One of Scotland’s biggest landowners, Buccleuch Estates, is to sell off 10 farms to sitting tenants.
The farms, which are currently let on a limited partnership basis, comprise just over 7,300 acres – a fraction of Buccleuch’s 215,000-acre portfolio.
The estate is also in discussion with other limited partnership tenants with a view to converting agreements to alternative long-term letting arrangements.
The move was welcomed by the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA) which recently warned that some of Scotland’s largest estates were taking steps to end this type of letting arrangement, often with a view to planting the land with trees.
The STFA pointed out that limited partnership tenancies were originally devised as a way of circumventing security of tenure and between the 1980s and 2003 – when limited duration tenancies were created – they were just about the only type of tenancy available. There are now less than 400 of these tenancies still in existence, compared to 1200 in 2003.
STFA chairman, Christopher Nicholson, said that his organisation appreciated that many landowners wanted to move limited partnership tenancies on to a more satisfactory basis.
However he added: “There is concern that some of the actions taken have been insensitive and on occasion callous, with little consideration for the tenants concerned and scant regard to industry agreed guidelines.
“We are therefore pleased to hear that Buccleuch Estate is taking steps to enter into discussions with their tenants to agree a mutually beneficial way forward.”
Mr Nicholson called on other landlords to follow suit in their dealings with limited partnership tenants, in particular not serving formal notices to dissolve partnerships or terminate tenancies before discussions have taken place.
He added: “It should also be remembered that most of the tenants affected will be in mid-career having farmed the land for well over 20 years and many will also have sons or daughters who would like to follow in their footsteps. The circumstances and aspirations of these farming families should be taken into account before decisions are made about the future of their farms.”
In land being sold by Buccleuch is on their Bowhill, Eskdale and Liddesdale and Queensberry estates, near Selkirk, and at Langholm and Sanquhar.
Buccleuch chief executive, John Glen, said most of the farmers involved wanted to purchase their whole farms while others were interested in buying only part of the land and the farmhouse.
Mr Glen added that the proceeds of farm sales would be invested in Buccleuch’s rural business operations which include energy and tourism projects.