Improved confidence and more optimism among Scottish farmers are contributing to the continued firming of the land market even though more acres are being offered, say land agents north of the border.

In the past six months, over 90 commercially farmed properties of over 50 acres, totalling about 25,000 acres, have been launched in Scotland, according to research from agent Savills.

This was a 75% rise on the same period last year, but still well below that seen in 2000, said the firm’s head of research Ian Bailey.

Strutt & Parker’s Andrew Smith said there had been an increase in availability, but there was still enough demand to soak up the extra land.

“Overall, there is still relatively little land on the market.”

But most of the farms available were livestock or dairy units, said Chris Hall of Rettie & Co, who reckoned overall land values were still pretty much in line with last year.

Hill land was about £100-£300/acre, upland was making £400-£1000/acre and £1400-£3500/acre was being paid for the limited amount of arable soil available.

“There has been very little arable land on the market, with only about 3000 acres in total from 11 units, and not one arable unit coming on to the market in the Lothians and Borders area,” he said.

“It is a real problem,” agreed John Coleman of Knight Frank.

“We are very short of commercial arable units.”

Mr Coleman said arable farmers were under no pressure from their banks to sell and wanted to hang on.

Any arable farms that did come to the market were being snapped up by neighbouring producers, he added.

“There are some very aggressive farm businesses around.”

West Dron, a 648-acre mainly arable farm at Bridge of Earn, seven miles from Perth, was one of the few arable units to come up for sale and was already under offer in lots for well over its £1.35m guide price, said Mr Coleman.

Savills recently placed a wanted advert seeking a top-quality arable farm of 400-1000 acres in the Scottish borders or Lothians, offering over 5000/acre for a good arable unit, but so far a seller has not been found.

“It is very much a sellers’ market now and I don’t foresee any great catalyst which will change that.

There is more optimism about now on the back of improving product prices – beef and lamb prices are holding up well,” said the firm’s Edinburgh-based Charles Dudgeon.

Irish farmers, who have sold land back home for development or for a typical farmland price of three or four times Scottish prices, are still helping to support the market in Scotland, said Mr Dudgeon.

But the impact was largely restricted to farms in the south west of Scotland, which was more easily accessible from Ireland, he said.

For example, 40% of the viewings for Linns Farm, a 975-acre Dumfriesshire livestock unit priced at £1.8m, had come from Ireland.

carolmaclaren@lineone.net