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Agricultural Holdings Recommendations to Strengthen Tenanted Sector

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament this afternoon (27 January), Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead outlined the final recommendations of the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group (AHLRG).

The recommendations have emerged after a year-long wide-ranging review carried out by the AHLRG.  The group, led by the Cabinet Secretary, was charged with identifying the policy and legislative changes necessary to revitalise the Scottish tenant farming sector.

NFU Scotland, representing all farming interests, has actively engaged in the land tenancy debate.  With the recommendations now public, they will be a key part of the agenda, along with wider land reform issues, when the Union holds its AGM at St Andrews on 9 and 10 February.

Speaking from the Scottish Parliament, NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller said:
“Few consultation processes within Scottish agriculture have been so intense or reached so many. The AHLRG process has raised expectations that long standing tensions and problems within the tenanted sector can be addressed positively.

“It’s worth remembering that the review process was born out of conflict and laying out the groundwork for a new beginning was always going to be a challenge. It is, however, vital that we grasp this agricultural holdings package and properly tackle the problems in the tenanted sector that have emerged in the last few decades.  

“It is a genuine chance to create a better future and, with it, new opportunities for those who want to come into our sector. Through the Scottish Parliament’s legislative process, stakeholders can fine tune the recommendations to ensure they deliver the vibrant tenanted sector that we all seek.

“There is undoubtedly a depth of expertise on tenancy issues at both farm and professional level; that bank of experience must be used constructively to future proof any proposed legislation. The hard lessons learned from legislation brought in in 2003 underline the need for clear and robust drafting that closes down any legal uncertainty.

“Within the package there is a core of work that deserves to gain widespread support. Other aspects will inevitably either disappoint or cause concern to some stakeholders. It was unrealistic, given the depth of feeling, that all aspirations would be met. That said, these recommendations can meet the ambitious targets set and create the foundations of a more collaborative sector.

“Rent reviews remain the most common area of conflict and here significant progress can be made.  The role of both a new Land Commission, as outlined in the Land Reform consultation, and a Tenancy adjudicator, as mapped out by the Union to the AHLRG, will be crucial in taking on dispute resolution and addressing dysfunctional land tenure relationships without costly or long-running recourse to the Land Court.

“There are clear signals that both landlords and indeed tenants must fulfil basic obligations and responsibilities around a tenancy agreement if they are to maintain control over that land.

“The first opportunity to publicly debate the recommendations will come at the NFU Scotland AGM being held at St Andrews on 9 and 10 February.  Our Land Reform session will be addressed by lead civil servant Stephen Pathirana and well-known agricultural lawyer Hamish Lean, a member of the AHLRG.

“NFU Scotland is also finalising its submission to the Scottish Government’s wide-ranging Land Reform consultation and feedback at the AGM, building on the comments received at meetings held around the country in recent weeks, will give us a clear message on how to respond when the consultation closes on 10 February.”  

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 14/15


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