RURAL LANDLORDS feel that Scottish Government policy is making life more difficult than it need be – and they are not sure whether that is accidental, or deliberate.

Taking the temperature at Scottish Land and Estates annual conference in Edinburgh, the air around the topic of changes to tenancy legislation was rather hot, but not as hot, perhaps, as the ears of Scottish Greens leader Patrick Harvie, who was more than once identified as the source of policy that seemed calibrated to rattle private landlords.

The theme of the conference was rural housing, particularly affordable rural housing, and the part that private landlords play in providing it. Many speakers attested to the good work that was already being done – and others suggested that the sector’s ambitions to do more were being ‘thwarted’ by politicians with an anti-landowner agenda.

SLaE chief executive Sarah-Jane Laing led the charge, slamming ScotGov plans to try to squeeze houses let as part of agricultural holdings into private rented sector legislation designed for urban environments.

Ms Laing said: “We support the broad effort to improve the standard of housing stock on tenanted farms where required, ensuring homes are safe and warm for all.

“One of the current considerations by government is to look at housing let through agricultural holdings and how that could be brought closer into line with private rented sector legislation.

“We firmly believe that any changes to legislation should only occur through bespoke legislation, taking account of the complexity of agricultural holdings legislation rather than trying to retrospectively apply housing legislation.

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“Issues such as repairing obligations, rent, tenants’ improvements and farmhouses forming part of the fixed equipment must all be considered,” she stressed. “To override the current arrangements without careful consideration could present real difficulties for all within the industry and exacerbate the problems that exist.”

She continued: “Since the inception of the Scottish Parliament, there has been a wide political consensus to improve the sustainability of our rural communities but the stark reality is that we should be much further forward than we are now.

“Provision of rural housing is essential to the success of that strategy. We all share the goal of trying to increase the amount of rural housing but all too often that ambition is thwarted by delays in planning processes, lack of funding for private affordable homes, prohibitive infrastructure and utility costs and an ever-growing burden of private rented sector legislation.”

She stressed that members of Scottish Land & Estates provided more than 10,000 homes for rent in rural areas and many businesses were right now actively involved in building homes.

“They are dedicated to meeting a real social need but they are frustrated. Delivery of new homes is more complicated than it need be, and we continue to lose affordable rented housing due to ever increasing burden on landlords. The rate of new build affordable rented houses just cannot match the homes we are losing from the sector week on week.

“The time for action is now and we need to see the Scottish Government deliver on its commitment to provide rural solutions to rural housing need.”