All sides in the fraught Scottish farm tenancy row have agreed on a timetable to tackle and reform the most contentious issues facing the sector.
The progress came after Scottish rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead addressed a summit meeting of the Tenant Farming Forum in Inverness after running out of patience with the group’s lack of progress on divisive issues and the lack of new tenancies being created.
Mr Lochhead set clear goals and an 18-month deadline to end the stalemate on controversial topics such as rent reviews, dispute resolution, succession issues, issues around fixed equipment and so-called waygo – the negotiations at the end of a tenancy surrounding the value of improvements carried out or crops or livestock left at the point of departure.
He will address other outstanding issues through new legislation.
The Scottish Government will also carry out a survey of farmers and their landlords in the coming months in order to help resolve some of the data gaps.
Speaking after the meeting Mr Lochhead stated: “I have also made clear that I expect the forum to come up with solutions which will make a real difference but also have a realistic timescale – it’s vital that we address issues quickly to deliver the change that is required.
“I recognise that this is a big test for TFF but we must focus on delivering solutions. It is important that we receive any TFF proposals for legislative change before we review the agricultural holdings legislation.”
The progress was welcomed by the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association, NFU Scotland and the landowners’ body, Scottish Lands and Estates.
STFA vice chairman Christopher Nicholson, a tenant farmer from Wigtownshire, said rent reviews in particular had been a cause of great concern for tenants who believed the current system was far too complex, slow and cumbersome.
He added: “It can give rise to major expenditure. Although this may benefit lawyers and land agents, it does nothing to assist tenant farmers in the daily running of their businesses.”
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