Hundreds of protesters have staged a rally outside Holyrood in support of a tenant farmer amid fears he faces eviction from the farm he has worked for two decades.
The case of Andrew Stoddart of Colstoun Mains Farm, Haddington, has attracted widespread support from camapigners who say it typifies the situation facing tenant farmers in Scotland.
A 15,000-strong petition on 38 Degrees calling for the Scottish Government to intervene in the case was also handed in to MSPs.
The landlord, the Colstoun Trust, says Mr Stoddart was given “false hope” by defective legislation. But it insists that the family are not being evicted and will be allowed to remain in their home.
The ‘Our Land’ land reform campaign today jointly organised a demonstration at the Scottish Parliament to present ministers with the petition in support of the Stoddart family and to argue for a stronger Land Reform Bill.
Campaigner and broadcaster Lesley Riddoch said: “Andrew Stoddart and his employees have worked and improved the land at Coulston Mains in East Lothian for 22 years.
“They and their families all face eviction in 18 days with scant compensation , a result of landowner sharp practice and badly drafted legislation by a previous Scottish Government. It’s surely the responsibility of this Scottish Government to intervene and demonstrate that the days of arbitrary evictions are over.”
Director of Common Weal Robin McAlpine said: “The fact that the Andrew Stoddart case has gathered so much public sympathy shows just how emotive the issue of land ownership in Scotland has become. This is a problem not just for families like Andrew’s but for all of Scotland.”
But the Coulston Trust today rejected claims that the Stodart family face being made homeless.
Francis Ogilvy, factor of the Colstoun Estate, said: “The portrayal of Mr Andrew Stoddart and his family being evicted from Colstoun Mains on November 28 this year is misleading and a distortion of the real position.
“We have offered Mr Stoddart the opportunity to remain living in the house at Colstoun Mains after 28 November on the assumption that they do not have alternative accommodation.”
Negotiations with Mr Stoddart’s advisors over compensation for improvements at the farm is taking place.
The Trust chief 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.”