Publication - Advice and guidance

Agricultural holdings and tenant farming guide

Published: 15 Nov 2019

A guide to agricultural holdings and tenant farming.

Agricultural holdings and tenant farming guide
Agricultural holdings glossary

Agricultural holdings glossary

A glossary of terms used in agricultural holdings legislation.

Please note that this glossary explains some words used in the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Legislation that may be unfamiliar, or may have a different meaning when used in law than in everyday use.

It is provided to help you understand the legislation and is not intended to have any force in interpreting current or future law.  If a word is not listed here, it has the same meaning in law as its usual dictionary definition.


agricultural holding - the aggregate of the agricultural land which comprises a lease

agricultural land - land used for agriculture for the purposes of trade or business 

agricultural lease - a letting of land for a term of years, or lives of the tenant, or for lives and years, or from year to year

agricultural unit - land defined as an agricultural unit for the purposes of the Agriculture (Scotland) Act 1948

arbitration - method of resolving a dispute between a tenant farmer and their landlord

agriculture - includes horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming, livestock breeding and keeping, the use of land as grazing land, meadow land, market gardens and nursery grounds, and the use of land for woodlands where that use is ancillary to the farming of land for other agricultural purposes

assignation - the transfer to a third party of a tenant farmer’s interest in an agricultural lease of land 

building - includes any part of a building 


Candlemas - Scottish term day, usually 28 February

claim notice - a notice of the intention to claim x by y 

contract farming - a contract between one party and another party to undertake some form of farming activity 


dissolution notice - a notice that terminates an agricultural leasing arrangement

diversification - to permit a tenant farmer to diversify his farming activities/ operations into non-agricultural use or uses  


fixed equipment - includes any building or structure affixed to agricultural land and any works on, in, over or under that land.  It also includes anything grown on the land for the purpose other than use after severance from land, consumption of the thing grown or of produce thereof, or amenity.  Can include the following things: 

  • all permanent buildings, including farm houses and farm cottages, necessary for the conduct of the agricultural holding
  • all permanent fences, hedges, stone dykes, gate posts and gates
  • all ditches, open drains and tile drains, conduits and culverts, ponds, sluices, flood banks and main water courses
  • stells, fanks, folds, dippers, pens, and bughts necessary for the proper conduct of the holding
  • farm access or service roads, bridges and fords
  • water and sewage systems
  • electrical installations including generating plant, fixed motors, wiring systems, switches and plug sockets and
  • shelter belts


grazing or mowing let - a 364 day tenancy agreement where the tenant farmer rents agricultural land for the purpose of grazing livestock on it or for taking a silage crop from it


high farming - adoption by the tenant farmer of a more beneficial farming system than is required by the leasing arrangement or custom of the area/ district 



  • Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1923 improvement - an improvement begun before 31 July 1931 on an agricultural holding as specified in Schedule 3 of this Act, as an 1923 Act improvement.  For which compensation may be payable
  • Small Landholders and Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1931 improvement - an improvement carried out on an agricultural holding and begun on or after 31 July 1931 and before 1 November 1948 as specified in Schedule 4 of this Act, as an 1931 Act improvement, for which compensation may be payable
  • old improvement - a 1923 Act improvement or a 1931 Act improvement begun before 01 November 1948
  • new improvement - an improvement begun on or after 1 November 1948 carried out on an agricultural holding, as specified by Schedule 5 of the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1991 as a new improvement for which compensation may be payable

ish - the end date of an agricultural lease 


Lammas - Scottish term day, usually 28 August 

Land Court - the Scottish Land Court

Land Tribunal - the Lands Tribunal for Scotland 

landlords - any person for the time being entitled to receive the rents and profits or take possession of an agricultural holding, and includes the executor, assignee, legatee, disponee, guardian, curator bonis, tutor, or permanent or interim trustee (within the meaning of the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1985), of a landlord

Limited Duration Tenancy (LDT) - agricultural land that is let under a lease, introduced by the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003, for a term of not less than 10 years.  No upper limit to the length of the lease i.e. could be 99 years long

Limited Partnership - the granting of a traditional agricultural lease to a limited partnership, where the landlord is a limited partner and the tenant farmer is a general partner

livestock - includes any creature kept for the production of food, wool, skins or fur, or for the purpose of its use in the farming of land 


market garden - a holding, cultivated, wholly or mainly, for the purpose of the trade or business of market gardening

marriage value - the higher value an agricultural tenancy has to neighbouring farmers (the marriage of both farms)

