The move last week by Scottish landlords to involve the Lord Advocate in determining the legality of parts of the recently passed land reform bill has come under heavy fire from the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA).
STFA director Angus McCall said: “All parliamentary bills are subject to rigorous scrutiny before becoming law. STFA understands that, if law officers have any reservations about the legal competence of any aspects of a bill they will refer it to the UK Supreme Court for a ruling. We also understand that no-one else can legally challenge any aspects of the bill until it becomes law.”
The spat started when Scottish Land and Estates (SL&E) queried whether the right of a farm tenant to assign his tenancy to another party breached the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Throughout the passage of the land reform bill through parliament this spring, the SL&E challenged this section of the bill and another which widens the rights of succession to a tenant.
McCall stated: “STFA is confident that land reform bill will prove to be legally competent and, if so, landlords should cease their sabre rattling. It is high time that landowners’ organisations realised that times are changing and the new focus on increasing the security of tenant farmers will bring long term benefit to Scottish agriculture.”
SL&E chairman David Johnstone said: “The STFA bandy about phrases about sabre rattling and torpedoing legislation yet our approach to the Scottish Government law officers is all about ensuring that legislation is competent.
“To date, these issues have given politicians from a range of political parties real concern that there are very real ECHR issues that need to be dealt with.”