The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association issued the following media release today.

WITHOUT ACTION, FARM EVICTIONS WILL BECOME SCOTLAND’S SHAME

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed the focus given to land and tenancy reform at last week’s SNP conference and the clear signal from SNP grassroots support for strengthening the land reform proposals in the current bill.  The delegate’s call followed a powerful documentary on Channel 4 TV which highlighted what are seen as some of the worst areas of bad land and estate management in Scotland.

The conference also heard pleas to halt the impending eviction of tenant farmer Andrew Stoddart whose tenancy on Colstoun Mains in East Lothian is due to come to an end in a few short weeks.  Andrew Stoddart, who also spoke at a fringe event, is the first of the Salvesen Riddell tenants to be forced to quit their farms following the Remedial Order passed by the Scottish Parliament last year.

Commenting on the grassroots “rebellion” at the SNP conference, STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “STFA has been concerned that the government may have been wilting in the face of intense pressure from landed interests, intent on weakening what can only be seen as an already diluted bill.  We hope that this message from the conference will strengthen the government’s resolve to deliver more radical and much needed reforms to create fairer conditions for tenant farmers, stimulating investment on agriculture, greater access to land and encouraging opportunities for new entrants.”

STFA has also become appalled at the recent treatment of tenant farmers affected by the Salvesen Riddell Remedial Order, including Andrew Stoddart who faces imminent eviction without having had the opportunity to take part in the government’s mediation process or be considered for any recompense which should be due from the government following the implementation of the Remedial Order.

STFA Director, Angus McCall who has been involved in the Salvesen Riddell debacle for the last few years said: “This whole episode has become Scotland’s shame which has seen the victims of a legal error hung out to dry by uncaring government lawyers and an inflexible government process.

“This tragic episode stemmed from legislation passed in 2003 which was proved to be defective.  The UK Supreme Court then instructed the Scottish parliament to remedy the situation and, as a consequence, 8 families will lose their farms and livelihoods.  However, rather than seeking to fulfil commitments made by government to parliament and the industry,  government lawyers are abdicating all responsibility and liability and refusing point blank to consider any compensation package for the affected tenants.  These tenants are now faced with a lengthy and expensive court battle to exert their rights.

“STFA has already written, and is writing again to the First Minister, Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead, the RACCE committee and MSPs to get the matter resolved and allow these tenants and their families to move their lives on, but all to no avail.  Ministers, MSPs and some officials have expressed a willingness to help, but seem to be held to ransom by lawyers.

“We all appreciate that this is a complex situation, but the rulers of this country must accept a moral responsibility for the damage done though the actions of a previous government to these families and move without further delay to find a way towards an equitable settlement rather than forcing them into a long drawn out, expensive and life sapping legal battle.  This has been devastating for all concerned and, after 18 months of prevarication, the tenants’ lives are still on hold and they are no further on in knowing their future.

“This affair has been a well-kept secret, but it must be time for the Scottish people to wake up and realise what is going on and allow common decency and a sense of fair play to prevail and put an end to this sorry affair before any lives are tragically lost as has happened in the past?”

185 Comments

  1. Mary Rose Liverani

    i think it would help if you could spell out where the injustice lies, in legal as well as moral/economic terms. That would help a lot. Otherwise it’s a bit like ‘fools walk in …

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  2. Kenneth Urquhart

    a. I agree with Mary Rose Liverani; a link to relevant sites would be sufficient. A google search on Salveson Riddell is unhelpful.
    b. Are there any links to organizations that are taking effective action rather than moaning about lawyers? I’m not sufficiently aware of who is doing what in this area. What do we DO as most effective actions to allow common decency and a sense of fair play to prevail? It sounds as though the situation calls for effective [metaphorical] blows against entrenched enemies of common sense and fair play — enemies the government will not tackle.

    c. It might be important to somebody that the following passage, copied and pasted from the second-last para of the release above, contains a typo that makes the passage ridiculous:

    “the rulers of this country must accept a moral responsibility for the damage done though the actions of a previous government to these families and move without further delay to find a way towards an inequitable settlement rather than forcing them into a long drawn out, expensive and life sapping legal battle.”

    Just in case it’s needed:

    inequitable
    ɪnˈɛkwɪtəb(ə)l/
    adjective
    unfair; unjust.
    “the present taxes are inequitable”
    synonyms: unfair, unjust, discriminatory, preferential, one-sided, unequal, uneven, unbalanced, loaded, weighted, slanted, non-objective, biased, partisan, partial, prejudiced

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  3. It looks to me without understanding all the legal nuances so riddled with injustice it’s hard to see where to begin. What did he do wrong to be getting kicked off a farm he’s worked for over 20 years and might have planned to pass on to his kids ? After he’s invested thousands of pounds in this farm, how can it be that the landlord owes him no compensation, and any compensation he could be owed should come from the government, i.e. us ? Who are these people who can do this and expect to profit by if ? Why is our progressive government of the people not roasting them over a slow fire ? Who seriously thinks for one second Scottish freedom is on the table while this sort of thing goes on ? For a start …

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  4. This from the STFA web site….. Why was this allowed to reach critical point and what can we do?

    25th November 2013

    SALVESEN-RIDDELL LEGAL FIX MUST NOT CREATE MORE CASUALTIES

    The Salvesen Riddell debacle moved into a new phase last week following the Scottish Government’s announcement on how it intends to remedy S72 of the 2003 Act which sought to give additional protection to tenants in Limited Partnerships. In April of this year, the UK Supreme Court, in ruling on the Salvesen Riddell case, decided that this provision contravened ECHR and was outside the competence of the Scottish Parliament.

    The court’s judgement gave the Scottish Government 12 months to make good the defect and ensure the relevant section of the Act is compliant with ECHR. The Government now proposes to change the legislation so that landlords who served notices to quit on limited partnership tenants in 2002-3 are now able to recover vacant possession of these farms.

    Commenting on the government’s proposals STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “This long running saga has haunted the tenanted sector for the last decade. It has turned out that, in trying to prevent limited partnership tenants from losing their farms, the Scottish Government of the day created a piece of legislation that has achieved the opposite. Tenants in limited partnership tenancies are now in a more vulnerable position than ever.

    “This legal ‘fix’ will remedy the deficiency in the legislation but it can only be bad news for those affected, some of whom may now face the prospect of eviction from their farms despite having acted within the law and in good faith to protect their businesses and their livelihoods. There are half a dozen or so tenants embroiled in long-running expensive and stressful legal battles in the courts attempting to save their tenancies and some of those who have been granted full security of tenure who now face losing their farms.

    “STFA believes that tenants who are at the moment in possession of secure tenancies must be allowed to continue farming, particularly if they have invested in their businesses, anticipating continuing security of tenure. At least two of these tenants have sons who have returned home to carry on the farming businesses and these young farmers now face a bleak future. If evictions follow the government’s actions these tenants must receive adequate compensation to allow them to rebuild their lives and farming careers.

    “Similarly the tenants who have been undergoing legal battles to retain their farms must be compensated not only for the legal expenses they will have incurred but also for the time and stress tenants and their families have suffered, and for the loss of their expected livelihoods. Furthermore, these tenants must be allowed sufficient time to rearrange their lives. Many of them find it ironic that they now face losing their homes and businesses as a result of ECHR legislation designed to protect basic human rights.

    “STFA will be lobbying government for a fair deal and a future for the victims of a previous government’s mistakes. Politicians must not shirk their responsibilities and ensure there are no more casualties of this political mess.”

    Notes for editors:

    The order identifies 3 distinct groups of tenants and landlords for which solutions are required to bring them into an ECHR compliant position.

    The groups are:

    1. Those where the landlord served on the tenant a dissolution notice under section 72(3) for a date in the future. The tenant has the option, within 28 days, of the purported termination, to serve a notice claiming the tenancy in their own right under section 72(6). The date at which the tenant can serve the claim notice is still to arrive (group 1).

    2. Those where the tenant is in receipt of a full 1991 tenancy as a result of the landlord either electing not to apply for Land Court for an order under section 72(8) or withdrawing from the Land Court process (group 2).

    3. Those where the tenant’s claim to a full tenancy was challenged by the landlord under section 72(7) and the cases were sisted pending the outcome of the above Case (group 3).

    The Order proposes that:

    1. For group 1 the order provides for the section 73 process. (Continuation of the tenancy for up to 3 years.

    2. For group 2 the order provides that the landlord has an option (though not an obligation) of converting these tenancies into the section 73 process. The opportunity for conversion is provided during a 12 month period which starts on the 28 Nov 2014. The delay for the start of the conversion period allows for a “cooling off” period during which the Scottish Government is offering to assist with mediation if required.

    3. For group 3 the order provides that if the case is removed from the Land Court, it is processed through section 73. If it remains at the Court the order provides more discretion to take account of the circumstances and for the Court to make a decision as to when it would be reasonable for landlords to recover vacant possession.

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  5. An incredibly complex subject leading back to a legislative mess in 2003 when Scottish government attempted to give legal protection to tenant farmers on a particular type of short term lease called a Limited Partnership lease.

    To put it as simply as possible, the UK Supreme Court held this measure to be outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament and directed the Scottish Parliament to remedy it which it did last year, through the Remedial Order. Andrew Stoddart is the first of the handful of tenant farmers to be affected by this mess and is due to quit his farm at the end of November. Unless some agreement can be brokered, the rest are faced with losing their farms over the last couple of years.

    As well as being very complex, this has been very sensitive and low profile – hence the long silence. The Government promised to roll out a mediation process to try and broker a settlement and to consider compensation for injured parties where appropriate.

    A clear steer was given that tenants would not be expected to pursue claims through litigation. Attempts to negotiate or mediate a settlement with the Scottish Government are getting nowhere and it is becoming clear that government lawyers are in the driving seat, and having prevaricated since May 2014 have recently made it plain that they will not let government to accept any liability for an error in legislation made by the Scottish Parliament in 2003.

    The injustice in this whole affair is that the affected tenant farmers are having to suffer for taking action to protect themselves, according to the law at the time and following legal advice. Remember that at the time it was thought that in excess of 200 tenants were served early notices to quit their farms. It doesn’t seem right to me that the burden for correcting parliamentary mistakes of the past, are laid on the shoulders of those who stand to lose most. The landlords concerned may have been inconvenienced, but they will get the farms back at the end of the day whereas the tenants end up with nothing.

    The above is a sketchy explanation, more information can be made available to any insomniacs!

    Reply

    • “This has been very sensitive and low profile – hence the long silence”.

      So the STFA have kept this information quiet from their membership? Care to elaborate?

      Your last sentence is crass in the extreme, many tenants suffer sleepless nights due to various factors.

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      • STFA has been trying to find a solution for limited partnership tenants long before this all started on the Night of the Long Knives in 2003 and has been keeping its membership regularly informed on the Salvesen Riddell case through its newsletter.
        For background google “Night of the long knives and tenant farmers”

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        • STFA, ok fair enough, the limited partnership situation has been difficult. Would the STFA now be able to come out and put weight behind a case for these tenants to be converted to 91 acts, then push all the way for ARTB? We know things are obviously still sensitive, but certainly not low profile.
          If the STFA want to gauge the strength of feeling amongst tenant farmers on the big Estates and what they want from Land Reform, they need only go to grass root SNP members.

