Radical reform proposals designed to revitalise Scotland’s tenanted farming sector have been savaged by the land agents professional organisation, RICS Scotland.
In a late intervention that the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA) has described as “worrying and irresponsible”, RICS said the Scottish Government’s Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review and Land Reform Consultation could “trigger unintended consequences that would serve no benefit to rural Scotland”.
RICS has also called for any new tenancy legislation to be delayed for further consultation and not included, as proposed, in a Scottish Government Land Reform Bill in 2016.
“It is very difficult for a tenant to put his head on a block and complain about how he has been treated by an agent when he has to work with him again in future” STFA director Angus McColl
At a press briefing in Edinburgh RICS Scotland director Sarah Spiers predicted the Scottish Government’s proposals would not lead to a revitalised tenant-farming sector.
Instead, they would increase disputes and confrontations between landlords and tenants.
“It may also result in fewer farms made available to let in the future and this is clearly not in the public interest or in the interests of a vibrant tenanted farming sector in Scotland,” she said.
However STFA director Angus McColl said that for RICS to try to put a block on the recommendations was not acceptable.
“RICS is one of the reasons the Tenant Farming Forum was never going to have teeth or succeed, because while landlords and tenants can sit down and work things out, land agents are risk averse and don’t like change,” he added.
Ms Spiers also rejected recent criticism of “inexperienced and clumsy” land agents made by Andrew Thin, a member of the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group, and insisted RICS Scotland had never received even one complaint about a land agent.
“If there is bad practice and our members are involved, tell us,” she said. “We are in a highly political situation and there is a lot of mud slinging. We have robust procedures in place and want to know if members are acting inappropriately.”
Mr McColl said he was not surprised that RICS Scotland had never received complaints about land agents from tenant farmers.
“It is very difficult for a tenant to put his head on a block and complain about how he has been treated by an agent when he has to work with him again in future,” he said.