Supreme Court rules against tenancy legislation

THE UK Supreme Court yesterday threw a legal spanner into the already complex legislation surrounding agricultural partnerships with their decision that one vital clause in the 2003 Agricultural Holdings legislation produced by the then Scottish Government contravened the European Convention on Human Rights.

The latest ruling on the Salveson Riddell case, which has been running through the courts for the past decade, could theoretically affect up to 500 farming partnerships – but ironically it will not involve either party from the original case.

It is also believed that many of those potentially affected by the legislation have already come to their own agreements.

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In their judgment, the Supreme Court recognised the complexity of the legislation and consequentially has allowed the Scottish Government up to a year to correct the defective clause as well as trying to find solutions for the competing interests of the individuals involved.

In their reactions last night, both Scottish Land and Estates and NFU Scotland said they wanted more time to consider the judgment. A spokesman for the SLE said it was important to bear in mind that this was not a landlord-tenant case but one where a limited partnership had been in place and which had been due to end under the terms of the agreement between two parties.

For the union, chief executive Scott Walker admitted the ruling had the potential to affect a number of limited partnerships but he added it would take some time to digest the implications.

However, the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association expressed its “extreme disappointment” at the judgment with chairman Christopher Nicholson saying: “This news will come as a bitter blow to those tenants, families and businesses who will be affected by the court’s ruling.

“The original legislation was a genuine attempt to put a stop to limited partnerships being terminated and it is very disappointing that, ten years on, we are told the law is not competent.

“Tenants who have used the legislation in good faith must not be penalised further and it is important that the rights of the 500 or so tenants still in limited partnerships are not prejudiced by this decision.”