NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick and policy manager Jenny Brunton have called for a fresh approach to starter farms, arguing that leases as short as five or 10 years are not long enough to provide a solid start into farming.

The pair met with Zander Hughes and Craig Malone at South Dundonald Farm on Wednesday (May 29).

Zander is nearing his eighth year of tenancy in South Dundonald as part of the Forestry and Land Scotland Starter Farm Scheme, which will end in September 2022. Craig is in a similar situation, having begun his tenancy the same year.

As the first two individuals to enter the scheme, Zander and Craig both highlighted the issues they are now facing as they near the end of their 10-year tenancies and need to look to where they go next due to the lack of opportunities available.

Zander Hughes, who is also vice-chairman of NFU Scotland’s Next Generation Group, said: “10 years is a very short time in farming terms.

If there is no continuation or progression with opportunities available, then the entire starter farm process has been a waste and there seems little point in repeating the process.

“I am concerned that Scottish Agriculture will have an abundance of experienced, enthusiastic and capable young people who have no opportunity to progress within the industry or drive forward their fledgling businesses.”

Andrew McCornick, NFU Scotland president, said: “NFU Scotland recognises that in many ways the farming ladder is broken.

"The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 has failed to deliver a healthy and vibrant tenancy sector and the chronic shortage of opportunities has left many, including the starter farmers and developing businesses without viable options to progress within the industry.

Some new entrants have been able to get their initial start via initiatives that has seen public bodies making land available, but many have been unable to move on from there.

"NFU Scotland’s innovative Joint Venture Hub has provided a platform for alternative opportunities within the industry. However, NFUS recognises that more needs to be done.

“The union is committed to working with the Scottish and UK Government to seriously examine the potential for fiscal changes which might reinvigorate the let sector.

"Work with our Next Generation Group and Legal and Technical Committee will be a key component this workstream, and I believe that NFUS has a key role to play in these discussions.”