Coronavirus: Scots tenants could get waygo amnesty extension

Scottish farm tenants have been urged to continue with waygo claims despite proposals for an extended amnesty period due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The deadline for the amnesty remains 12 June 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic has thrown the process into turmoil, with many tenants still to claim.

See also: 6 tips on aiding succession on your farm

What is the waygo amnesty?

Waygo describes the winding up of a tenancy when negotiations over compensation for the tenant’s improvements to the farm are completed.

Notifications of any improvements during the agreement should be filed at the time they are made.

However, in the past, tenants have failed to do this and face missing out on valuable compensation at waygo.

To rectify the situation, the Scottish government made provisions under the Land Reform Act (Scotland) 2016 to allow tenants to file improvement notifications retrospectively.

To avoid longstanding and complex negotiations, it set a three-year amnesty period from June 2017 by which date all retrospective notifications had to be lodged.

Rural surveyors Davidson and Robertson are among the agents that assist tenants through the waygo process.

The firm’s director, George Hipwell, explained that claims can take months to finalise and required a string of face-to-face meetings.

But the coronavirus lockdown meant these often crucial meetings could not take place and many tenants would fail to meet the deadline, Mr Hipwell said.

Now, though, there is growing optimism that a six-month extension will be granted after cabinet secretary Fergus Ewing responded positively to representations by the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA).

In a letter to the STFA, Mr Ewing said: “I note the points that you have made about the difficulties tenants face in the current circumstances around on-farm meetings and I am sympathetic to your request for an extension to the amnesty.

“I have therefore asked my officials to explore legislative options for extending the amnesty period for six months.”

Mr Hipwell said the extension is not yet guaranteed because there is significant pressure on parliamentary time, but government officials have indicated a decision should be made after Easter.

In the meantime, Mr Hipwell urged farm tenants to act quickly.

“So far, we have assisted landlords and tenants across the length and breadth of Scotland, but uptake is still poor.

“We’re still encouraging eligible tenants and landlords across the country, to take up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity before the deadline.”

Mr Hipwell warned that many tenants were overlooking potential areas where compensation could be due, by mistakenly assuming it only applied to things like new sheds.

Instead, he listed just some of a range of areas that should be considered but were typically being overlooked.

  • Improvements to the farmhouse that would make it more attractive to an incoming tenant and therefore command a higher rent
  • Drainage upgrades that could turn pasture into better grazing or even making it suitable to grow wholecrop silage
  • Renewable energy boilers
  • In-bye land that was fenced and limed as long ago as the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s

Waygo help 

Davidson & Robertson has been working in partnership with NFU Scotland since June 2019, providing a free waygo helpline (0131 449 6212) to support tenant farmers and landlords looking to capitalise on the waygo tenant amnesty.