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          • Ironically, if in 2003 ross finnie had acted to convert all LP tenancies to full 91 act, human rights law could not have touched them. Its only because he selected out only those who got notices to quit that landlords human rights were infringed. Stupid i know, but thats the law.
            Limited partnerships have borne the brunt of the wrath of landlords since 2001 when land reform first was talked about, with hundreds of tenants losing their farms.Land reform which leaves these tenants in the same position is not worth its name.

  6. I hope the STFA can help any tenants facing evection, time will tell if it is too late. If only the organisation had fought harder for Tenants right to buy, then family farms would possibly not be in the dire state they are in now. For example, the STFA polled their members for their thoughts on ARTB, where are the results? There is only one way to ensure the rights of tenant farmers are protected, and that is to have the ‘Right to Buy’. Why have the STFA not mentioned this in their press release? Simple… because the association do not want Tenants Right to Buy. They are there to keep the tenant/ landlord system going. Please don’t get me wrong, the STFA will help regarding tenancy issues, but they come with a massive warning= ‘STFA, Radical Land Reform Not to Be Found Here’

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  7. Single farm tenants whose home and livelihood are based on their single farm should have the right to buy that farm and develop it as they see fit. Thousands live in sub standard houses, often seriously unfit with poor services and lack of investment by land owner.
    The STFA ducked this whole issue and I suggest they did so for the following reasons.
    Due to the above mentioned miserable conditions in which many farming families find themselves, their farms most often become vacated thereby presenting opportunities for others who wish to expand from their own often owner occupied units, or indeed other tenanted farms. Such developments are welcome by landowners as they no longer have the burden of a secure tenant in their farm and can make short term leases or contract farming agreements with those farming from the security of an owner occupied or well established tenanted base. Or indeed, the landowner might farm the unit themself alongside the others vacated over time.
    Fiscal measures are long overdue. Land taxation applied to those farming more than one farm and complete abolition of financial support, EU, UK gov, Scot gov, or any other public resource should be ceased on all land farmed beyond the home base unit. This is not only in fairness to the farming community but to the entire taxpaying public, who, but for ignorance of it, I suggest would be aghast at the direction and consequencies of vast majority of farm support.
    There is little to chose between any of the efforts of STFA/ SLE/ NFUS to better the prospects for the single farm tenant and we look finally to government to do something about it.

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    • I agree with this. I am in such a positionm, with an owned farm but renting a nearby holding. The main difference is that, because I am not depending on the rented part for my future livelihood but merely to enhance the profitability and viability of my business (hopefully!:)) there is a mucn more equal relationship between tenant (us) and the landlord. This situation should be treated differently. To be honest, the complexities of the subsidy system in a situation like this are such that I would welcome the change you suggest.

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  8. Lawyers.

    As was said last Friday in St Marks Church, Aberdeen : ”The poor still don’t have them !”.

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  9. Can people comprehend the human aspect of an eviction?
    The feelings of worthlessness, the uncertainty of where to go, the reality of more than twenty years of work put into the land discarded, the feelings of insecurity for children uprooted from the only home they know, having to begin a new school, the financial cost of finding somewhere new, the mental anguish. It is hellish.

    This could be taken straight out of a book written about the Clearances yet unbelievably, farm evictions are still happening in ‘modern’ Scotland. Why are we all so powerless to prevent them from happening?

    If the Scottish Government are able to supply new entrants with a farm, could they supply Andrew Stoddart, an experienced farmer, with a farm plus compensation to help him?

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  10. The only way to put a stop to these situations is for every tenant farmer to have the right to buy their home , buildings and 100 acres. Most have built the buildings anyway, and probably half the house at least.

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  11. Yes and I am in great sympathy with these tenants as described. Unfortunately it sometimes works the other way! I am a landowner, our tenant claimed the land (no house or buildings) by grazing stock of over 365 days. The old couple who had been tenants and then owners of the small farm, died broken hearted, they lost everything and had to live on a state pension and a very small rent. This was legal, yet immoral. 1991 tenancies are out of date and are not relevant in these circumstances. Tenant has had the offer to buy but declined!

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  12. Does anybody know who are the actual beneficiaries of the Colstoun Trust ,the owners of Colstoun Mains ?

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  13. Kenneth Urquhart

    May I point out that two or three people have posted comments on this page asking What can we do? Who profits by the current practice? Who is going to hold the Scottish Government’s feet to the fire so they hold to the fire the feet of those misbehaving so anti-socially? I haven’t seen any answers so far; there’s been pointing of fingers and calls for calls on government — as though government already obstinately fixated on failure is suddenly going to change or as though lawyers making lots of work for themselves are going to voluntarily get into gear.

    Well? Are there answers available through this page? If not, who is organizing effective action — ‘effective’ as in ‘bringing about desired and measurable changes in the real world’? Who is eager to avoid being part of Scotland’s shame and willing to figure out how to put the required pressure on those responsible for the shame?

    Is the shame not already upon us?

    Have found: http://www.scottishlandactionmovement.org/ and http://allofusfirst.bigcartel.com/product/a-book-of-ideas

    Will explore them. First glances show not much of what I’d call activism. Are we all supposed to be in apathy?

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  14. After reading up on this, is it the case that Andy Stoddarts situation has come about because he was given some kind of legal basis for his tenancy by the Scottish Gov which then turns out to be not water tight at all?

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    • In a word, yes.

      A bit like EVEL, the fallout from Salvesen/Riddell and limited partnership (LP) tenancies and how Andrew Stoddart in particular has been caught up in it is much more nuanced than media stories would have you believe and it’s a bloody complicated subject to understand properly.

      However, I think a fairish summary would be to say that Mr Stoddart signed an LP lease in 1995 for 15 years so he knew he could be asked to leave in 2010 in accordance with the agreement. The Ag Holdings Act 2003 intervened in that timetable. This Act did *NOT* legislate to give all LPs security of tenure which noble aim was thwarted by rich landowners appealing to human rights (hector was spot on above to say that, if it had, there could have been no viable HR challenge to it.) Rather, it was botched legislation by Ministers making up policy as they went along on a subject they didn’t properly understand which led to some but not all LPs being given security. Without going in to all the gory legal detail, it was the arbitrary (accidental) nature of which LPs became secure and which didn’t that made it vulnerable to a human rights challenge. As it happened it was a landlord (Salvesen) who went to court first but it’s not too far fetched to imagine an LP tenant who didn’t get made secure going to court saying “Hey, how come I missed out?”

      The other unfortunate chance aspect of this is the time that passed before anyone happened to bring it to court to resolve – 5 years between the 2003 Act and the Peaston LP terminating (2008) to trigger the Salvesen/Riddell case. The legal wheels grind slowly at the best of times but were prolonged by the Scottish Government pursuing an unsuccessful appeal to the Supreme Court (2013) and then the year it took to respond to the SC decision.

      Andrew Stoddart happened to be one of the LPs arbitrarily secured by the 2003 Act. The planned date of termination of his lease (2010) happened to fall in the middle of the at the time unresolved legal fall out from the Act so it was delayed by 5 years.

      If anyone believes I’m wrong in any of my facts or assumptions here, I’m happy to be corrected.

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  15. Statement from the Colstoun Trust

    http://www.scottishlandandestates.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4666:the-following-statement-has-been-given-to-scottish-land-a-estates-by-the-trustees-of-the-colstoun-trust-to-provide-clarification-of-the-factual-position-surrounding-colstoun-mains-farm&catid=71:national&Itemid=107

    Rather supports your interpretation Neil. The circumstances are very unfortunate but are of the Government’s making and perhaps they should be rather more generous in ameliorating the loss suffered by those caught up in this.

    Press coverage and some commentary on this issue has been woefully ill-informed. Some perhaps because the details take some rooting out. In other cases because it’s being used as a political tool to ramp up pressure on the Land Reform Bill. Hardly a way to make good policy. It’s how the whole Salveson Riddle mess got created in the first place.

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  16. Landlord greed is to blame for the whole situation, not the government, whose aims were laudable.

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    • Hector
      I have a funny feeling you’ll be no fan of fixed term lets but setting that aside it seemed rather odd that in the 2003 Act the government was creating fixed term tenancy arrangements whilst at the same time taking an ill-informed swipe at ….. fixed term agreements!

      They effectively recognised the need for fixed term agreements and understood that secure tenancies were not being offered, nor would they be in the future. It’s worth saying that if we have to go through this every time a fixed term tenancy comes to an end – when the tenant may not wish it to – then owners won’t offer them either for fear of the political kickabout at the end. That may well suit your objectives but it won’t help those wishing to get going or those wishing to adjust their business to react to the market.

      I should add that before the 2003 mauling LPs were routinely renewed so tenants having to leave when they didn’t wish to would not be the norm but it will happen occasionally. It’s obviously difficult for the people involved but no less so than the bank pulling the plug for instance.

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      • Let’s not re-write history.

        “We should make no mistake. Limited partnerships were devised as a way round the secure provisions of the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1991. They were a dodge – albeit a legal dodge – to ensure that vacant possession could be regained at some point in the future. We should be clear that they were entered into voluntarily by a willing lessee and a willing lessor.”
        Alex Fergusson, Conservative MSP, 12 March 2003.

        “It is clear that one of the key objectives of the bill is to give added protection to tenants in a limited partnership. it is also clear that, over the past few months, landlords have been taking action to defy tenants the protection that is offered in the bill. I am afraid that, by their actions, landlords have given the game away. They have destroyed their argument that partnership tenancies were aa legitimate business arrangement and were entered into by willing partners. We need to be clear about the subject: partnership tenancies are nothing more than a ride device that were invented by landlords and their factors to deny tenants their rights under the 1991 act……..Alex Fergusson said that tenants entered into partnership tenancies willingly, but that is not the case. No other option was available – if tenants wanted extra land, partnership agreements were the only game in town.”
        George Lyon MSP, 12 March 2003.

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        • Alan
          I’m not trying to. LPs were a circumvention of the security of tenure provisions and they came to be used because those provisions were so unattractive to owners offering, as they do, no certainty as to when the lease will end. In creating LDTs and SLDTs the 2003 Act appeared to recognise the day of the secure tenancy for a new let were long gone.
          I agree, to a point, with George Lyon that to an extent the tenant had no choice to enter an LP. It is correct that he did not have the choice of secure tenancy as it was not on offer. There was the choice of not taking it at all, even if not very tempting to many.
          Many of those LPs created in the 70s-90s have been the spring board for new and expanding farm businesses and have been renewed, sometimes more than once. It was a pity that the misguided actions of the government in 2003 brought them to an uncertain and messy conclusion. Without that action, and the rhetoric that went with it many of them may have continued with more certainty or ended up in LDTs

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          • I misunderstood you then. You seemed to be drawing an equivalence between LPs on the one hand and LDTs and SLDTs on the other but referring to them both as “fixed term agreements” when, in fact, the former was a 1991 lease in which the tenant (the LP) could be dissolved. It was, as Alex Fergusson pointed out, a dodge and a perversion of the 1991 framework.

