Sustained political pressure on Scottish landowners to release more land for let has prompted a strong retaliation by their representative organisation, Scottish Lands and Estates (SLE) which claims there is no well of underused land.
The recent statement by the Scottish Government’s Rural Affairs secretary Richard Lochhead that landowners had a “moral obligation” to release more farmland for tenants has led to SLE publishing the results of a survey of 20 of Scotland’s biggest estates which show 70% of the farmland on these estates was let on recognised agricultural tenancies or farmed in-hand.
“The political environment is not conducive to producing a vibrant tenanted sector. Landowners need to have confidence that they won’t regret letting land because of another decision which may come through in the pipeline.”
Andrew Howard, an SLE board member who represents the organisation on the Scottish Tenant Farming Forum said: “The results show clearly that these landowners are not ‘sitting’ on land that should be let on the market as some commentators have suggested.”
However, he admitted it was not a representative sample and it had been conducted after the government’s latest statistics showed the tenanted land sector in Scotland has shrunk by 10% over the last six years.
Mr Howard also warned that the Scottish Government’s plans to review Agricultural Holdings legislation was leading to continued uncertainty for his members, which was not good for the sector.
He added: “The political environment is not conducive to producing a vibrant tenanted sector. Landowners need to have confidence that they won’t regret letting land because of another decision which may come through in the pipeline.”