Right to buy could sti­fle ten­anted sec­tor

The Oban Times - - Farming -

A WARN­ING has been is­sued that Scot­land’s ‘right to buy’ could end ten­ant farm­ers’ hopes of pro­gress­ing in the in­dus­try.

As the av­er­age age of farm­ers con­tin­ues to rise and the sup­ply of farms falls short of de­mand, Malcolm Tay­lor, part­ner at land agent Bell In­gram, said mea­sures to en­cour­age new­com­ers to farm­ing will fall flat if land is not avail­able for ten­ants.

He said: ‘It is vi­tal that the gov­ern­ment aban­dons rights to buy for ten­an­cies and pro­vides se­cu­rity and in­cen­tives for land­lords to let land. A 10-year lease must mean a 10-year lease.

‘The gov­ern­ment wants a vi­brant ten­anted farm­ing sec­tor but seems un­will­ing to fa­cil­i­tate it. While re­cent an­nounce­ments by the Royal Bank of Scot­land that new en­trants to farm­ing need ad­di­tional sup­port are to be com­mended, this will be of lit­tle use if there are few or no farms avail­able for young en­trants to ap­ply for.’

Mr Tay­lor added: ‘ The Forestry Com­mis­sion, too, is to be ap­plauded for the cre­ation of starter farms of­fer­ing a first step on the farm­ing lad­der.

‘But the word “starter” im­plies a pro­gres­sion and sug­gests that af­ter the ini­tial lease, they will be ex­pected to move on to a larger unit.

‘This is all very well in an ideal world, but in re­al­ity there are no farms to progress to. What will hap­pen at the end of the ten­ancy? The ten­ant could rightly say the farm is their home and busi­ness and refuse to move, and this is not an at­trac­tive prospect for land­lords.

‘Some­body needs to take the lead and the an­swer is in the gov­ern­ment’s hands. Try­ing to in­flu­ence the Brexit de­bate seems more im­por­tant to some than the future of our young farm­ers and our ru­ral econ­omy. This needs to change.

‘In Eng­land, for­ward-think­ing Cam­bridge Coun­cil turned its back on a quick cap­i­tal boost to funds by selling land, and in­stead is sup­port­ing ten­anted farms. The ap­pli­ca­tion cri­te­ria for these farms are strict. Ap­pli­cants must be be­tween the age of 23 and 40, have had five years’ prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence or a three-year for­mal agri­cul­ture qual­i­fi­ca­tion, have suf­fi­cient fi­nan­cial sup­port and must not be from es­tab­lished farms.

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