NO LESS than 22 tenant farmers have expressed an interest in the Crown Estate's offer to sell them their farms.

The properties are on the Applegirth estate in Dumfries, and the area around Auchindoun in Moray, both part of a pilot project to offer Crown Estate tenants the chance to buy their property. The 22 farms will now enter into discussion and explore their options.

If the pilot is rolled out across all 37,000 hectares of CE rural land around Glenlivet, Fochabers and Whitehill, the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association said that the tenants involved will be the ‘envy of the tenanted sector’.

A Crown Estate spokesperson said: “Earlier this year Crown Estate Scotland began the process of offering some of its tenant farmers on secure tenancies the opportunity to buy their farms if they wished to do so.

“This pilot initiative has the potential to increase diversity in land ownership in a planned and managed way. It has been developed following consultation and engagement with a range of people and organisations including tenants themselves, the STFA, and the Tenant Farming Commissioner.

“Crown Estate Scotland’s board has agreed that all 22 expressions of interest from the farm tenants should progress to the next stage, which will be the preparation of Sales Reports for the 22 farms.

“We have now written to each of the tenants informing them of the board’s decision and setting out in detail what will happen over the coming months. We understand that this process is a momentous one for many of our tenant farmers, and we will be offering advice and guidance to assist farmers as they consider their options.”

STFA managing director Doug Bell commented: “STFA has been in consultation with Crown Estate Scotland throughout the preparation and roll out of this pilot and will be continuing to follow progress with interest in the hope this approach may provide other similar minded landlords with a model to follow.

Read more: The SF's view on Crown Estate plans and 'Cost of Farming Crisis'

“The expressions of interest submitted by tenants are the first stage in a technical process leading up to a 'declaration of intent' to purchase, which together with the associated valuation process has already been carefully considered by STFA and our experienced tenants’ agents and are thought to be transparent and capable of delivering a fair and practical valuation.

“Whatever choice is made, STFA strongly advises tenants to take good professional advice, particularly in the negotiations around valuations and the eventual purchase price. Tenants also need to carefully assess the potential impacts of any decision to purchase on their business model."

Mr Bell added: “Should Crown Estate Scotland decide to roll out this pilot policy over their remaining rural estates, Crown tenants will become the envy of the tenanted sector. They can opt to purchase their farms and take advantage of the benefits that ownership brings. If they are contemplating retirement, they can either surrender their leases on the terms offered, which may be better than pursuing the Relinquishment and Assignation route or, they can take a chance and take part in a joint sale which may yield a larger pension pot. Alternatively, they can opt to remain as they are and carry on their farming operations as a tenant.”