The rent review system in Scotland, currently embroiled in controversy, is to be investigated by a new short-life working group set up by the Tenant Farming Forum (TFF).
The four independent members of the new Rent Review Working Group will consider specific aspects of agricultural rent review procedures and then submit their report and recommendations to the TFF and the Scottish government. The TFF will then consider the recommendations and propose actions, including any recommended procedural or legislative changes, which may be required.
The move was immediately welcomed by the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA), which said tenant farmers had lost confidence in the current system.
STFA chairman, Angus McColl, said: "Attempts by the 2003 Act to make rent reviews fairer, quicker and less expensive have clearly not worked. The STFA has been expressing concerns for some time about the rent review system and the need for such an independent study and is pleased this is now happening."
However, the landowners organisation, Scottish Lands and Estates (SLE), was less convinced there was a problem to consider. SLE chief executive, Douglas McAdam, said: "This group will as its first priority decide whether the current framework for rent review is broken and requires attention, or whether it functions well. That is an important first step.
"No-one should be leaping to conclusions at this stage and I am sure the new group will approach this important piece of work in the same constructive way the TFF conducts its general business."
The new working group has been endorsed by rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead, who agreed the Scottish government would provide support and technical assistance for the programme of work.