Land agents have been accused of using stalling tactics to run down the clock and prevent tenant farmers meeting the deadline for registering improvements ahead of the official amnesty which ends in just three months’ time.
The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA) says it is convinced amnesty discussions are being deliberately hampered by agents or factors, and advise farmers to “act immediately and not be nervous” about referring problems to Bob McIntosh, the tenant farming commissioner (TFC).
The STFA says it has been contacted by tenants who are becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress being made in finalising their amnesties by landlords or factors who “appear to be deliberately awkward or officious in an attempt to slow down amnesty negotiations”.
Significantly, Bob McIntosh has also issued a statement saying: “The onus to complete the amnesty process is on both the tenant farmer and the landlord, and I would encourage all parties to ensure the process is completed before the deadline. I have a code of practice which outlines the behaviour expected by all parties. It emphasises the importance of having a site meeting to help move the process along.”
The amnesty provision was introduced in the Land Reform Act (Scotland) 2016 and allows for certain past improvements carried out by the tenant to become eligible for end-of-tenancy compensation despite missing notices or consents.
It is regarded as essential for agreeing what will be eligible for compensation at waygo, but also critical for the new rent test and for future generations understanding who owns what.
STFA director Angus McCall said many farmers were reporting difficulties in bringing negotiations to a conclusion to complete the amnesty.
He added: “The amnesty was the brainchild of Scottish Lands and Estates (SLE) and continues to have their full backing, and it was anticipated that the spirit of the amnesty would be respected by landlords’ agents, sadly this has not always been the case.”
However SLE chief executive Sarah-Jane Laing said she was “perplexed” STFA had not made the claims at previous joint meetings.
She added: “The June date is the deadline for the tenants to submit their amnesty notice. It’s difficult to see what advantage could be gained from landlords or their agents delaying the process, and it’s certainly not something that has been raised with us prior to this. If anyone does have concerns about the amnesty code of practice not being adhered to then these should be reported to the tenant farming commissioner.”