          • You didn’t misunderstand. I was drawing an equivalence. I recognise the structure was different – LDTs being specifically designed to be fixed term where as LPs were a way to acheive it – the effect was basically the same. An agreement with a known end point.
            I appreciate that many are sorry at the loss of the secure tenancy – as a new let in any case – but the law has to try and create a framework which will be used and reflects the desires of both parties. The difficult bit being the balance I accept. There would have been little point persisting without fixed term agreements in 2003 if 2 decades of evidence was that owners would not use them.
            We’re at risk of this now. Owners are so fed up of the politicking around Ag Holdings that where they can they use vehicles outwith the scope of the legislation.

      • The “swipe” was a reaction to the outragous behaviour of landlords the day before the land reform act was to be passed.
        They should have gone much further, with ARTB for all tenants , lp or 91 act and we wouldnt be sat here now. We could instead concentrate on farming in a landlord free zone.

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        • Hector
          As it happens I would have nothing to do with the early serving of notices to end LPs but it’s often forgotten that those notices didn’t end the LP any earlier than the LP agreement intended. The notice was served earlier than would have been anticipated but the LP agreements would have run their original course.
          If I recall in the S-R judgement the government was critisised for creating the belief that some sort of action was pending which may have encouraged owners and advisors to the view they had to do something or risk detriment to their position. I’m not going to start looking that sort of detail up now but the judgement rightly pours scorn on the actions and lack of understanding of parliamentarians in framing that Act.

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  17. No, LP tenancies were designed to run on tacit relocation with an initial period of stability to fool the tenant into investing in the property.

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    • If that were true hector, it doesn’t credit LP tenants with much intelligence that they were so easily fooled!

      That said, I agree there is (was? how many LPs are left now?) an issue with LPs drifting after their initial terms had expired. The Scot Exec recognised the syndrome in 2003 by trying to deter it in future by making LDTs subject to the 3-3-15 year cycle of continuation. Why they didn’t do the same for LPs is indicative of the inconsistency and muddled thinking that was going on that made the Act vulnerable to ECHR challenge.

      I can see the present bill going the same way. Especially after the fright leadership got at the conference, I can just see them lodging amendments on the morning of the debate in an effort to tart it up a bit and it’ll end up a total dog’s breakfast leading to another ECHR challenge and so history will repeat itself again …

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  18. Hi Neil Many potential tenants driven by the lack of land being let were of the opinion that once they got their foot in the door the tenancy would carry on indefinitely without basing their thinking on I will not be here forever and it is too short a time to establish myself and any improvements I do must give an immediate return or be moveable and taken with me when I leave.

    This flies in the face of farming which is a long term buisness( a lifetime or more) a bit like planting trees for the next generation. This long period of time is needed to ride out economic depressions (like the current one ) and to benefit /accrue capital from the better times. They do not have the benefit of capital appreciation of the land to see them through the poor return periods.
    So you could say their hearts ruled their heads in the persuit of any tenancy . So yes clear hard buisness thinking was absent.

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    • For many people that strategy worked. Also worth noting that tenants come in many guises with a good many adding farms to existing businesses so the dynamics will be somewhat different from a standalone farm.
      That said you are correct that short-termism is a major issue that the industry needs to resolve. It’s the major issue in E & W as well hence the TFA’s FBT10 campaign. However how to resolve this and encourage longer term letting just isn’t happening. Instead we have the usual polarised knockabout with ARTB or ending the let sector put forward by many as the answer.
      Moray Estates also has a small number of commercial properties. We have leases of up to 100 years on these leases. Why confidence to this with commercial property but a clear industry reluctance with farm properties – although our longest LDT is for 35yrs? I think two issues are important. Firstly a history of political intervention in the sector is reaping an unhelpful harvest in making owners wary of issuing leases longer than they think they can see politically. Blood curdling rhetoric doesn’t help in this regard. Secondly many owners also farm and aided by tax benefits may be more inclined to keep their options open over the longer term. The CAP has made farming in hand a better bet vis a vis letting than it used to be and that is probably impacting on decision making.
      These things are resolvable but at present the let sector faces quite major headwinds. Some (tax) are beyond the SG but others are not but instead of working out how to resolve they seem more inclined to political posturing.

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    • if hard headed business thinking was used, no tenant would bother to farm.
      its just legalised robbery.

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    • Thanks, AT, for your interesting insight.

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  19. A tenant is correct, except that ever since the ancient occupiers of the land were cleared, no one has had the right to occupy land except under a lease.
    This has resulted in a klondyke for lairds as tenants capital is relentlessly tranferred to their pockets.
    The land is never farmed to its potential as the time available is not enough to recoup the investment, and when it has been improved, it only leads to a higher rent.
    The 1947 act broke this cycle, leading to many tenants becoming owners, but since 1980 the push back to victorian conditions has been relentless by SLE NFU etc.

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  20. A possible solution to tenancy issues, would be to have all letting arrangements based around freedom of contract between residing farmers and recently retired/retiring farmers. We are trying to find a solution to allow people to farm, make a living and nurture the soil, while protecting Landowners assets. This will not work, hence the reason we have the STFA. The solution is smaller farming units, many more being owner occupied, a tax on land to bring the price right down and restructuring of the subsidy system, to front loaded payments.
    A tenanted system can still exist, but it will not be orchestrated by SLAE & STFA it will be between people of the land, and that way, all rents paid will remain in agriculture.
    The SLAE point of view or Land owning class, are arguing for a tenanted system to be based around giving confidence to LandLords to let land. I find that quite threatening and selfish. We can’t move forward tackling rural depopulation, with our average farmer getting older with poorer mental health, and try to find the answer by allowing large Estates to continue removing money and hope, from this fragile way of life.

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  21. SS “..tenanted system can still exist….between people of the land”.I have had to do mostly 364 day leases for years which are “between people of the land”.The 364 day lease is way below the security of 5/10 year tenancies but is all there is and will never really let people farm properly.So not really a great step forward.

    Reply

    • If I understand your point it’s that farmers (if that’s what SS means by of the land) are not predisposed to be long term landlords. If that’s a correct interpretation I think you are probably correct. The most likely long term landlord is one who has no short or medium term aspiration to farm the land themselves. Not being a farmer perhaps makes them ideally suited to be a landlord for the long term.

      Reply

      • renting of land would suit everyone better if it was seen as a short term measure. Imagine a future where the possibility of ownership was much more achievable. I have come to realise that striving for a long term tenancy system is not going to work with so much land being held by so few. This is where we have all become distracted, hence the STFA. Forget about long term tenancies, short term is the answer. Lets create more small affordable farms to buy, that is a future for our youngsters.

        Reply

    • There are so many drawbacks to the 364 system and given that that is all there is on offer to many, it really is an example of waiting for the crumbs off the table.
      Nobody on a 364 contract is willing or often able financially to replace fences, fertilise the ground, etc and the soil invariably suffers. The recipient of the subsidy can be questionable, am I correct in thinking that the subsidy goes to the landowner rather than the person renting the land?

      I agree wholeheartedly with slurrystirrer where he or she suggests that we look to the smaller family farm and in particular, look to the Norwegian example which works extremely well for the farming families and the community. Free from evictions too, I assume?

      Reply

      • Norway achieves this with the highest agricultural subsidies (bar perhaps Japan) in the world and even then they’re losing farmers becuase they can’t make it work. Last time I was there ( afew years ago) and spent a day with a farmer in the western fjords area he explained the large number of clearly under-farmed units. Even with their subsidies the average herd size of 20 cows (which may have changed since) couldn’t work.
        Farms were left under farmed rather than let becuase of the restrictions on doing so. Again this may have changed but it was clear then it was a system trying to resist change and not altogether acheiving it.
        Was in Bavaria recently for the first time in a few years. Annecdotally I noted a drop in apparent activity on the many small farms in that region since previous visit. Didn’t speak to any farmers but perhaps economics hitting them as well??

        Reply

  22. T. Fraser. the key to all of this is to drastically reduce the price of land. To make small starter farms affordable. You are quite rightly complaining about a tenanted system which is suffering from a severe lack of alternatives. You said it yourself “but is all there is”. Freedom of contract is certainly no way forward until the pattern of land ownership is radically altered.
    We must have vision to create a future where it is not attractive to hoard land, the sooner we drop the NFU mentality of big is best, and start our farming lives at a much smaller scale the better. What a pathetic country we have, where saving up for a few years to get a deposit on a small farm is totally unrealistic.

    Reply

    • SS
      The only way you can realistically ensure small farms is to limit the size of holding one person / entity can hold. Reducing the price of land isn’t going to stop the march of economics which creates to incentives (for some) to larger scale.
      70% of farms are already controlled by owner occupiers and I don’t see them entering this bold new world you propose. They may let a bit of land but it will be short term and certainly not a base on which to build a long term enterprise – see Ireland as an example. They’ve introduced tax incentives there to try and encourage letting. And last time I looked land was not exactly cheap in Ireland

      Reply

  23. Small farms can be perpetuated by ARTB and planning restrictions on the sale of agricultural dwellings to commuters or holiday letting.
    Rent must be curtailed on holdings which are not bought.
    Norway is the polar opposite to scotland, with landlowners to the square mile, not square miles to the landowner. ARTB would steer a middle path, call it the mid north sea solution.

    Reply

    • Hector
      Firstly have a look at the scale of the largest private landowners in Norway. Largest is bigger than anyone in Scotland and plenty of other large holdings on the list.
      Secondly if you had ARTB what’s to stop re-sale and amalgamation? Owner occupation hasn’t stopped farm size increase in areas where it predominates and because of the higher cost of purchase it’s an arms race for those with larger wallets. The idea that a completely owner occupation model will be good for new and aspiring farmers is a fantasy.

      Reply

      • AH, are you deliberately missing the point? it is not as simple as either; Tenanted from a LandLord or ;owner occupied. There is a future for letting land and it can be to a tenant from an owner occupier who isn’t working all of their unit. We do not need absentee lairds, we must now implement changes to encourage these families to sell off farms on their vast Estates. They are simply syphoning off too much money from Agriculture. The system we currently have is leading to rural depopulation, why would we want to keep going with that? Scotland’s future food production will be centred around quality and efficiency, and that is best left to the family farms.

        Reply

        • SS
          I do appreciate your point I just disagree that it would work in practice. I’m not saying that the have a let sector your need absentee lairds in the way you’re presenting it, rather that if you want a sector that produces long term lets suitable for the establishment of a business then it is more likely where the farm owner does not have aspirations to farm it themselves in the short to medium term.
          I think it’s rather unfair to suggest that landownership structure is itself responsible for rural depopulation and loss of money from agriculture. Other factors such as remoteness, communications, societal expectations surrounding employment / lifestyle etc will have a major impact.

          Reply

  24. A H

    If you were Andrew Stoddart , what would you do ?.

