SCOTLAND’S TENANT Farming Commissioner, Dr Bob McIntosh, has published a new guide to 'Tree Planting on Tenanted Agricultural Holdings'.

The guide provides information for both landlords and tenants who might be considering planting trees on tenanted land.

Dr McIntosh noted that, with the current economic uncertainty surrounding agriculture, and increased pressure on business margins, many farm businesses were looking to diversify in to a range of non-agricultural activities – and with the Scottish Government focussed on increasing woodland in Scotland, woodland creation is very much on the minds of farmers and landowners.

The intention of the new guide is to outline the rights of both tenants and landlords to plant trees, and provide information on how they should go about applying for permission to plant.

“The guide highlights four basic scenarios where tenants and landlords are likely to see tree planting on holdings as valuable and provides clarity on who is able to do what and when," said Dr McIntosh. “A tenant of a secure tenancy or a limited duration tenancy wishing to use the land for a non-agricultural purpose such as tree planting can now do so provided they obtain written consent for the diversification activity.”

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing added: “This is very welcome advice and will help in the national endeavour to expand our forests and woodlands in Scotland. Tenant farmers can gain many benefits from new tree planting on their holdings, especially as it can help to improve their business and diversify their income.

“I’m keen to see a growth in woodland cover across Scotland but it needs to be carried out in an integrated way with other land uses," stressed Mr Ewing. "This simple and clear guide helps to lay out for both landowners and tenants how new woodlands could work for them and the benefits that can potentially be realised by all parties from planting trees in the right places.”

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association chairman Christopher Nicholson commented: “Tenant farmers were given rights to diversify into non-agricultural activity in 2003. This included the right to plant trees and harvest timber, subject to landlord’s consent. Over the last couple of decades many tenants have taken advantage of the right to diversify and have built up some valuable alternative income streams, which have proved to be a boon in times of uncertain and variable agricultural returns.

"However, despite government incentives and encouragement, there are very few examples of tenants planting trees apart from small shelter belts and amenity planting," noted Mr Nicholson. "This is partly due to an unwillingness to convert land from agriculture to forestry, the perceived difficulties of obtaining landlord consent and the inherent risks of having to pay end of tenancy compensation to the landlord if the tree planting is seen as devaluing the land.

“This guidance must be commended for outlining the rights of both tenants and landlords to plant trees and providing information on applying for permission to plant and it may also provide food for thought for tenant farmers looking for alternative sources for income post Brexit. However, STFA would add the caveat that this guidance should not be seen as giving a green light to landlords to resume land for forestry and would warn, that any resumption of land or deals to plant trees should be done in with the agreement of the tenant and local community.

"Landlords may have the right to resume land for non-agricultural purposes, but tenants also have statutory rights and are entitled to resist resumption, where it could be seen to be a 'fraud on the lease', or contrary to the good faith of the original lease," he warned.

“As with other guidance and codes of practice issued by the TFC, this latest guidance provides added clarity and, in certain circumstances, may well encourage greater co-operation or even joint ventures between landlords and tenants which I am sure will be welcomed by all, especially by the Government who are keen to expand Scotland’s woodlands and forestry.

“Woodland creation may provide an alternative income stream but, tenant farmers are urged to proceed with caution," he added. "Any new venture must be carefully planned and accompanied by cast-iron agreements with landlords to protect the tenant’s interests against any nasty future surprises if, for example, the tenancy should suddenly come to an end before the trees have grown sufficiently to be of value”.

The guide, which also provides information about waygo compensation which the landlord or the tenant may be entitled to upon termination of the lease, is available at