All tenant farms should be registered and ring-fenced to ensure a long-term future for the Scottish tenant farming sector, according to Moray farmer Alastair Nairn.
A tenant farmer on the Crown Estate with wife Jean and son Stuart, Mr Nairn believes the tenanted sector should operate more like the crofting community with all holdings registered.
The family farms nearly 2,000 acres on the Glenlivet Estate in Morayshire – this comprises two secure 1991 Act tenancies on Ellick and Clashnoir farms as well as a 10-year limited duration tenancy held by Stuart.
Mr Nairn said it was crunch time for the sector and it was vital the Scottish Government’s agricultural holdings legislation review group came up with a workable solution for the sector.
“They [government] have to change things now because we all need farm tenancies. Nobody is going to make it into farming now buying farms unless they win the lottery,” said Mr Nairn.
“We have to maintain a vibrant tenanted sector. It’s the only hope for young people to get a step on the farming latter but what we have to do is strengthen up these tenancies in the favour of the tenants.”
He called for all tenanted farms to be registered and ring-fenced.
“What we need to do then is make sure that when a tenant gives up or it comes to the end of the day, if there is no successor then that land has to remain tenanted land,” said Mr Nairn.
He said the debate needed to steer away from the absolute right to buy (ARTB), despite being a tenant who would be given the option to buy his farms should such legislation come into play.
“There’s a misconception here among tenant farmers with the ARTB that they are going to get a big 40-60% discount if they are a sitting tenant but that will only take place if the seller is a willing seller,” said Mr Nairn.
“If he is not, then the farm will be sold to them at open market value.”
He accused landlords of using the ARTB to put the brakes on letting land on short-term leases.
“Landlords should not be using the ARTB as an excuse not to let out land and Richard Lochhead made it quite clear from day one that it would only affect secure tenancies,” said Mr Nairn.
He backed calls by the wider farming community for the creation of a public body, such as a land commission or land adjudicator to oversee relations between tenants and landlords.
In addition, he called for the Forestry Commision to extend its starter farm scheme to allow new entrants to move up the farming ladder by being able to move on to bigger holdings.