    Reply

    • Good question. Clearly I can’t answer that specifically based on Mr Stoddarts circumstances as I don’t know the details. If we assume I was faced with the end of a fixed term agreement then in the absence of being able to strike a deal to continue I would want any sums properly due and I’d have to move on. Not suggesting it would be easy or particularly palatable but I’d accept that it would be part and parcel of the agreement I had.

      Reply

  25. Andrew Howard. in reply to your argument above, regarding Ireland, holding amalgamation etc. Subsidy regulation and front loading. Also a land commission, will regulate.
    It isn’t helpful to look at my proposals for smaller land holdings without applying the regulations to stop the greedy. As for your march to large scale, well of course we can’t stop the pressure of economics but we can tax it, as it advances.

    Reply

  26. Andrew Howard

    I think you know more of the circumstances than what you are letting on .
    “Moving on “.
    Where does Andrew Stoddart move on to ?.
    Where , if you were Andrew Stoddart , would you go to ?.

    Reply

    • GD
      I know no more than has been set out in the media and is in the statement above from the Colstoun Trust. I am familair with the ins and outs of the Salveson Riddle saga although non of our LPs (now all LDTs) were affected by it.
      As to where he should go I don’t have a specific answer to that. It is a pity that our let sector has been guided down a legislative route which is reducing opportunity rather than increasing it. Had we not damaged confidence in it so much he may have had more potential options.
      I’ll repeat a point I’ve made before. Sorry as I am for Mr Stoddart’s personal circumstances if we have a political and public bruhaha everytime a limited term agreement ends (when the tenant did not wish it) then we won’t even get limited term agreements offered. The industry has indicated it wants them so it has to accept that in a small number of cases agreements will not be renewed where the tenant may have wished it.

      Reply

  27. Andrew Howard

    So really what we have is a game of musical chairs where the landowner’s play the music and stop playing when it suits them . No chair . YOU ARE OUT !!!

    Reply

    • GD
      No, not really. Most agreements would probably be renewed so the kind of situation Mr Stoddart faces would not be the norm but it would be unrealistic to suggest it wouldn’t happen. It’s also worth bearing in mind that a lot of new leases won’t be the sole holding of the tenant so the loss of it, should it come to it, may not be as problematic.
      And remember the agreement can only stop at the known term date – not as you suggest when the owner pleases. The point of renewal or otherwise is known to everyone at the outset and good practice would have the parties discuss the future well in advance of the term date.

      Reply

  28. Andrew Howard

    If you claim that most agreements can be renewed , why can Andrew Stoddart not continue in his farm . Or is this another viable single tenanted farm going to be gobbled up by a Mr Big wanting to get Bigger next door . One less chair and the landlords are still in charge of the music !.
    This sort of action seems to satisfy your dream ?.

    Reply

    • GD
      I don’t know what the owner wishes to do something else with the farm but it was their right to make that decision under the agreement they had with Mr Stoddart. I appreciate you don’t like the idea of fixed term agreements but without them there was no supply of land to let – and there wouldn’t be post ARTB or whoever owned the land. This is not an issue that will go away. Property owners, large and small, do not wish to enter agreements where they have no certainty over the ned of the term of the agreement. No other sector works on that basis and it’s unrealistic to expect farming to.

      Reply

  29. The “industry” does not want fixed term agreements, its the landed class that wants them. that now includes owner occupiers who bought thanks to1947 land reform act
    Farmers want long term security , not a ten yr run round the table and a kick at the cat.
    Control must be removed from the large estates by ARTB.

    A fixed term agreement does not say “and will continue therafter from year to year”
    The SLE statement on the situation is a fabrication of half truths and downright lies .
    mr stoddarts eviction notice was secured in the land court by order,, not by “agreement”
    The factor has refused to compensate for the new steading as it was “built by a different tenant”

    Reply

    • Hector
      See above. In your post ARTB utopia I think you’ll find farmers letting to farmers will only do it on fixed term agreements. We need some realism on this point.
      The Colstoun Trust Statement appears to imply that compensation was offered.

      Reply

  30. Andrew Howard – Your utter lack of humanity is chilling.

    Whilst your posts are very obviously geared towards the business side of tenancy, please remember that the issue here is the eviction of real people who are facing losing their home in 2015 Scotland.
    It is not always all about money.

    Reply

    • I appreciate that but you cannot design a let sector that actually works, and which encourages the owner of the land to make it available, if you design it based on emotion. You may see that as being lacking humanity (which is unfair) I see it as actually trying to get to a system which works. That requires careful analysis and thought about the motives of both parties, in what way they are likely to act and what regulation is required to minimise friction / resolve disputes. With respect there’s far too much emotion dominating the discussion about these issues which will lead to bad policy formulation. The Salveson Riddle fiasco is a classic example of that. That does not mean to say I don’t feel sympathy for Mr Stoddarts position, and I think the government should probably help him financially, but you have to consider the consequences of ignoring the court verdict and somehow keeping him in place. That then makes a victim of the owner and throws into chaos all the other cases affected by this judgement who have resolved their issues by different means.

      Reply

    • And its this lack of humanity on many estates which are run by land agents who are more concerned with their income than the tenants income or for that matter the landlords income. There are exceptions Andrews estate being one and also the one where my son works for a tenant where the landlord speaks to the tenants on a regular basis and will phone up a tenant to let him know if he sees an animal stuck in a fence.

      With the severe economic downturn in agriculture and prices on the floor because of excess world grain production ,Russian food bans , Pound/Euro exchange rate working against us, climate change and a weaker Chinese economy ,even a passing recognition that we are all facing a diificult time would be welcome instead of ignoring the facts and being obsessed with with getting more rent.

      Perhaps even a look over the border where it seems English rents may be starting to fall and even considering this in Scotland might help to give a human face to land agents. But I see this loss of human contact as being the saddest part of my 40 odd years as a tenant.

      Reply

  31. A fixed term of say 5 or 10 years is really the Land Lord saying to the tenant please repair the place a bit, possibly build some sheds, concrete yards, some ditching.
    I often wonder at what point, or what area of land does it take, for it to become acceptable to start asking someone to pay ‘you’ to look after ‘your’ land? Lets say i had a 4 acre field which was used as a market garden and very productive. If i employed someone at 17k, they do all the work and i sell the produce, fair enough? If i then said to the same person, no more wage but you can sell everything for yourself just keep the place fertile and clean? ok, starting to get a bit tricky. Finally, if i then said, you can run the garden entirely for yourself, just keep it nice and fertile, ‘and’ pay me some rent? wait a minute! I suppose we have to ask ourself, how productive is this garden? is there a living to be made? So what if we then up the acres a bit, lets say 30,000 and have 40 tenants, and not nearly as productive, BUT we introduce subsidies, ah ha, there we have it. Scottish farm subsidies are really there to provide the LandLords with an annual income and the icing on the cake, increase the price of land. Tenant farming is a hoax!

    Reply

    • SS, if there’s no living to be made from your 4 acre garden if you have to pay rent as well as maintain it (whether that’s because there’s no subsidy available or for other reasons), then your man won’t rent it. He’s not obliged to. Having said that, “A Tenant” made the point above that in practice people do do daft things like sign up to short term leases and, no doubt, offer unrealistic rents. So what we’re really talking about is legislating to protect people from their own folly, isn’t it? The problem with that is that it can make life difficult for those who do act rationally (for e.g. if you set a minimum term of lease of 25 years, that’s no use to the person who only needs the property for 10 years).

      Reply

      • Essentially what you’re garden is worth is what someone is prepared to pay for it. If there’s no return or other benefit then they won’t offer anything. Contrary to the idea that the acts of some tenants are folly I think many act rationally even if they pay more than you might expect for an area of land. They may be looking for a foot in the door, or to spread costs etc. There’s risk associated with that but that’s how many buisnesses have become established. Not a long term basis for a full farm (unless a neighbour) but if it opens up a onger agreement the risk may well have paid off.
        The subsidy point is only part correct. Clearly subsidies affect rents and capital values. Hard for them not too but the bulk go to the occupier not the owner in a L & T situation.

        Reply

        • The evidence on what happens to farm subsidies is pretty well established in the literature – the bulk goes to the owner not the tenant. For example in this study looking at Germany & USA http://www.agrar.hu-berlin.de/de/institut/departments/daoe/gg/ihe/Veroeff/GMFUS_Report_land_market.pdf.

          “The operator is the intended beneficiary of agricultural subsidies in the European Union; however, as we have found, the main beneficiary is the landowner Therefore, agricultural subsidies must be considered instruments that are poorly targeted to the intended beneficiaries. In fact, the shocking reality is that land rents in the absence of EU farm subsidies would be negative in most of Germany.”

          Reply

          • Alan
            Interesting. Annecdotally I’d suggest that arable rents in this part of the world represent a fair proportion of the BPS but livestock farm rents would be a much smaller proportion.
            Of course if you removed subsidy from what is available to be calculated for rent then this would increase the incentive for the owner to be the occupier as well. Difficult to subsidise an industry and it not become built into the architecture as it were.

      • If the tenant wants out of a 25yr lease, he assigns it.

        Reply

  32. The ending of Agricultural subsidies is popular with the public. Should we now be considering a future without them. Price of food could rise, costs could come down, labour costs probably won’t, especially while we tax ‘work’. I would predict that if subsidies ended there wouldn’t be an Estate in the country running farms in hand. Rents would scrapped, and LandLords would have to be content with tenant just keeping the place tidy, with pheasants running around.
    The level of subsidy ending up in the land owners hands is probably about 85%. Looking across the various farm enterprises most will level out at production costs being covered by sales. So whether the holding is rented, sub goes to laird as rent, estate or owner occupier without mortgage, sub goes into bank account, owner occupier with mortgage, sub goes to bank because previous land owner got elevated sale price due to sub.
    So if we can drive down the price of land through land reform, then we can begin to get more owner occupiers with smaller mortgages and we can wean ourselves off subsidies. This is a nightmare scenario for Estates, and not good news for the big NFU agri-biz guys. I just hope Richard Lochhead can get the BPS out in good time because there are a lot of lairds waiting for the rent and plenty of Big fat farmers waiting to order a brand spanking new BMW!

    Reply

  33. SS the UK is not going to stop subsidy as its the main way of getting our EU money back into the U k.

    Reply

  34. T. Fraser, you obviously didn’t hear Owen Paterson when he was up in Holyrood 18 months ago. agri subs will probably evolve into rural social support(transport, housing, comunication)and become increasingly environmental. They may even support renewable energy projects in Scotland.
    First step to get this country prepared is ARTB, because we are going to have to change, rural people are going to need to be able to get their hands on all the tools in the box.

    Reply

    • SS
      Owen Paterson isn’t in goverment anymore although I accept the treasury orthodoxy is to get rod of sibsidies. I think OP should speak to may of his constituents in Shropshire North (my original home) who most definitely don’t share his view.
      We’re highly unlikely to lose subs soon given our links with Europe and the impossibility of getting rid of subs if our neighbours and main competitors still have them. That said your suggestion that we should look to wean ourselves off them is wise. I’m not sure I agree about who will benefit. I suspect a continuation of the hollowing out of farming. That is small niche units and large agri business will expand at the cost of mid-range farms. In the case of the big guys it’s not subsidy reliance that will be their undoing but lower costs that will prove their strength.

