SCOTLAND'S Tenant Farming Commissioner (TFC), Bob McIntosh yesterday issued his report into the handling by Buccleuch Estates of negotiations with agricultural tenants over their farm leases.

Following adverse publicity resulting from the end of tenancy reviews for non-secure tenants on Buccleuch's Bowhill and Langholm Estates, Buccleuch Estates asked the TFC to look into concerns and allegations which had been raised publicly.

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.

Mr 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 a limited partnership, to feel 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 landowner 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".

John Glen, Chief executive of Buccleuch said they were committed to reviewing their processes in line with the recommendations in the report and added: "We are pleased to see that the Commissioner found that Buccleuch had acted in compliance with the law in all cases. In addition he also gave Buccleuch credit for attempting to find constructive solutions with farmers who could be affected by the ending of Limited Partnership agreements, following the Scottish Government and industry's desire to phase out these type of agreements."