the round results in a “consensus” in the area as to value.
        Where I differ is the assertion that those paying a fuller rent necessarily neglect their investment in the future good of the farm. Whilst I can see that argument if the rent is at the extreme – some of the very high bid rents for SLDTs or FBTs in the south – I see no evidence of that on the ground with 1991 Act lease rents which are all substantially lower than these rents. Some of the best tenant farmers I know are not paying the lowest rents. In fact they are often pay a fuller rent on the back of a successful business. The performance of the farm is down to the qualities of the farmer.
        Its also worth noting that many very high rents are on secondary units where marriage value gains keep fixed costs very low and produce a perfectly good return (including investment in fert etc) from that land. Such marriage value is of course factored out when used as a comparable where appropriate.

        Reply

        • Andrew consenus it may be but look at what happened when markets are operated by those on an ego and vanity trip eg the bankers that bought and sold debt with total disregard for the economics, risk to their firms, livelihoods and the rest of us who are now bailing them out

          Free markets are always subject to this and agriculture is no different with those who want more acres (greed not need just like the bankers) at any cost to satisfy their egso and vanity balanced by those prepared to accept the highest rent offered. Economics are totally ignored.
          Whats the point in farming 2000 acres with a seven million pound overdraft even if on paper you are solvent. I “ll answer that by saying that its not you in trouble but the bank when with falling commodity prices their debt cannot be serviced but oh I forgot they are still safe as we just have to sell a bit of land for development to tide us over. Something tenants and potential tenants would be well advised to remember when bidding against those with owned land.

          Your last sentence sets you apart from your land agent colleagues who wish to see these high rents the norm and puts you in the fair(concensus) category.

          Reply

    • Neil, Your analysis is spot on, the budget is over optimistic and he will be working for nearer £5,000 pa, or about £2 per hour.
      Since 2008 when the palace was let, we have had a very low price harvest in 09, and two of the worst harvests/growing seasons in living memory. Most arable businesses in scotland have recorded losses of £100 per acre or more in 11/12/13, meaning that palace man will have earned minus £50,000 twice at least. That is unsustainable for any tenant never mind a new entrant.
      The question is, why should a landlord be allowed to increase rent when he has done nothing to earn that increase? He is enjoying spectacular capital growth, yet wants all the cake to eat himself.
      Farming margins are way less than they were in 1984, yet estates demand 3 times the rent for doing nothing. This must be stopped.

      Reply

  26. Slurry Stirrer

    We have restricted this debate to rental values of tenanted ground, and what the market can sustain etc. Looking at it from a different angle, what is it that the Estates consider the main reasons for seeking rent rise or rent decrease? what is the rental used for? Why the need to drive 3 year rent increases?

    Reply

  27. I have just been reading up on the farm management handbook from the SAC , 1996/7
    The output price of the barley is very similiar, yet the per hectare costs of growing it is now the cost per ACRE, so costs have risen 2.5 times. eg 20;10;10 fert was £120/ton., now £300
    Contract charges have increased by the same factor,eg ploughing was £25/ha, yet now it is £25/ac
    Deisel is quoted at 14.77 pence per litre, yesterday it was 63p, which is a four fold increase.

    a 6 t/ha sp barley crop @£140 grossed £900 inc straw in 1996, less growing costs of £200 and contract charge of £200 left a margin of £500/ha to cover profit, rent, insurance etc

    Today, a 6t crop has the same output, but growing costs of £400/ha and contract charge of £300/ha
    leaving just £200/ha to cover profit/rent insurance etc.
    since roxburgh mains is now rented at £196/ha, that leaves £4/ha for the farmer, and he will be unable to afford insurance.
    250 ha will give him the princely income of £1,000/pa

    Reply

    • Hello Hector. Spot on just feel we are turning over lots of money every year but the profit is not growing at the same rate as the rent. Yes we are taking all the risks and not getting the reward.Barley to have kept pace with inflation in the last 30 years needs to be over £300/tonne ask an actuary. I particulary see this in a separate diversified buisness that we own as output price has kept pace with inflation. Rents have to be related to economic output or there will soon be no output. Economies of scale only work to a certain degree Even they cannot overcome severe output price falls. These unbiased college figures should be the basis of every rent review.

      Reply

  28. hector, SS and AT, thanks for all your comments. I hear what you’re all saying. The current rent review system is supposed to factor out “unsustainable” offers of rent and for that reason the LC ignored the bids for Palace above £100/ac. What you guys seem to be saying, though, is that a “sustainable” is WAY below that. I don’t nearly enough about farming to comment but I find it baffling that so many people were prepared to make unsustainable offers for Palace and why did John Elliot’s agents and lawyers not argue to the LC that £100/ac was way above the unsustainability threshold?

    AT, you said ” These unbiased college figures should be the basis of every rent review.” Would you care to elaborate more what you mean by that and how you see it working in practice?

    Reply

    • Using SAC whole farm data on a yearly basis which has a rental equivalent figure.
      I might argue for a slightly lower one for the landlord as he does not expose his capital to risk from the weather by growing crops and can in fact make a lot of capital just by holding land.
      At least when commodity prices fell rents would also fall unlike in 1996 with the BSE crisis and in 1997 with the currency collapse and grain price crash where rents only rose slowly but still upwards. At the time I went round all our suppliers including the banks getting them to quote for our buisness and got a reduction in the charges from nearly everyone, the best being swapping accountants and reducing the fee by 70%. Thats how we survived that period.

      Neil I think you still have not taken on board the ego and vanity trip some farmers are on.

      I was at an old college friends special birthday party about ten years ago on the arable east coast of Scotland where I got into conversation with a couple of large tattie growers with thousands of acres of both owned and rented ground.They tried to out do one another with tales of losses and profits from one year to the next running into millions of pounds . This then turned into a bragging match as to who had the biggest seven figure overdraft.

      The banks would never have let them gamble so much if they did not have the security of owned land.The priceless thing was that they even competed with one another on who had paid the highest rent for tattie ground that year . These rents then become the norm or comparables

      I know of one large tattie grower a few years ago whose main outlet bailed him out financially so that he was still in buisiness the following year so he could supply them with tatties.His combine was also immobilised by GPS when he failed to keep up the payments so all that glistens is not gold

      Other sectors of farming also have their own land at any cost producers

      The other point is that they have stopped making new land and as it is built on there is more intense competition for what is left.

      I am sure the lawyers and agents argued that the rent for Palace was unsustainable but with the farmers above behaviour high rents become the norm and comparables.

      Reply

  29. Neil, sustainability is not in the land courts dictionary.
    A neighbouring farmer who already has a living will bid up to the level that covers his costs, and “donate” the living off the new farm to the landlord. Fewer farmers = more rent.
    This process used to be limited by the machinery and management available, and taking “a farm too far” could bring the whole thing down.
    Today we have giant machinery and computers which ease management, so the sky is the limit, and in a small country like scotland, the social effects are profound.

    Reply

  30. SAC whole farm data should be the basis of rent reviews.

    Reply

  31. Slurry Stirrer

    i agree with AT, above. Farming has more than its fair share of show offs. Big tractors, five crops of silage to do, combining all over the parish. These farmers then feel really special when they arrive at the local mart with 600 fat lambs from their first draw, when the rest of us have about 30. Many of these guys will own the home farm and tenant the other holdings, and when they complete tenant surveys they are the ones who love the system and don’t think we need change. Skewing the data in favour of the Agri-Biz vulture just waiting to consume the next fallen family farm. The interpretation of this data can then be double skewed if you read SLAE’s interpretation of the tenant surveys.

    Reply

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