A truce between Scotland’s tenant farmers and lairds in which they agreed in a joint memorandum that rent negotiations should be “reasonable” and in line with inflation has proved short lived.

A new wave of high rent demands has followed hard on the heels of this summer’s Scottish Land Court decision to fix a rent rise of 78% on a Borders farm, with reports of landowners calling for 50% rises on rents agreed only three years ago .

According to former Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA) chairman Angus McCall there are at least two cases of farmers in the north Highlands and two in the Borders who are being presented with opening demands for a 50% hike in rents without reference to sitting tenants’ budgets.

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“I’m sitting here in the north of Scotland staring at wet fields of grain with a value that’s half what it was three years ago,” he said. “Landowners who’re looking for rent rises need to think again.”

Current STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson added: “There is no economic justification for any increase in rent this year despite a favourable summer.

“The crash in beef and cereal prices combined with the prospect of declining single farm payments from next year will put considerable strain on farm budgets and leave no room for increases in rent.”
Christopher Nicholson, STFA chairman

“The crash in beef and cereal prices combined with the prospect of declining single farm payments from next year will put considerable strain on farm budgets and leave no room for increases in rent.

“There may be scope for adjustments in rents which have not been reviewed for some time, but they should be subject to the agreed guidelines which seek to limit any disruption to a business caused by a dramatic change in rent. Similarly, rents that were recently settled at unsustainable levels should see a reduction.”

However Douglas McAdam, chief executive of the landowners’ organisation, Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) argued that there was no suggestion in the memorandum that rent reviews should not take place as normal or that there would be an “artificial across-the-board limit” on rents.

He added: “We ask the STFA to produce evidence that the spirit of the recent agreement is being ignored. If unreasonable rents were to be sought that is exactly what the interim sense check is there to address.”

The Scottish government is conducting a review of Scotland’s Agricultural Holdings legislation.

The memorandum, agreed by SLE, STFA and NFU Scotland, is intended as a holding position until the review group’s final report is published.