Rural affairs minister under pressure over farm rent reviews

SCOTTISH minister Richard Lochhead is facing demands for a compulsory code of practice on farm rents.

The cabinet secretary for rural affairs and the environment has met the Scottish Tenant Farmers’ Association (STFA), which told him that the report by his rent review group, released last month, had left tenant farmers unsatisfied.

STFA chairman Angus McCall said his organisation believed that legislation was needed to reform the 1991 act that sets rent rules.

“However, in the short term, it is imperative to draw up stringent guidelines for rent reviews which will put a finanancial viability health check at the heart of the review,” he said. “This must be backed by an enforceable code of practice.”

The SFTA said that control measures were needed to prevent rents from rising sharply, which would endanger family farming businesses.

It said that under threat of a costly suit in the land court, tenants often back down in rent renewal disputes, making reviews stressful for tenants and pushing rents ever upwards.

Mr McCall said that talk of a self-regulating market was deceptive as land agents who pushed through agreements at higher rents would be likely to find their services in higher demand.

“The next round of rent reviews is only a few months away and we have impressed on the cabinet secretary the need for urgency if measures are to be put in place in time to give tenant farmers they confidendce that they will get a fair deal,” Mr McCall 
said.