Lochhead promises to help find ‘workable solution’ on rents
THE Scottish Government this week promised to look at finding a modern, workable solution to the vexed issue of setting rental values on farms.
Speaking after a meeting with representatives of the Scottish Tenant Farmers’ Association in Elgin, Cabinet secretary Richard Lochhead pledged to help find a solution to the problem of fixing farm rents.
“Tenancy issues are of course often complex and regulation is there for a purpose which is to offer protection and safeguard tenant farming’s contribution to Scotland,” Lochhead said.
“All those involved – tenant farmers, landlords and the courts – recognise the current review process is too complex, costly and time-consuming.
Lochhead added there needed to be a modern, workable solution that better reflected the true value of both individual farms and markets.
“The Scottish Government will continue to examine this issue with a view to proposing changes to the formal process of setting rents as soon as is practicable,” he added.
SFTA chairman Angus McCall proposed a two-point approach to making rent reviews simpler, fairer and less expensive.
He wanted to see the estab- lishment of a panel of suitably trained and accredited panel of experts who would be qualified to either fix rents or act as arbitrators if a rent could not be agreed. In order to keep the process simple and straightforward the panel would follow a code of practice and common set of rules.
The SFTA also wanted to see a shift in how rental values were determined, he said. The preference was for a value to be placed on what the farm is capable of producing rather than on the outmoded “open market” basis which operates at present.
Referring to a landmark court case earlier this year, McCall added: “Taking a simple rent dispute to the Land Court has the potential to get out of hand as we have seen with Moonzie.
“What hould have been a sim- ple valuation exercise escalated into a complicated legal battle which occupied ten days of the Court’s time and cost both sides tens of thousands of pounds – far more than the sums in dispute.”
“There is a legacy of distrust from the old statutory arbitration system. We need to create an new arbitration model and a panel of qualified experts who will win the trust and confidence of all parties.”
The Moonzie decision in now under appeal and throughout the country rent reviews are at a standstill as landowners and agents await the outcome. McColl though it would be hard to see how the Land Court could undertake any rent cases until the appeal court expressed its opinion on the various issues under challenge.