Scottish tenant farmers face eviction due to 'legal error'

Two brothers face an uncertain future following their eviction from a farm after two decades as a result of what it is claimed was a 'legal error' made in 2003.

A petition of over 25,000 names was handed over to Green Party MSP, Andy Wightman, at Holyrood last week

Ian and John Paterson, whose family have ran Glenree farm on the Isle of Arran for 22 years, were evicted on Monday.

Tenant farmers believed legislation on agricultural holdings passed by the Scottish Parliament 13 years ago would strengthen their security of tenure but the UK Supreme Court ruled in 2013 it breached the human rights of landlords.

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Several tenant farmers are now facing uncertainty after legislation to correct the defect - which prevented landlords from recovering vacant possession of their farms - was passed.

The Paterson brothers - John, 34, and Ian, 26 - farmed cattle and sheep which have all been sold in the past few days.

They have also have had to sell their equipment as they have no farm to go to.

Their mother Christine Paterson, 61, said: “We’ve been here 22 years, it’s a long time.

“We don’t want to go. My boys are suffering greatly today, they are feeling horrendous.

“When your family has been farming through the generations it’s in your blood. They want to carry on farming but we don’t know how this is going to be possible.

“The landlord has his own reasons, we fully understand that. His hand is being squeezed at the same time as ours. We just have to accept the situation and move on, and hope we find somewhere else.”

She said the family have been given leave to stay in the farmhouse for a few weeks until they find somewhere else.

The brothers also run a falconry, which they hope somehow to continue.

Angus McCall, director of the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association, said: “It is a very sad day for two young brothers, very enthusiastic farmers who have done an awful lot to build up their business on Arran and they are being made homeless.

“It’s not their fault, it’s the fault of a legal error that was made 13 years ago and it’s very, very sad that this has actually come to pass.

“The fault really lies with the parliament 13 years ago and the current government has had to pick up the pieces.”

Around six tenant farmers are now taking legal action against the Scottish Government seeking compensation.

A Court of Session judgement is expected in the next few weeks.

Mr McCall said: “The affected tenants have taken a petition for a judicial review in the Court of Session. That has been heard and we are waiting for a decision.

“Part of that is that they are saying when the Scottish Government brought forward its remedial order they should have provided some kind of compensation package.

“We will hear the outcome of that in a few weeks.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Having a thriving tenant farming sector as part of the Scottish agricultural industry is key to ensuring that we get the most from our land and the people who farm it.

“As such, we have a range of policies which support and encourage a vibrant tenanted sector.

“It is not possible for us to comment on or discuss the details of live court actions.

“We remain committed to facilitating and funding mediation between tenant farmers and their landlords, in the interests of supporting the sustainable and productivity of the holdings and to maintain a strong rural economy.

“This can provide a forum for tenants and landlords who wish to engage to discuss and explore resolution of issues between them.”