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Review of Agricultural Holdings Legislation

Scope of the Review of Agricultural Holdings Legislation


1. The 2011 SNP manifesto included a commitment to undertake a legislative review within 18 months of the Agricultural Holdings (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2012 coming into force. The Review of Agricultural Holdings Legislation met this  commitment.

    Review Approach

2. The Review was led by Mr Lochhead the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment. He was aided by the Ministerially appointed Agricultural Holdings Review Group. The Review Group was supported by a secretariat, research programme and had regular discussions with the Tenant Farming Forum, the Scottish Land Court and the Scottish Human Rights Commission.

3. The Review was structured around delivering the key aims and objectives, set out below.

    Overarching aims of the Review

4. The Scottish Government’s vision is for a Scottish tenant farming sector that is dynamic getting the best from the land and the people farming it, and provides opportunities for new entrants, forming part of a sustainable future for Scottish farming.

5. The overarching aim of the Review Group was to determine what legislative, policy and fiscal changes were required to enable the achievement of this vision, through consideration of the following aims:

  • Provide opportunities for more flexible farming arrangements to enable farming businesses to develop and move through the tenant farming sector.
  • Provide the ability for tenant farmers and their landlords to develop their business relationships to optimise benefits and agree a fair and reasonable rent.
  • Modernise tenant farming legislation so that, it is flexible enough to meet the changing needs of the agricultural industry and economy.
  • Identify appropriate interventions and actions, including broader policy, legal and fiscal which can overcome barriers, weaknesses or omissions in the current tenant farming sector.

    Proposed objectives

6. The Review Group further developed a range of proposed aspirations to frame their thinking:

  • The underlying culture will be forward looking and based on shared endeavour, mutual respect and partnership between owners and tenants.
  • A range of flexible tenancy options will be avaialable to suit diverse business needs and evolving economic circumstances.
  • People, and especially new entrants to the industry, will be able to move into, through and out of the tenanted sector as their business develops.
  • Business investment in the tenanted sector will be subject to equivalent flexibilities and constraints to those that characterise the owner occupied sector.
  • Barriers to entry (including those arising from the CAP) will be low so that people, including new entrants, able to farm successfully can establish and develop a business regardless of their background circumstances.
  • Rent levels will reflect commercial returns from a well-managed farming business using the tenanted land and associated assets in a manner that accords with the Land Use Strategy.
  • The supply of tenanted land will be broadly compatible with demand at these rent levels.
  • Risk will be shared between tenant and owner in a manner that encourages innovation and provides inbuilt resilience to unpredictable changes (in markets, fiscal, support,etc).


8. The Review Group submitted an Interim Report to Scottish Ministers in June 2014 which provided an update on the early Review Group's considerations.

9. The Final Report was provided to Scottish Ministers in January 2015, including a comprehensive and integrated package of recommendations to bring dynamism and put the tenanted sector back at the heart of the Scottish agriculture.

Review Group members  

10. The following individuals were appointed as Review Group members by the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment:

  • Andrew Thin - currently the Chairman of Scottish Canals, a non-executive Director within the Scottish

    Government and a board member of Children's Hearings Scotland. Andrew's involvement in working with the public sector stretches back to his role on the Highlands and Islands Development Board in 1989. Andrew has since been the Chief Executive of Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise in 1991, a Crofters Commissioner in 1997 and Convener of the Cairngorms National Park Authority in 2003. He has held a wide variety of board level and consultancy positions in the private sector, including in estate and farm management, tourism and the service sector. Most recently, Andrew was the Chief Executive of Scottish Natural Heritage from 2006 to 2014.

  • Hamish Lean – is an agricultural lawyer and has been accredited by the Law Society of Scotland as an agricultural law specialist since 2000. He is a frequent practitioner in the Scottish Land Court and writes and speaks regularly on agricultural law topics. He is particularly interested in agricultural tenancies and provides a legal helpline for the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA). He is a member of the Agricultural Law Association (ALA) and the

    Scottish Agricultural Arbiters and Valuers Association (SAAVA) and sits on the Law Society of Scotland's Rural Affairs Committee and the NFUS Legal and Technical Committee. He is a partner with Stronachs in Aberdeen.

  • Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw Bt QC –has been in practice since 1982. He has a special interest in all aspects of Rural Land Law with a particular interest in the law relating to rural estates including, agricultural, crofting, conveyancing, environmental and fishing law issues. He regularly advises on renewable wind and water energy projects. He is a trained Mediator. He is the author of a number of textbooks on agricultural and land issues including: Agricultural Law in Scotland (1996); Connell on The Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Acts, 7th Edition (co-author with D Rennie) (1996); Land Obligations (1999); and Crofting Law (2000).
  • Barbara Brown –has been the Principal Clerk of the Scottish Land Court since September 2009. She is a qualified solicitor and joined the Scottish Office Legal Service (now the Government Legal Service Scotland) in September 1998, having previously worked in private practice with Maclay Murray & Spens, and as legal adviser with the charity ENABLE. She was seconded to the Justice Department in 2000, working on policy development, predominantly in areas of civil justice, and was a member of Lord Gill‟s Civil Courts Review team from April 2007 until moving to the Scottish Land Court.
  • Professor Jeff Maxwell, OBE, FRSE, FrAgs, FRSGS– Jeff is a former Chairman of the Tenant Farming Forum and an Agricultural Graduate of Edinburgh University (1965). He first worked for the Scottish Agricultural College as a specialist Animal Production Adviser and Lecturer; then the Hill Farming Research Organisation and then as Director of the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute from 1987-2000. Jeff is also a former member of the Agricultural,

    Environment and Biotechnology Commission and a former chairman of the SEERAD Agricultural and Environment Working Group (2001-2002) during which time he oversaw the production of the publication “Custodians of Change”.

  • Iain Mackay - Iain Mackay is a tenant farmer from Torloisk, Ulva Ferry, Isle of Mull. Although involved in the industry all his life, Iain began farming independently 10 years ago and took on a 5 year Short Limited Duration Tenancy (SLDT) of an extensive 3000ha hill farm at Torloisk in 2010. It is stocked with 1,000 Blackface and Chevio.

Engagement & Research 

  • Stakeholder Engagement Programme

11. The Review Group conducted an extensive stakeholder engagement programme, involving two rounds of engagement.

12. Prior to the publication of their Interim Report, the Review Group members met with the key stakeholder organisations (NFUS, STFA, SLE, RICS and SAAVA) and conducted over 50 meetings, including open meetings and private sessions with tenant farmers, landlords and professional intermediares across the length and breadth of Scotland. They also held a further 16 private meetings at the Royal Highland Show.

13. In the second round of engagement, the Review Group focussed on testing their emerging provisional recommendations, holding a total of 12 meetings with the main stakeholder organisations and opening meetings in Kelso, Inverurie, Bridge of Alan and Dumfries.

  • Tenant Farming Research

14. The Review Group work was also supported by an extensive tenant farming research programme, which provided them with the evidence base to develop their recommendations. Further information about the research programme is available here.

  • Monthly bulletins

15. The Review Group issued monthly bulletins to inform tenant farmers, landowners and interested parties about the progress of the Review. If you would like to see copies of the bulletins, please contact us by telephone 0131 244 9920 or e-mail tenantfarmingqueries@scotland.gsi.gov.uk.

Interim Report

16. The Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group published their interim report on 20 June 2014.

17. The Interim Report set out the progress of the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group ahead of publishing their final recommendations by the end of the year to meet the Scottish Government's commitment to review the current legislation.

18. A short summary of the Interim Report is also available here.

Final Report

19. The publication of the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group's Final Report  was announced on 27 January 2015 at the Scottish Parliament by Richard Lochhead MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment and Chair of the Review Group.

20. The Final Report set out a comprehensive package of recommendations to secure a vibrant future for the tenant farming.

21. The Parliamentary statement given by Mr Lochhead announcing the publication of the Final Report can be found here.