      Reply

  35. ARTB means people who wanted to be tenants like us will never ever get the chance.But then since the 60s there has not really been any prospect of farmers being tenants so no difference really.

    Reply

  36. T fraser. why do you think that ARTB will be the end of your chance to become a tenant? Currently a 91 act tenant will farm until a ripe old age, what is there to encourage retirement? so you are hoping that these tenants will not buy their holding and retire to let you in. You are pinning all your hopes on the Estate letting the farm again and not running it themselves. Now, if the tenant bought the farm through ARTB (and there is no saying that he has to) then approached retirement, he has two choices, sell the farm(or part of) or let it out to you. Why do people believe that it is only possible to let out land if you are absentee and from a landed family? Please also bear in mind that we must and can take measures to reduce the cost of land. If we were serious about giving new people a chance to become tenants, we would have a land commission to stop existing farmers gobbling up more units. This subsidy grabbing keeps the rents up, and it is not good for efficient farming or fragile communities. Lets get to the root of the problem and not knock ARTB which would empower tenants.

    Reply

    • SS
      I have yet to see any evidence that owner occupiers are likely to be long term letters of land so T Frasers point is certainly valid.
      Stopping growth of units is impracticable let alone undesirable. What would be the measure? Acreage, output, local area dominance? Farms are so varied and the economics of different sectors so varied that framing a workable policy seems vey challenging.

      Reply

  37. If I was going to rent out if I had bought through ARTB I would not of course as my tenant might ARTB me,so only 364 days or some kind of share/partnership would suit me as a farm owner.This is the way it is right now in Easter Ross.

    Reply

  38. TF, ARTB would only apply to 1991 Act tenancies which exist today, not ones granted in the future. Although having said that, to judge by the reaction to the Stoddart case, there seem to be a lot of people who believe that tenants shouldn’t be held to the agreements they’ve signed and that the only acceptable type of lease is one which lasts for ever. So it’s not possible to rule out another high profile case 25 years from now and a spineless govt. caving in and awarding a new round of ARTB or security of tenure against the first round of ARTB-ers.

    Reply

    • The rumour mill says if colstoun estate had stuck to the signed agreement and the verbal promises made,this would not be happening either.

      Reply

  39. T Fraser, yes i know what you mean, but ARTB will probably only apply to a 91 act. We must have a vision of vastly, many more owner occupied holdings and a realistic cost of land. Becoming a tenant will not be the long term aim.

    Reply

  40. slurrystirrer, you are dead right. owner occupancy should be the aim for all, with grants to get young farmers into ownership, not tenancies.
    The blight caused by large scale estates must be eradicated.

    Reply

  41. Quite a few famers have pulled the “past the 364” day rule and managed to convert it legally to a full lease so stealing another farmers land legally.I don’t know if you can do this now though.

    Reply

    • having a full lease is not “stealing ” anything. in fact the land will be better cared for. the rent will still need to be paid.
      there is a farm nearby sold about 15yrs ago, the new owner has grass let it ever since.
      now you would never believe it used to be good arable/grass land.

      Reply

      • Hector
        Your disregard for the law seems to apply in only one direction but setting that aside I’m not sure I see your point. You declare the importance of owner occupation then produce an example of new ownership with destructive short term leases.

        Reply

        • its not owner occupation, it was before and was well farmed.
          now it a landlord who has a different grazier every other year, the place is a shambles.

          Reply

          • Hector
            Noted. So your prescription is? Owner occupation or secure tenancies as the two choices? Do we not in reality have to accept that a minority just won’t make a good job? If we legislate on the basis that we try to prevent any one making a bad job we’re going to tie ourselves in knots. If i’ve misunderstood your point apologies.

    • I think they’d get a 15 yr LDT (possible 10 yr since 2011) now.

      Reply

  42. Andrew Howard

    You have still to tell me what farm tenants who have come to the end of their lease , where they can go . The local estate is now ranching the land where 6 individual farms were 15 years ago .
    Between this type of approach to landlordism and your desire for big farms to get bigger there is of no wonder that there is no opportunity for farm tenants losing their farms .

    Reply

    • GD
      Some will find opportunity from retiring farmers (tenants largely as owner occupiers by and large sell) with no successor but some may not. The number of farm holdings is falling in response economic pressures so the number of people wishing to farm is likely to exceed opportunities. This is particularly the case for middle sized units. They are falling in number significantly whereas small part time units and large units are increasing.
      One thing that would probably increase opportunity is to reflect on the experience of FBTs in England and Wales. They are not freedom of contract but are pretty flexible and critically E & W has not seen a major programme of erosion of owners rights. The result – a jump in let land (and thus opportunity) post 1995 and a stable let sector in more recent years. It’s achilles heal – short termism. This is currently being considered.
      The strategy of the Scottish governments since 1999 has lead to greater conservatism in owners behaviour and as a result impacted on opportunity. So what do they propose to do? More of the same and some juicy rhetoric to go with it. The results are perfectly predictable and all rather depressing

      Reply

      • Economic pressure may have something to do with but its more a case of machines are getting bigger/hugely expensive and you need more acres to justify them. so is it a case of the dog wagging the tail or the tail wagging the dog

        Its not efficient either as if they can”t get into a corner of a field they just abandon it .I see acres and acres just left because of this along with steep areas and any awkward soil types that take time and knowledge to cultivate.

        As for harvesting operations well the losses there are just huge trying to cover thousands of acres with just one overpriced combine so tell me where is the economic sense in that but hey ho if you have thousands of acres then losing all output on few hundred acres is just a pinprick.

        I do however sense a change on some of the more thoughtful large units where having a second back up combine in the light of climate change is happening.

        As for short term lets this will lead to mining of the soil and it certainly won”t be passed on to the next generation in better condition and may well be eroded away with constant cropping and no return of grass or muck.

        Reply

        • I think we should be careful not to fall into an accepted narrative that big is bad. Some of the expensive technology being acquired looks set to improve sowing accuracy, fert and spray application accuracy and harvesting performance. If they’re not then thats as likely to be user error as anything.
          We’ve been both been leaving awkward steep bits and reclaiming previously neglected land simultaeously. The former as ecological areas (handy now we have EFAs to worry about) and the latter largely addressing a lack of drainage maintenace which occured some years ago. We’re also now able to monitor soil organic matter with SOYL carrying out those tests alongside more normal nutrient testing. New technology looks quite exciting for the arable sector at least.

          Reply

  43. Andrew Howard

    Just shows how out of touch you are .
    ” is likely ” refers to the future . It has been happening for the last 40 years or more !.
    It is very convenient of you not to mention Estates taking land back in hand .
    As for England and Wales all is not well . In general new entrants or tenants who have lost their previous tenancy cannot compete with Mr Big in the area .

    Reply

    • GD
      I’ve been working in the industry for 20 years so I’m well aware of the trends and apprciate the pattern of farm restructuring in the post war era – in fact for the better part of the modern era.
      The land released to letting post 1995 in E & W in part came from estate in hand operations. My point remains that along side issues such as tax and economics a concern about government intention will be increasing the trend to keep land under control – in hand etc. This will impact on the normnal operation of the let market. Policy makers may grumble about it but it’s their policies which aren’t helping. Please note policy issues are only part of the picture. Farming economics and tax status will clearly have an influence.

      Reply

  44. The short term “opportunities” you describe in england are not worth a tinkers curse.
    What use is a short term let at a rack rent? you are better off on tax credits.
    The statutary right to buy should be introduced for all secure tenants, and a stop put on all evictions without due cause, as is happening now for houses on short assured tenancy.

    Reply

  45. So long as the holdings purchased became ring fenced like crofts, ARTB could be a rational response to (1) the problem of rural depopulation caused by amalgamation of holdings (provided a high level enquiry concluded we can afford the luxury of “medium holdings” in light of wider global food security issues); and (2) rationalising the neither fish nor fowl status between lease and ownership that is a secure 1991 Act tenancy.

    What ARTB most emphatically should *NOT* be introduced for is as an emotional knee-jerk reaction whipped up by the media who haven’t a clue what they’re talking about to bail out people who signed 15 year leases then hoped the day would never come.

    I’m sorry if that sounds harsh but the issues at stake are much bigger than just Andrew Stoddart.

    Reply

    • Neil
      For once I disagree. I’m not sure ARTB is a rational response and given the impracticability of ring fencing purchased farms may well hasten some of the amalgamations etc that everyone seems so concerned about – many of those concerned of course occupy amalgamated holdings already!

      Reply

  46. Smaller farms are more productive than estate run ranching operations., so food security is a non issue. i fully support the ring fencing you describe.

    Reply

    • Hector
      It’s probably more appropriate to differentiate between good and bad farmers as opposed to small good / big bad which clearly isn’t always the case. I think we also need to consider the ability to produce food competively as well as the volume of food produced per acre. Using milk as an example a cow pushed to yield 10,000l pa isn’t always as profitable as one producing 6,000l in a low input system.

      Reply

      • We could produce food much more competively if the dead hand of landlordism was removed.
        Land could be farmed to its true potential instead of being stuck in a feudal time warp.

        Reply

  47. Let’s have a bit of honesty in this debate.
    1. Most partnership arrangements work well and tend to roll over at the end of initial term. Depending on what both parties want it tends to work well.
    2. Farms are getting bigger, cannot really think why that is? tounge in cheek!
    3. There are rubbish Tennant’s as there are rubbish Factors and Landlords.
    4. FBTs down in Engerland are a mixed bag. Raping of land on arable units is not uncommon. Another year of the record arable returns and we’ll there will either be reduced rentals or broken agreements.
    5. BPS is modifying the land market both for sale/purchase and rent. Buyers are gambling a lot on continuation of the current payment regime ( and low interest rates) and those that rent are currently just BPS conduits. Why would either party commit longer term?
    6. With the greatest of respect both Andrew Howard and Gentle Dove are polarising in this debate!

    Reply

    • I think your analysis is broadly correct as probably is your view of my contribution to the debate. It is all too easy to make your point not using the middle ground in the search for clarity – or frankly the last word!

      Reply

  48. Gentle hawk

    What is the definition of a rubbish Tennant [sic] , a rubbish factor and a rubbish landlord ?.

    Reply

  49. Is there any difference between a ‘bad farmer’ and a ‘bad tenant’? Pointless debating about bad farmers and good farmers, just like bad joiners and good joiners or a bad mechanic and a good mechanic. All of them exist and they are really only relevant when paths a crossed or not. Then we can talk about good or bad landlords, what makes a good landlord? what if a group of tenants shared the same landlord and they all thought he was good, what if all these tenants were bad farmers?
    Then we have a bad landlord, where ownership is monopolised in the parish and population is plummeting. Housing is of a poor standard, and multiple farm houses and steadings are derelict. New entrants are not given a chance, and short term lets are given to well established farmers who ranch the land with minimum stock. This landlord may also hire in agents to keep firm upward pressure on rents while issuing threats of under grazing and land court. A bad land lord can decimate a community . So talking about bad or good farmers has little to do with land reform.

