Right to buy could stifle tenanted sector
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.