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What are the barriers to entry to Scottish farming?

There has been much discussion and debate about the barriers to new entrants to Scottish farming for some time and Sir Don Curry (2008) stressed that “new entrants are essential for any industry, however, the capital requirements of agriculture make farming one of the most difficult industries to enter… this is particularly true today.”

In 2009 LANTRA conducted a Your Future in Farming Survey of members of Young Farmers Clubs in England and Wales to identify barriers to entry and investigate future ambitions of young people looking to enter the farming industry, and they concluded that “the industry is in danger of putting off prospective farmers before they have even reached the farm gate.”

Some of the key barriers identified by various surveys and stakeholder groups include:

  • ageing farm population and low exit rates
  • common absence of successor
  • capital barriers (start-up and operational finance)
  • lack of tenancies and available starter units
  • competition for land from established farmers and lifestyle purchasers (which can be exacerbated through agriculture’s inheritance tax and Capital Gains Tax advantages)
  • high land prices
  • difficulty accessing finance and concerns over servicing debt
  • lack of financial reward
  • bureaucracy
  • uncertainty
  • difficulty breaking into the industry
  • CAP support designed to support established farmers rather than new entrants (for example, the Single Farm Payment)
  • long hours
  • public image of farming
  • poor pension planning by farmers

In addition to this in 2015 The Scottish Governments New Entrants to Farming Programme ran a series of conferences. Delegates where asked to consider the major hurdles for entry into farming and major obstacles for young farmers to make the next step.

Perceived problems raised:


  • access to capital and cash
  • length of time capital is tied-up before a return on investment
  • lack of security to borrow against and often no credit history / guarantor
  • viability – daunting scale required before becoming self-sustaining


  • land availability and lack of tenancies – “Right to Buy is limiting access”
  • older inactive farmers holding onto the business while retaining subsidies
  • new entrant tenancies with no sight of a next step
  • landlords reluctant to invest in infrastructure
  • short duration or seasonal tenanted land having poor steading/fencing
  • uncompetitive in the open land market against established businesses and outside investors


  • time limitations if working off-farm full-time
  • networking – “often feel as if you’re in the boat alone”
  • loss of knowledge/skills
  • bureaucracy – red tape, regulation and certification “trip wires”
  • lack of support (financial or otherwise)
  • agriculture not actively encouraged by schools/parents

In 2007 Scotland’s Tenant Farming Forum (TFF) investigated the issue and were asked to suggest practical solutions to overcoming these barriers and make recommendations to the Scottish Government reported how these may be implemented in practice. The industry respondents to TFF’s industry survey suggested the best way to reduce barriers to new entrants would be to:

  • provide financial support to young people getting started in farming (for example, interest rate subsidies, higher grant rates)
  • make taxation changes that make the letting of land more attractive
  • provide freedom to agree any length of tenancy
  • amend planning policies which allow retiring farmers to build house in country
  • make payments to farmers who retire and vacate farm early

The final recommendations made in the TFFs report and the Scottish Government’s Response can be seen on the Scottish Government’s website.