The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association, in submitting evidence to the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee tasked with scrutinising the Land Reform Bill, has signalled its support for the objectives of the draft Bill while asking for the inclusion of stronger measures to ensure a just transition for farmers.

In addition to wider land reform measures which may positively impact the management of Scotland’s bigger estates of over 3000 hectares, the Bill contains provisions to strengthen the position of tenants on both traditional secure leases and the modern fixed-term leases.

The tenancy reform measures include improvements to the rules around diversifications; changes to give tenants greater scope to invest on their holdings; modernising the Rules of Good Husbandry and Estate Management; a new waygo process enabling landlords and tenants to settle waygo claims in good time; long overdue changes to the rent test; ensuring tenant farmers receive fair compensation for resumption; and improving the rules governing compensation for deer and game damage.

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These are substantial tenancy changes in the Land Reform Bill which STFA has been lobbying for over the past decade. However, to ensure a just transition for Scotland’s tenant farmers at a time when agriculture is at a crossroads, STFA has urged that this Bill should be strengthened.

Commenting on the Bill, STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “This Bill comes at a time when tenant farming is under great pressure from alternative land uses including forestry and greening measures, combined with landlords looking to position themselves to take advantage of our taxation framework and future land-based support schemes.

“With an increasing proportion of our tenanted sector under non-secure leases, farm tenants are facing an uncertain future.

“One only has to look across the Border to England to see what can happen to farm tenants on fixed-term leases when support schemes, the tax framework and greening opportunities all stack up together against the tenanted sector.

“England are a few years ahead of us in terms of implementing new CAP replacement policy and developing private markets for biodiversity schemes.

“Clearly their policymakers have not given much though to the prospects for farm tenants with the result that landlords are clearing tenants off land from Cumbria to Devon.

“Unfortunately, there are early indications that some of Scotland’s largest landowners have similar plans.

“STFA recommends that the MSPs scrutinising this Bill ask for stronger measures in key areas to ensure that what we are currently seeing in England is not repeated in Scotland.”