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Farmer facing eviction due to 'defective' Scottish legislation

A long-running dispute between a landlord and a tenant farmer who faces eviction shows no sign of abating despite intervention from Scottish ministers.


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Andrew Stoddart
Andrew Stoddart

Andrew Stoddart, who farms at Colstoun Mains Farm, Haddington, East Lothian, has been told by his landlord, the Colstoun Trust, that he and his family must leave the farm by November 28.

 

Mr Stoddart has farmed beef and sheep on the holding for more than 22 years and has invested about £500,000 in its infrastructure.

 

He is one of eight farmers who have been affected by ‘defective’ legislation which was rushed through Scottish Parliament in 2003.

 

It was designed to allow any limited partnership (LP) tenant farmers facing early eviction to ‘upgrade’ to secure tenant status.

 

However, the legislation was proved unlawful in 2013, meaning those tenants who thought they could continue their tenancies, could not.

 

A statement issued by the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association on behalf of Mr Stoddart said: "The lease signed by both parties was for an initial term of 15 years to continue year by year hereafter until terminated by either side.

 

"The expectation at the time, was that this lease, in common with most LP tenancies signed at the time, would continue for the foreseeable future. It was also confirmed verbally by the factor of the day that the tenancy would in all likelihood be extended."

 

The convenor of the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment (RACCE) committee Rob Gibson MSP recently wrote to the Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead MSP calling for the case to be included in ongoing attempts at tenant-landlord mediation.

 

The high-profile case, which comes as RACCE takes evidence on the Scottish Government’s Land Reform Bill, has raised concerns over the lack of rights for tenant farmers.

 

Alyn Smith MEP it was an example of the ’climate of fear and suspicion’ which ’bedevilled the debate on land reform in Scotland’.

 

Francis Ogilvy, factor of the Colstoun Estate, condemned the portrayal of Mr Stoddart’s case as ‘misleading’ and a ‘distortion of the real position’.

 

He said the estate had offered the farmer the opportunity to remain living at the house on the assumption the family did not have alternative accommodation. He said two offers of compensation had been made.

 

Mr Ogilvy added: "Colstoun Mains is not ’Mr Stoddart’s farm’. He rented the farm for fixed period of time in the full knowledge that the lease would terminate. It is a great shame that he was given false hope of staying on indefinitely by defective legislation but he has known for years now that the tenancy would end and since March this year he agreed that it would be on 28 November 2015.

 

“The farm tenancy will cease on that date but we repeat there is no question of him and his family being made homeless."


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