Increasing government legislation is deterring Scottish landowners from letting out land to tenant farmers, warns an Aberdeenshire estate owner.
Gordon Morison from BMF Group, based at Frendraught near Huntly, said legislation and restrictions were stifling the Scottish tenant farming sector.
“Our business manages approximately 13,000 acres all together and most of that is in the arable sector,” said Mr Morison.
“It has been owned by the Morison family for over 400 years and for the vast majority of that time 90% of the area was let. Our core business is to let land.”
He said the group now runs around 3,000 acres in-hand and it has traditionally kept back small 60-80 acre farms for youngsters to get a start in the sector, before moving them on to bigger units.
“That’s no longer possible because once somebody is in, that’s it,” added Mr Morison.
He said the previous threat of the Absolute Right to Buy (ARTB) had made landowners cautious about letting out farms on a long-term basis, and the latest assignation and relinquishment legislation was also deterring landlords from making units available on long leases.
The Scottish Government legislation, which came into force at the end of February, will allow tenants on secure 1991 Act tenancies, who wish to retire or quit to relinquish their tenancy for value.
They can relinquish their tenancy to their landlord for compensation, or in instances where the landlord does not want to buy them out, they can sell the tenancy to a new entrant or a person progressing in farming.
Mr Morison said he believed it was morally wrong for a landowner to be required to pay to gain possession of his or her own land.
“When you turn that down [the right to buy the tenancy], the tenant then has the right to sell it to the highest bidder,” said Mr Morison.
“A youngster coming into a let farm will have that extra burden of having to buy the lease on top of the normal ingoing valuations, improvements and rent, and no youngster is going to be able to afford all that at the start of a tenancy.”
He called for a change in the way tenant farming is regulated in Scotland and said: “If they [Government] wants to get the tenant sector invigorated they need to do what England has done and get Farm Business Tenancies.
“There are so many restrictions and it’s stifling the tenanted sector. The current Scottish Government have gradually destroyed any faith in the ability to let rural property or land.”
Responding to Mr Morison’s concerns, Scottish Tenant Farming Commissioner, Bob McIntosh, said: “The new relinquishment and assignation legislation provides an opportunity for tenants with secure 1991 Act tenancies wishing to retire or quit the holding.
“The arrangements will enable tenants to realise the value in a secure tenancy when they relinquish it or assign it for value to a new entrant or progressing farmer and this may release more tenanting opportunities for new entrants to farming.”