Giving Scottish tenants a pre-emptive right to buy the land they farm has ‘frightened off’ landlords and made land law ‘toxic’, according to the Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA).
George Dunn, chief executive of the group, which operates primarily in England and Wales, said the Scottish model should not be copied elsewhere in the UK.
The 2016 Land Reform Act in Scotland, which gave tenants the pre-emptive right to buy, has meant landlords approached by third parties about land sales have had to be careful not to enter into even informal discussions, as this could unintentionally trigger the right to buy.
Landlords innocently assuming they are selling an area outside the lease may also be challenged by a tenant under the new rules.
Mr Dunn said: “Agricultural tenancy and land law in Scotland is toxic at the moment, and the land law and land reforms, in my view, have not helped.
“If you look at the size of the tenanted sector in England, it is about 30 per cent. We have seen decline in Scotland because we are scaring the horses.
“For every tenant, we need a landlord, and if you push the landlords too far, they will leave the sector.
“We need to find some balance somewhere which encourages landlords to do the right thing, but does not frighten them off so they do not want to let anymore, and sadly, that is what we are seeing in Scotland.”
In England and Wales, the TFA decided against support for the right to buy, but Mr Dunn was clear more needed to be done to nudge landlords towards better practice on length of term and more flexible agreements.