    Reply

    • If we leave aside farming standards in all cases (tenants, landlords and agents) the characteristics that suggest a “bad” example would include failure to communicate, failure to fulfill statutory obligations a failure to understand the needs and aspirations of the other party and a failure to act within the spirit of the law not just the law. Those failings are possible in each of the 3 parties to some extent. Clealry where all three coincide conflict is more likely but it doesn’t need all three to coincide to create tension.
      In my own experience these failures (at a manifest level) are not the norm in any of the three parties but clearly they do exist and need to be addressed.

      Reply

      • And the only way to address them is by legislation .
        Touchy feely voluntary agreements do not influence the worst lairds.

        Reply

        • Hector
          I agree but make sure the legislation deals with the issue not clobber everyone.

          Reply

          • So you want an act of parliament for each bad landlord?
            Bank robbers are dealt with by the law and put in jail. If you apply current SLE thinking to bank robbers, they will not be prosecuted because they are only a “minority”. and its not worth changing the law to deal with small numbers of people.
            So the number of bank robberies will increase as they see they can get off with it.

          • Hector
            Obviously not. My point was make sure legislation addresses the stated problem and doesn’t create collateral damage for everyone else.

  50. Andrew Howard, Who really cares about a bad farmer or tenant? yes its not desirable to have a bad tenant, but the landlord will always get the rent in the end, and if the bad tenant is also a bad farmer then the landlord can take action. Failure to repair, weeds, under grazing, livestock neglect the landlord can evict! ultimately the landlord has POWER. Now i am not saying that such actions by a land lord would make him bad. I agree with you there are failings with all three parties, but my point is that tenant failings are irrelevant when it comes to land reform, the law has that one covered. Communities need power to change the ownership structure, to ultimately save themselves from extinction, thats why we need legislation to curb bad landlords.

    Reply

    • A landlord can in theory evict a bad tenant but have a look at the courts to see how many there have been. I think about 4 or 5 uses of the bad husbandry provisions which I doubt reflects the real number of bad tenants. I accept that in some cases the landlord could have acted more proactively and managed the situation but it can be difficult and many owners are reluctant to use the ultimate sanction. In practice owners tend to wait for the lease to end if there’s no successor and sort out dilapidations at that point -usually at their own cost. Not that common but it happens.
      A tenant also has the law to protect them and is about to get a bunch more so the relationship is not asymetric as you imply.
      Your point about community may be more pertinent in some parts of Scotland than others. Not pressing at all here will population growth and even quicker household growth – noting of course that families are much smaller than they were so household growth may be a better measure. If the landowner of a large area is not also considering wider economic / social gain then that’s obviously a problem but I imagine so too will be infrastructure, isolation etc.

      Reply

  51. And soon , a tenant will be able to evict a bad landlord!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

  52. gentle hawk, your mask has slipped. The bank appreciates the newly found security, and let me bust another myth which the landed just love to spread “your better off being a tenant” “your mortgage will be far greater than your rent”
    The mortgage INTEREST REPAYMENTS will be less than the rent, thats the key point, yes ofcourse the payments will be greater than the rent, but you can’t expect to buy something cheaper than you can rent it. Oh, and a mortgage will not expect to be serviced for four generations!

    Reply

  53. Slurry stirred,
    no offence but it may be worth your while speaking to the bank manager to see what rate he would offer say 10 year money interest only , to a Tenant farmer. If less than 3.75% put me in touch. In the meantime do the sums.
    While you are at it he may well ask your plans for capital repayment….
    As for the mask, no mask here, landed producer, partnership and on sldt, who has in recent years been offered turf, both at worthwhile rates and not, from what I would consider good Landlords and not.
    Wonder why that happens and why we take some up and not others?

    Reply

  54. Gentle hawk, i would not advise you to go for interest only repayments, try RBS business term loan, 2.8% above base. A capital repayment plan is fairly obvious.

    Reply

    • Fixed for 10yrs likely to be c4.0%. Might get 20yrs for 4.5%. Over base obviously carries some risk of interest rate movement. So, if £1000/acre that’s £45/a in interest, £2,000/a is £90 and so on. Repayments on top. Affordability obviously case by case and depends on profitability of farm, ability to sell off unwanted assets etc. You are of course buying the farm but that wealth is largely releasable only by sale. Whether interest payments less than rent depends on % debt / equity, price and current rent. Given capital value has become divorced from rental values even with discount from OMV I’d be a little surprised if interest less than rent but happy to be proved wrong.

      Reply

  55. Slurrystirre Thanks for advice.
    Contradicts your previous post.
    “Interest payments less than rent” your offer 3.3% on say £10k arable/acre no discount ltd partnership arrangement £330/ acre. Mmmm
    Get lucky have tenancy particularly generous 30% discount £225/acre, possibly getting there, but not really
    Of course let’s not forget arrangement fee and stamp duty etc whilst we are at it, (its all a cost is it not?)
    And then interest rates rise, gets interesting doesn’t it?
    “Oh, and a mortgage will not expect to be serviced for four generations!” To which you replied. “A capital repayment plan is fairly obvious” intergenerational slavery is such an attractive concept.
    All this while BPS is falling and and agriculture is experiencing a halcyon period. Hold me back I am in…

    Reply

    • And looked at from another angle you have just made a water tight case for rents to start falling as they appear to have started doing in England due to as you have said commodity prices being on the floor.

      However one glaring ommission here is the capital appreciation in the last decade or so of land probably doubling (correct me if I am wrong) so buy the land pay the outrageously expensive mortgage /increase the overdraft and sell up in 10 years and retire on the profit. I have an old college friend who has done exactly that over the years buying and selling land as its capital value shoots up and has gone from 400 acres owned to 1000 acres owned over his lifetime, it can be done. Even has wind farm to pay his overdraft interest. Not many tenants with wind farms. Maybe its time land values fell !!!!!

      Being quoted that my landlord needs a return on the value of the land in rent review negotiations has also been irritating and I have jumped on it saying that land is scarce and has a value based on that scarcity and is not its true agricultural production value. If you are after that sort of rent just sell the land and live very well on the proceeds.

      I believe the return(rent +capital appreciation) on land has outperfomed almost every other investment over the years so those who own land should just be glad they have got it.

      Reply

      • Landlords should not be referring to a return on their land value. If they do it should be rejected. Rents in England are showing the first signs of decline though probably the more bullish rents are being pegged back a bit. Like for like rents appear to be still a bit higher down there. That said we withdrew this marts notices and reissued for next year to see what next season brings.
        I take your point about your land trading pal but that stands somewhat counter to the argument made by others that ARTB is necessary to provide long term certainty for their business and for them to invest. Having watched an estate broken up at home (Shropshire) the farms look well under their new ownership – they looked well before – but a high % are not owned by the original purchaser.

        Reply

        • Andrew
          I think what many tenants are feeling today with commodity prices on the floor is that they don”t have the cushion of owning the land (rising capital values) and no rent to pay that owner occupiers have in the face of collapsing prices.

          I applaud your decision to defer rent reviews for a year but think that next year will be just as tough price wise and with climate change becoming more newsworthy especially with a now very cool N Atlantic agriculture will suffer again from a poor growing season especially in the N and W of the UK

          You now have to concentrate on educating land agents who in spite of advertising their qualifications after their names are in need of education to counteract their blinkered veiws of only upward rent reviews.

          Reply

          • I think you’re assessment of next year is probably correct and that big blob of cold water off Greenland is a little disconcerting for the future of the north atlantic conveyor. I have heard it argued that climate change will offset the impact. Ironic given it may have set it off.
            I’ll get drummed out of the Brownies but yes, I think some estates and agents do need to reflect on rent demands in the current climate.

  56. Most crofters dont buy even though they have the right. There is no need to, unless there is some problem. Tenant farmers will be the same.
    Where a tenant has drained the land and built the whole steading, as many have, they wont be paying a big price for the unimproved value of the land.
    Also, they are not compelled to buy it all at once, bite sized chunks will keep it affordable.

    Reply

    • hector, crofters tend not to buy because they don’t gain many more freedoms by doing so. That’s because, in a crofting tenancy, the landlord’s role is almost entirely subliminal and the main force they’re up against is the Crofters Commission. And they don’t escape the role of the CC in their lives by buying and becoming owners.

      Your thing about uinmproved value and bite sized chunks obviously wouldn’t apply to ARTB for non-crofting ag. tenancies but despite the differences from crofts, I can’t see any reason in principle why a holding bought under ARTB could not simply be immediately made subject to the owner occupier croft regime. This involves a “use it properly or lose it” rule and super-hawkish rules against flogging bits off for development (only when desirable for local community and seller has viable business plan to reinvest proceeds of sale in developing the remainder of the farm).

      With ref to the comments above about bank lending etc., I can foresee there being an issue about banks being reluctant to lend due to the fact there would, on day 1 of ARTB, be no established market for “croft farms”. Therefore ARTB would have to be underwritten by a government loan (or guarantee) scheme.

      Reply

  57. The improvements done by the tenant or his forbears must be accounted for in the value.
    A tenant cannot be expected to pay for his improvements twice.
    Where a steading has been largely constructed by a tenant, and the house transformed from a hovel, the tenant will essentially only be buying the ground under the buildings, which he will be well able to afford.
    Neil, crofters do not buy because they know that they can, and at a time of their choosing.Endowment policies can be put in place to mature at a target date.
    If a tenant is hit with a big rent demand, he can just say get lost, i am buying.
    Both you and andrew howard assume that tenants will have to borrow all the money to buy their homes, which is not the general case.

    Reply

    • Hector
      Surely most would borrow some / majority of the cost of a farm – less improvements. Bare land in Moray has sold for £6,000/acre. You have to squirrel away some serious funds to buy much of that without lending.

      Reply

  58. Gentle Hawk, what do you mean “contradicts my previous post” The interest element of the mortgage will be less than the current rent. (not the overall payments: capital & interest)
    Tenants have been seriously looking into this with the possibility of ARTB, if you don’t believe my figures I’m sorry.

    Reply

    • SS
      Using a local example. £6,000/a bare land. Assume purchase is 75% of VP (sharing the marriage value approximately), so £4,500/a. Say you borrow 75% of that, could be less I accept but cash has a value as you can invest it elsewhere, at 4% fixed for 10 yrs. 4% of £3,375/a is £135/a interest cost pa. Rent on that land would be about £70/a under a 1991 and probably £120 ish on a LDT though not much evidence to compare it with so that’s something of an estimate.
      I am NOT saying a tenant could not afford it but I can’t see how your assertion that the cost would be less than rent unless borrowing levels fell to only 30% ish of the purchase price. How many farmers are rolling up that kind of cash and if they are then sounds like the current system is serving their business well which is counter to the message put across.

