Tenant Farming Commissioner publishes Buccleuch Report

Scotland’s Tenant Farming Commissioner, Bob McIntosh, has today issued his report into the handling by Buccleuch Estates of negotiations with agricultural tenants over their farm leases.

The Tenant Farming Commissioner (TFC) was asked by Buccleuch Estates to look into concerns raised at a public meeting regarding a number of terminations of Limited Partnership arrangements and a Short Limited Duration tenancy.

The TFC reviewed five cases, looking at how the Estate had dealt with the cases and whether they were handled in accordance with good practice and relevant published codes and guides.

The TFC found that no actions by the Estate were in contravention of agricultural holdings legislation but that best practice was not always followed and that some of the discussions and negotiations could have been handled more sensitively by the Estate.

Bob McIntosh said:

“There are some valuable learning points from this exercise which have relevance for all landlords and tenants. The ending of non-secure tenancies has the potential to be a sensitive issue, particularly where past practices by the landlord may have led tenants, and general partners in an limited partnership, to feel that they have more security of tenure than is actually provided.

“When entering into such arrangements, and throughout the duration of the agreement, it is important that landlords and tenants are clear with each other about their expectations and aspirations for the future and that the outcome of these discussions is recorded so that unpleasant surprises for either party are avoided.

“It is also important, that where action by a land owner is likely to have major implications for land use, for communities and for the circumstances of individual tenants, the exercise is well planned with a good communications and engagement plan.

“Landowners must be able to pursue legitimate business interests but should heed the principles set out in such publications as the Scottish Government’s Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement, the Landowners’ Commitment published by Scottish Land and Estates and the Scottish Government’s ‘Guidance on Engaging Communities on Decisions Relating to land’.

“It will not always be possible to find outcomes that suit all stakeholders but consideration of the external impacts is likely to at least influence the process, and timing, by which change is brought about.

“The primary purpose of the Tenant Farming Commissioner is to promote good relations between landlords and tenants in the agricultural holdings sector.  This report highlights the importance of proactive engagement by landowners and land managers with tenants and communities when significant changes are planned.”

Read the full report here.