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Union Call for Momentum Behind Tenancy System Reform to be Maintained

NFU Scotland has used an evidence session at Holyrood to call for the momentum behind reform of Scotland’s agricultural tenancy system to be maintained.

The Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee in the Scottish Parliament has been taking evidence today (25 March) on the recently published recommendations of the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group (AHLRG).

It is the latest step in an intense period of debate around agricultural tenancies, with NFU Scotland having undertaken extensive engagement with its membership, fellow stakeholders, politicians, Scottish Government and the AHLRG in recent times.  Agricultural tenancies were also on the agenda at the Union’s AGM in February.  In the past few weeks, NFUS officials have met with both Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead and Minister for Land Reform, Aileen McLeod to discuss agricultural tenancies and the review group’s recommendations.

Ahead of today’s session, MSPs were provided with a briefing and a copy of NFUS’s full submission to the AHLRG.

Speaking after giving evidence, NFU Scotland’s Chief Executive Scott Walker said:

“First and foremost, NFUS believes the findings and conclusions of the AHLRG provide the foundation for change that will provide both a fairer system for existing tenants and the necessary platform for renting agricultural land in the future.  There is an opportunity here to make a fundamental change that must be taken.

“The momentum behind the report must be maintained and we reiterated our belief that the recommendations made by the Group would be best served by a standalone bill, as opposed to being a portion of the wider Land Reform Bill.  

“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.  

“Considerable time and effort has been directed towards this package and it has the potential to move to stronger partnerships in land rental arrangements and better opportunities for the next generation of Scottish farmers.

 “At the heart of the new relationship between tenants and landowners is a Tenant Farming Commissioner, an idea initially developed and promoted by NFU Scotland.  The commissioner must have the potential to intervene, make decisions and have those adhered to by both parties.   We must overcome the fear, delay and real cost that is associated with the current method of resolving a dispute, which is to go to the Land Court.

“Rent reviews remain the most common area of conflict and here significant progress can be made.  NFUS welcomes the Group’s recommendation of a new rental system based on productive capacity and underpinned by budgets.  Finding a remedy to rent review disputes as soon as possible should be a priority.

“Given the depth of feeling that exists on tenancy matters it is unrealistic to believe that all the aspirations of all stakeholders can be met.   While inevitably some of the reforms will either disappoint or cause concern to some, this package can deliver the ambitious targets of a fair system for existing tenants and a platform for renting agricultural land in the future.”

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 53/15


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