Agricultural Tenancies (Fourth Edition)



Robert Sutherland

There is irony in the fact that whilst surveys show that the number of agricultural tenancies in Scotland has been falling, the amount (and complexity) of legislation and regulation of agricultural tenancies continues to increase. As a consequence, the need for an updated version of Lord Gill’s seminal textbook on agricultural tenancies has never been greater. Indeed, ever since the passing of the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003, the most frequently asked question in this subject has been “When is the next edition coming out?”. Apart from the author’s heavy workload, it seems as though the main cause for delay has been the frequent changes to the legislation since then. However, these oft repeated requests have now been answered, and answered in full.

The 3rd edition of the text (entitled The Law of Agricultural Holdings In Scotland) was published in 1997 and ran to 835 pages, slightly less than half of which was text divided over 39 chapters, while the remainder consisted of appendices of legislation. The 4th edition has been split into two volumes - 1058 pages of text over 89 chapters (Vol. 1) and a further 888 pages of legislation (Vol. 2). There is a Foreward by Lord McGhie, the recent former Chairman of the Scottish Land Court. For a reviewer of the book there is little left to say that Lord McGhie has not said, describing it as a “magisterial work”, “lucid”, “comprehensive”, “a detailed exposition”, and praised for “putting so much material into readable and understandable form”. All of these superlatives are true and well deserved. The book has been described as the agricultural lawyers bible since its first edition in 1982. The 4th edition continues that tradition.

As with previous editions, its usefulness lies not just in its coverage of the specialisms of agricultural law, its discussion of common law principles concerning the law of leases makes it a helpful reference source for any person looking for a clear analysis of general principles and practice. From the bench the author had commented on earlier editions to the effect that the text simply set out what had been decided in previous cases. That was not entirely correct because (as with any major text) the book did contain occasional observations on particular cases where there might be some doubt as to whether or not the existing position was legally correct. The 4th edition differs only in that it is more discursive than previous editions, which in my view assists the reader by giving a fuller analysis of the topic under consideration.

As those familiar with this area of practice will know, there are further changes in agricultural tenancy legislation pending as a result of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016. At the time of writing, and at the time of publication, it was not known when the various changes under the 2016 Act might be brought into effect. Helpfully the text covers not just the present law, it also explains what changes will be made by the 2016 Act when these changes are brought into force.

The book does not just cover agricultural tenancy legislation. There are also chapters on Sites of Special Scientific Interest, management agreements, compensation for compulsory acquisition, and expanded parts dealing with jurisdictions, remedies, Land Court practice, and arbitration. Volume 2 is similarly comprehensive in collecting together legislative and other materials - which range from 2 different versions of the Leases Act 1449 to the Scottish Agricultural Arbiters and Valuers Association Short Form Arbitration Rules 2013.

If I was to have a quibble, it is with the fact that the tables of cases and statutory materials only appears at the beginning of Volume 2, rather than in Volume 1, or in both Volumes. It means that if you want to check on all the places where a particular case or statute is referred to in the text it is necessary to have both volumes to hand. If that is the worst thing which I can say about this book (which it is), I really have nothing to complain about. Lord Gill and those who assisted with the production of this book (see the Preface) have done an excellent job. No doubt any practitioner who calls themselves an agricultural lawyer will want to buy their own copy, and no doubt any lawyers who do any work in this subject area will need to refer to it for its sound and practical guidance. I can only endorse the sentiments expressed by Lord McGhie, and thank Lord Gill for putting so much time and effort into producing this most recent and valued edition of his work.

Robert Sutherland, Advocate

Agricultural Tenancies (4th ed) by Lord Gill. 1946pp. £248 (Hardback)