The Scottish Government has launched an investigation into the highly contentious issue of farm rent reviews.
Rural Affairs secretary Richard Lochhead announced at the Royal Highland Show that he had asked the Tenant Farming Forum to consider the whole area of rent reviews because it caused such concern among current and prospective tenant farmers.
“We need to find a way of taking some heat out of the situation and avoid the one-way motorway to the courts,” he said.
Scottish Tenant Farmers Association chairman, Angus McColl, who has campaigned hard for a fairer formula of assessing rents, welcomed the news.
“The whole process has become very complex and expensive and we would like to see a system whereby a rent was set based on the potential productive capacity of a unit rather than what it might earn on the open market,” he said.
“There currently is no open market, so landlords look instead at what has been agreed in existing tenancies and they are often unrealistically high. Many tenants agree to rents because they fear the cost of litigation or don’t want to go to the Land Court.”
Mr McColl added that his sector also wanted to see an alternative dispute resolution system in place because the current arrangement was complex and expensive.
“The first port of call is the Land Court and we thought that would be simple but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said. “It can result in a six-figure sum for each party and thaty’s simply not sustainable.
“We want a less formal process which can be dealt with by agreed arbitration or mediation. It needs to be simpler, quicker and cheaper.”