      Reply

  59. Andrew, i understand your figures, perhaps you are leaning rather generously with the 4%. I appreciate that arable land is expensive, but what are the current values where there is a sitting tenant, rather than VP? And how about us exploring the question of 25-30 times the rent for an ARTB settlement? Perhaps you are right and arable farmers who are tenants would not wish to exercise ARTB. What do the figures look like for grazing land or hill farms?
    Buying a farm is a massive financial concern and yes with inflated land values it will in many cases be off putting, but it is also worth remembering that farmers always talk about selling off house sights or even a field to make the project more affordable. Changes and alternative options open up quickly when owner occupation is achieved. I suppose we now need to re-evaluate the rent multiplier for ARTB if you are saying that land is too expensive for a tenant to purchase.

    Reply

    • SS
      I’d split the marriage value in the above so I’d assumed 50% tenanted value with the benefit of marrying the interests divided equally. That gives the 75% of VP purchase price. I think a rent multiplier would fall down on ECHR terms. The owner deprived of ownership in a compulsory purchase situation is to be provided with appropriate compensation which is in reality likely to be market value or thereabouts. I know people will argue that the discount should be x or y, with some arguing it should be none at all. I used what I imagine would be what most consensual deals currently done work out roughly as.
      I haven’t run the numbers on a livestock farm so it may, or may not be more affordable. You are certainly correct that most purchasers would look to strip assets to reduce the capital outlay. Of course the potential to do this will cause arguments in the valuation of the sale in the first place. As will other development value and the tricky issue of injurious affection. If the compulsorarily acquired farm devalues other assets the owner of the residual assets is going to want to claim. This is, I think, covered in the pre-emptive right provisions. This could make acquisition of, say, an ex home farm adjacent to the principal residence difficult for the tenant because of the additional cost of consequential losses to the owner.
      Never mind the principle of ARTB (on which we have different views) no one should under-estimate the complexity of the implementation of such a policy or the scope for massive litigation both with the government and between parties.

      Reply

      • The market value of a tenanted farm is 50% of vacant possesion. If the tenant pays 50%, no compensation is due.

        Reply

        • Hector
          This would be a forced sale situation so at the least the marriage value of the two interests should be split. Why should it all go to the tenant?
          Any way this is academic as the AHRG and SG accepted such a move wasn’t consistent with a vibrant tenanted sector nor does it appear to be in the public interest. And of course we’ve rehearsed all these arguments before!

          Reply

          • No, you want the market value, which is 50%. if you were selling moray estate to another owner, that would be the price.

          • Not if it were sold to the sitting tenant in a willing transaction and I don’t see how or why that should be torn up becuase the sale is not by a willing seller. In fact as with all other CPOs there’s a strong case for all the other effects to be valued – impact on other enterprises, injurious affection etc etc.

  60. 75%of VP?You are having a laugh.
    Lets see, VP value is £6k
    tenant reclaimed it from rough grazing in the 70,s so landlords stake in the land is only value of RGR @£2,000 DIVIDED BY 2 so tenant only pays £1,000/ac
    since it is worth 6k now, banks will be queuing up to give out a mortgage.

    Reply

  61. In todays Scottish Farmer, there is a letter from the Directors of STFA, highlighting the plight of tenants with LP tenancies. The STFA lay all the blame on the Scottish Government, using words like ‘immoral’ and ‘unacceptable’. I agree the treatment of these tenants is terrible but it is not right to completely blame the Scot Gov. This is typical STFA, getting the boot into the Scot Gov and not daring to get to the root of the problem and criticising the LandLords! The STFA are just climbing on the backs of the ‘real people’ who have brought this matter to the publics attention. I hope the STFA can help but i wish they would tell us what they think should be done with LP tenants and ARTB for 91 acts, we are going through land reform, not just tenancy reform. STFA need to come clean and state what they want to do! perhaps they can do this once they have agreed the appropriate action with their sister association SLAE.

    Reply

  62. SS, I agree there’s a limit to what the Scotgov can do but what is it that landlords of LPs (as a generality, I’m not talking about individual cases) have done to merit criticism?

    Reply

  63. Neil, the Land lords and their agents have specifically used LP to avoid the tenant having a full working life on the unit, while at the same time verbally assuring the tenant that it is ok to invest in the holding, building up the capital, then evict and pay no reasonable way go. And in some of these cases Billionare Land Lords will be farming in hand collecting public subsidies, do they really need the ground? do they really need to evict families? no body for example will farm Stoddarts farm as good as he could, and i bet the Laird wouldn’t come near the farm, never mind send his kids to the local school.

    Reply

  64. As a very interested outsider in this debate the comments above have highlighted to me that the relationship between tenant and landlord can be a very complex and frought relationship especially if the government gets involved. With reference to the specific case of Andrew Stoddart I understand the landowner’s argument was that Andrew had entered into a LP willingly (?) and knew it would come to an end by 2010. There is ,I think a lot more to this than is being said. Was Andrew already a tenant before 1996 when the LP was set up and he was told, sign up or get out or did he move into the LP from a different farm. What ever happened in this particular circumstance the tenant is usually at the mercy of the landowner’s whim. Look at the hugh rent hikes recently made by the Duke of Roxburgh on John Elliot’s tenanted farm. I am sure that there are a lot of very successful tenant landlord partnerships out there but short term tenancies for farms should, as a minimum ,be legally limited to at least a generation so the farmers do not have to look over their shoulder wondering whether they have a house to live in etc . Another issue which I feel strongly about is the secrecy used by landowners hiding behind trusts etc( Coulstoun Trust??). Dr Aileen McLeod promotes the Land reform Bill in that it will include “provisions to increase the transparency of land ownership” I hope they put their money where their mouth is.

    Reply

    • LPs were introduced as a mechanism to let land for a defined term. Without them the supply of let land would have been greatly diminished as owners of all shapes and sizes have made clear their lack of attraction to letting land when they have no idea when they get it back. Remember security of tenure was imposed not voluntarily implemented by owners.
      Even if you let for a term of say 50 years (a farming lifetime) are we then to be faced with mass protests because the farmers children can’t take over?
      The industry either has to accept the necessity of fixed term agreements – to provide for a supply of land to the market – or not have a let sector as it will wither over time. Fine – say all those with a secure tenancy already. I think we should ask those who don’t. So far they have indicated what they want is an opportunity to farm and establish businesses. That requires an owner who WANTS to let and thus a framework that encourages that – with protections. Of course this means that in a few unfortunate situations, and for various reasons, the agreement will end before the tenant may have wished it (ie at the end of the term) but in many many cases (as happened) the opportunity provided the start of a successful and continuing business. Are we to lose all opportunity because of the minority of cases?

      Reply

      • Landlords want fixed term leases so that the tenants can never exercise their legal rights to control rent or any other conditions.
        They can be brow beaten into signing anything just so the laird will renew when the time comes.
        LP and LDT leases are just a return to victorian conditions, when land eventually lay idle and the cream of our farmers emigrated.

        Reply

  65. Why do we want a thriving tenanted sector? does this also require a thriving landlord sector? Are we therefore content that Land Agents are taking a cut from the Agricultural industry, not to mention the Landlords themselves? Are we going to take the risk of placing the potential future of our young folk and our industry in the hands of Land agents and Lairds who can just decide among themselves who farms the land? There are far too many big estates and all their hench men dictating to us about confidence to let or whether units will be available. These big Land owners are just getting far too much respect.

    Reply

    • This is just getting absurd.
      In your vision of utopoia, it is all owner occupied. Fair enough. But that is after you have got it for approx half or even less than its free market price.
      The potential risks for our future young folk are going to be set at whom then? The bank that borrowed them the cash to make a start, the market that is a fickle beast as can be easily demonstrated over the years, or the evil land owner who would not sell for anything other than full market value!
      Now I know panto season is nearly upon us but the boos and hisses may as well be aimed at any owner occupied in this one as the big bad landlord.

      Reply

      • hawk, thanks for the reply, yes my vision of utopia would be for Scotland to be covered in owner occupiers and also for a good portion of that to be ‘let out’ on entirely a different system than what we have today.
        I would not imagine much of this shift to owner occupation would happen with your scenario of it all being got for “less than its free market price”. Yes the 91 act families would get a favourable rate through ARTB. But all the other holdings[to achieve my utopia of full Owner Occupation] would gradually need to be sold at FULL MARKET VALUE. And the key to this is… i hope you are sitting down because this is going to upset you again. Land Tax! yes land tax and a land commission to get the price of land down, and prevent the greedy hoarding of land.

        Reply

        • SS
          I’m not clear what this other basis of letting would be. in what way would it be different from LDTs / proposed MLDTs? Would you offer security of tenure to your new tenants?
          LVT would have a very damaging effect on the economics of farming. Bear in mind whilst your slashing land values that many farmers have used that value to secure debt so LVT is going to make banks jittery in the least. Also note that farmers pay income / corporation tax but unless LVT substitutes for these farmers are going to find themselves worse off if they have to pay an additonal tax on land which they do not have to pay at present. Much as you might like it you can’t design a tax just to impact on the kind of owner you don’t like and not impact on those you do.

          Reply

          • Andrew, my vision of letting in a much greater owner occupied country, would not offer security of tenure. I don’t think letting would continue for Four or five generations like we have at the moment. The norm would be for a farming family which was established, to be owners. So the family and the community could benefit from confidence and flexibility which ownership brings.

    • SS
      The industry needs a thriving tenanted sector because it provides an opportunity for farmers who do wish to, or can’t, commit significant capital to own land. That may be new farmers or expanding ones. It also provides opportunities for owners of farms to allow someone else to farm it if they can’t, or don’t wish to, but don’t want to sell the farm. It makes the industry and individual businesses more flexible. I think you envisage letting would continue to exist in a world of owner occupiers which rather makes to point that it necessary for the industry and some businesses.

      Reply

      • Andrew, i think we have found some common ground ‘opportunities for owners of farms, to allow someone else to farm it’. I agree it makes the industry more flexible.
        Now all we need to thrash out is, do we need Estates? This is the dark side of letting, full of problems and so much underperformance. If only these owners were a bit more numerous and resident, the flexibility could be quite exciting. What do you think?

        Reply

        • SS
          Defining an “estate” will be fun. It may be a modest holding letting it’s only real farm or one of the larger holdings with many let holdings. Those larger holdings are likely to form the bedrock of long term letting opportunities as they are less likely to wish to, or be able to, farm their holdings themselves.
          Clearly we’d all like estates to be well run, playing an active role in their community and investing / acting in partnership with (in the widest sense) their farm tenants – amongst others. A positive discussion would be how to ensure that’s by and large what we get.

          Reply

          • Kenneth Urquhart

            “Clearly we’d all like estates to be well run, playing an active role in their community and investing / acting in partnership with (in the widest sense) their farm tenants – amongst others. A positive discussion would be how to ensure that’s by and large what we get.”

            Yessir!! Who altogether is ‘we’? Who’s planning the campaign and the strategies? Where are the players — who know the ropes — stepping up to play hard ball? Are they already playing but keeping quiet?