Martinmas - Scottish term day, usually 28 November

Modern Limited Duration Tenancy (MLDT)creates a new tenancy type (MLDT), of 10 years duration, which allows greater flexibility to both parties to negotiate aspects of the lease.  For those who are new entrants to farming there is a break clause which comes in to effect after 5 years of the tenancy agreement


near relative - for a deceased tenant of an agricultural holding, ‘near relative’ means a surviving spouse, surviving civil partner, child or grandchild of that tenant farmer

notice of entry compensation - following service of notice to quit  on a landlord by an acquiring authority, a tenant farmer has the right to choose, through the Land Compensation (Scotland) Act 1973, Section 55 (2), a “notice of entry compensation” from the acquiring authority

notice of intention to quit - written intimation, by the tenant farmer to their landlord, that it is their intention to end the agricultural leasing arrangement (tenancy).  Must be issued not less than two years and not more than three years before the current agricultural leasing arrangement expires

notice to quit - written intimation, by the landlord to their tenant farmer, that it is their intention to end the agricultural leasing arrangement (tenancy).  Must be issued not less than one year and not more than two years before the current agricultural leasing arrangement expires 


open market rent - the financial rental value of a holding on the open market in Scotland 


post lease agreements - transfers a landlord’s liability for the upkeep of fixed equipment to their tenant farmer.  Has no effect if post lease agreement is made on or after 27 November 2003

pre-emptive right to buy - a tenant farmer, operating under a traditional agricultural leasing arrangement, who has registered their interest to acquire their farm land must be approached first of all by landlord to see if they wanted to buy the farm land

produce - includes anything (whether live or dead) produced in the course of agriculture 


rent - how much money is paid by a tenant farmer to their landlord for use of his farm land

rent review - a statutory right for either a landlord or a tenant farmer, at the break of the agricultural leasing arrangement (tenancy), to review current rental value, provided that this is not less than three years since the commencement of the arrangement or previous rent review

repairing standard – is the minimum standard for private rented housing which sets out criteria that the property must meet before being let out

resumption clause - drafted in its widest terms, entitles the landlord to recover farm land from the agricultural holding for any non-agricultural purpose

review date - a date at which a lease can be terminated, subject to the protection afforded to a secure 1991 Act tenancy agreement

right to buy for tenant farmers - the ability to require a landlord to sell the farm to their tenant farmer without the farm being advertised on the open market 


Secure 1991 Act Tenancy - a letting of land for a term of years, or lives of the tenant, or for lives and years

Short Limited Duration Tenancy (SLDT) - agricultural land that is let under a lease for a term of not more than 5 years.  Introduced by the 2003 Act, it also allows the parties by agreement to convert the leasing arrangement into a 10 year MLDT.  When converting an SLDT into an MLDT, the date of entry shall be deemed to be the date on which the SLDT started

sisted - the running of time in any litigation is halted; like the operation of a “pause” button.  During the sisting, the parties are not required to take any positive action regarding court procedures

smallholdings - can be either owner occupied or tenanted agricultural holdings, operating on less than 50 acres.  They often involve the farming of non-mainstream breeds or small scale farming of commercial breeds.  Species can include cattle, sheep, goats and poultry.  They may also have bees and can produce fruit and vegetables – again on a small scale

small landholdings - tenanted holdings, subject to the Small Landholders (Scotland) Acts 1886 to 1931 (“the Landholders Act”), that only exist in Scotland outwith the Crofting Counties

succession - a right to inheriting a tenant farmer’s agricultural leasing arrangement (tenancy) 


tacit relocation - the continuation of an agricultural lease after its expiry by operation of law because neither party has taken steps to terminate the arrangement

tenant - the holder of land under a lease of an agricultural holding and includes the executor, assignee, legatee, disponee, guardian, curator bonis, tutor, or permanent or interim trustee (within the meaning of the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1985), of a tenant

tenants improvements - improvements made to a farm, including improvements made to buildings, by the tenant farmer

termination - the termination of the lease by reason of effluxion of time or from any other cause

tolerable standard – this is a 'condemnatory' standard; a house that falls below it is not acceptable as living accommodation


vacant possession - the value of a tenanted holding if there was no agricultural tenancy in place on the farm

viable unit - in relation to the grounds for consent to operation of notices to quit a tenancy acquired by succession, ‘viable unit’ means an agricultural holding which in the opinion of the Land Court is capable of providing an individual occupying it with full time employment and the means to pay the rent in respect of the unit and for adequate maintenance of the unit 


waygo - effective date or termination date on a notice of intention to quit or a notice to quit of an agricultural leasing arrangement 

Whitsun - Scottish term day, usually 28 May

write-down agreements - a written agreement between a tenant farmer and their landlord for compensation at waygo for tenant’s improvements to fixed equipment not covered in the statutory provisions.  Any write-down agreements made on or after 27 November 2003 is not enforceable








Telephone: 0300 244 9920

By post:
Scottish Government
Agricultural Holdings Team
Agriculture and Rural Directorate
D Spur
Saughton House
Broomhouse Drive
EH11 3XD