            It seems to me, an outsider in this discussion, obvious that there’s a bunch of problems requiring resolution for the sake of the farming community and of Scotland as a whole. I would like to be engaged in the discussion but am not, so far, useful to it. It seems that a large part of the problem is that one section of the community, particularly amongst the landowners maintains its grip on practices suppressive to many tenant farmers. Another large part might be general failure on the part of the legal profession to look for and find solutions for suppressed tenants (hardly surprising), and a third, the most disgraceful of all, the failure of government to govern wisely and fairly in this matter — and their failure to take responsibility for their errors and for their duty. To these factors, I would say, we have to add the acceptance by so many tenants of the suppression they suffer for fear of the consequences of even appearing to disagree with it. We could also include failure of the media to treat the story as the scandal it is, thus inviting the general population to ignore it.

            If there is opposition to this state of affairs, and a firm intention to change the scene, then I would suggest that the opposition needs to organize itself around basic agreed-upon principles, assess the realities of the situation, gather its strengths, protect its weaknesses, get a clear idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the other side(s), and draw up a plan of attack — and execute it.

            I say that the integrity of our country is at risk if we can’t as a nation treat our land with love and respect.

            The Buddha, one of the wisest to walk this earth (in my opinion) made a comment that I think applies exactly:

            “To straighten the crooked
            You must first do a harder thing —
            Straighten yourself.”

            There are parallels from other religious leaders.

            A large rabble usually doesn’t defeat a small organized army. A small rabble defeats only a smaller rabble, sometimes. A small organized army can defeat a large rabble any day. A small very well organized army can defeat a large army, organized or not.

            What do ‘we’ want? If we want the interests of Scotland as a whole nation put before all other interests and a government which is sorting out and putting first the interests of Scotland as a whole nation, we could organize around that. In ‘Scotland as a whole nation’ I would include all the lands, the seas around the lands, and every single individual citizen, each with rights equal to every other, each free to pursue his or her individual fulfillment and happiness in any way moral, just, and ethical. Each individual to have equal ownership in the totality of Scotland’s natural resources which we place (with ever-watchful eye) under the stewardship of our elected government and paid civil service; in turn they, in executing their duties morally, justly, and ethically, can grant stewardship of areas or resources to accountable citizens and/or transparent and accountable corporate entities.

            The very last thing we can do is to accept the status quo as long as it contains any considerable portion of activity that is immoral, unjust, or unethical. But to change deeply-entrenched systems, processes, and attitudes that are immoral, unjust, or unethical, we have to roll up the sleeves and commit to well-managed battle against whatever underpins those systems, processes, and attitudes. This battle will be won or lost on the care with which our own values, systems, processes, and attitudes are formulated clear and certain and put into action.

            As another great religious figure has said. “and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

            The systems, processes, and attitudes that bring suppression upon tenant farmers, upon the Scottish land and sea, and upon Scots, are all based on untruths of one kind or another. The most effective weapon against the upholders of suppression is the exposure of the lies that uphold the positions from which they operate. They have no other power than that which comes from the hiding of their lies and from the apathetic acceptance of their oh-so-false (and oh-so-ignorant) “power.”

            We might begin by assembling all of the lies we know about, then proceed to uncovering the rest. Not being familiar with all that’s involved, I can only suggest a possible beginning in this assembly of untruths: The Poor Had No Lawyers. Why don’t we demand our common land back? If land was stolen, how can it be justly and honestly inherited?

            If the quickest way out of the mess is to open up this and all the other cans of worms, let’s get at it.

          • Kenneth
            A few observations:
            1. “we” is all those working in the rural sector;
            2. It’s not a campaign as such but best practice comes from leadership in representative organisations, learning from others, government policy (sometimes) and external forces such as improved economic conditions. A lot of stress for all parties comes from poor returns in farming which needs to be considered. Is the industry as a whole facing up to this?
            3. I don’t accept your “suppression” point. Some owners and some tenants will not be playing within the spirit of the law but that is not the same as a general supressive framework. There is a lot of law to protect the parties (particularly the tenant) already. A real issue is the poor and expensive way of resolving disputes. So expensive is the land court that it gives the awkward party excess leverage.
            4. I don’t believe all the current proponents to the landlord / tenant legislative framework have the sectors interests in mind. They want different people to own the land but without a clear statement of how that will benefit the rural areas of scotland. There’ll be lots of fine words like social justice etc etc but if after all that upheaval the output is the same what was the point?
            5. Immoral, unjust and unethical are difficult terms to pin down in reviewing the application of the law. They will also be interpreted in completely different ways by different people. The law is there to provide a clear and interpretable framework. I think we need to be wary of running the system on morality as it’s not defined enough.
            6. The stolen land route isn’t going to get us anywhere. I see no indication it could be implemented in practice and it’s not clear to whom it could be given, who would be compensated for decades / centuries of improvements etc etc. Sounds fine on paper but a distraction from addressing real problems such as the economic difficulties of farming in upland and semi upland areas which is placing so much stress on the tenanted sector and farming in general. There’s no sense of an urgent debate as to how farming will respond to this pressure going forward.

          • Kenneth Urquhart

            Andrew,
            Thank you for your considered response. Much of what you say is taken in and not disagreed with.
            I may be quite wrong in this but I am sad to see that an unhappy and unwanted situation continues apparently without militant leadership of those who are losing out undeservedly, or on their behalf. I am willing to support such leadership although unable to provide it.
            Something CAN be done. Hand-wringing or talking won’t cut it. I do acknowledge that there are knowledgeable and intelligent people grappling with the problem. An inspiring leader might take the fight ‘outside the box’, the box being what hasn’t worked so far; I’m arguing that it’s easier to see outside of the box if we clarify and focus on the values that we’re fighting for because violation of those values is too painful to endure. Those that violate our values (‘our’ being “all those working in the rural sector” along with those who support them) work to keep us thinking of the immediate survival problems so we have no time or attention to focus on underlying values. This is what I refer to as ‘suppression.’ Of course, there are many who support the unstated underlying positive values of the rural sector. I would like to see them or us more militant, more overt.

  66. Andrew . From your response and the other comments above it seems the way forward is for a radical reform whatever direction it takes as just tinkering around the edges is just going to make the matter worse. You mention that if fixed term agreements are not accepted the supply of land to tenants will wither . As land is a fixed commodity this then means that more land is farmed in hand by the landowners themselves or using managers and farm workers so will incur increased in costs for building maintenance , labour ,implements etc with only the income from subsidies and produce sales to keep them afloat . i.e they will have to work at being farmers rather than just receiving rents. Would they all really want this ? As you say we need to be careful not to knee jerk into unsuitable legislation just because of some bad apples.

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    • Rod, you are right, but also one other angle to look at it from is the farming in hand of extra units without any extra labour or costs at all. The two large Estates where i am take farms back in hand, and have no increase in their farming activity whatsoever. The stock that they already have just get to roam around further.

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    • Rod
      The problem is that the industry has been unable to reach a consensus about which direction to go in. Most landowners and land management professionals tend to favour greater fexibility and ability for parties to reach their own agreements – within certain constraints. Many tenants want a high level of statutory protection fearing that greater flexibility will mean less certainty and short termism. In this they have a point (based on evidence from E & W) though this may be addressable using various measures / incentives. What flexibilty may bring is greater supply if a change on political mood music made owners of farms a bit more confident about letting.
      If the worst happens and we see the sector wither that will in some cases mean land coming back in hand and being farmed in larger units – that will happen any way and has been pretty much through the modern era. In some cases it will be a sale to the tenant, or on VP a sale of the unit. The let sector has already come down from 75%+ to c25% a lot of which will have been because of sales. Availability of opportunity to farm, if you are from outside a farming family, has probably retreated alongside that fall in the let sector as it would have been the traditional route in.
      The current bill is an odd fish in that it could have done some good but I suspect the provisions are going to be pushed too far, for politcial reasons, which will be counter productive and damaging to the sector. For instance the ability for a tenant to convert their 1991 act tenancy to an LDT and sell it could have had a broadly positive effect if the LDT had been kept short enough for the owner to think they had also gained something. This could have helped some retire and provide some new opportinities. If the trm is made too long, or assignation of full tenancies allowed – effectively creating perpetual tenancies – then owners are likely to intervene and acquire the tenants interest either to sell or farm themselves. The balance with succession looks likely to be wrong as well. The problem seems to be a small number of non qualifying relatives heavily involved in a let farm but not eligible to succeed. But instead of trying to address that issue it looks likely that tenants will be able to assign / bequest to such a wide class that the tenancies become perpetual. The result – probably ECHR challanges and more landlords perhaps buying out tenancies to sell or farm themselves.

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  67. Gentle hawk

    I would imagine if you ONLY had a limited partnership with Andrew Howard on Moray Estates that you would have a retrousse brown beak !!.

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  68. Gentle hawk

    With reference to your post on 6 Nov . 5.44 pm

    “It is relatively straightforward to be on a L P for a lifetime of work “.

    If you are the tenant in a L P tenancy you will soon realise the power that the landlord has over you . Remember that this tenancy is your sole interest in farming .
    Think about it .

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    • Have done, and I very sorry to possibly disappoint. Been in one since 1992 on same ground, had 3 landlords, numerous agents from the usual players, and guess what I am still here!
      Now over this time both ourselves and landlords have made AGREED improvements and changes and we work away. Where improvements are done by ourselves they are properly noted and acknowledged as such. In a quick resume I suspect sums involved by ourselves would be in the region 100k over the last 8 years, some pretty permanent (sheds) others semi permanent handling facilities etc.
      I have already stated that I have no desire to be in an arrangement, that is onerous and/ or does not work for me. Perhaps others would be wise to think likewise before entering agreements. The game is long and can be a difficult one, which is not aided by having unsuitable agreements.
      All of this does not aid Mr Stoddart for sure but when he entered his agreement, then both parties entered it in good faith, and a hash of rubbish legislation was exploited by both parties, but during this period his agreement did come to an end. If the legislation had not come through any reasonable person would have to believe the relationship would have continued in good faith for a whole working life.

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  69. Gentle hawk

    You are a very lucky brown beaked lucky hawk

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  70. Hawk, have i got you right, you are a land owner?

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  71. Gentle hawk, while i agree with much of that statement, you dont know when you are making an agreement whether it will turn out onerous or not. You dont know if the other side will keep their word. Not everything can be written down, and when factors/agents are changed every few years, its impossible to have continuity.

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    • Hector
      What isn’t written down in a competently drawn up lease or covered by the AHAs? Using the example of Mr Stoddarts agreement the end date of the LP would have been clearly written down and nothing, including early serving of the termination notice in 2003, would have altered that. I’m afraid this case looks like a difference between what someone wants and what they have but it seems clear to me that what they have was clear from the outset.

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  72. Hector, exactly, and the point was to verbally convey a feeling of longevity for the lease. So as the tenant would invest and improve the place. Now that Andrew Stoddart has got the farm looking well with a cracker of a shed, the laird wants it all. I know what negotiations are like with land agents, these guys will not be wanting to pay for the improvements.

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