A Scottish tenant farmer facing imminent eviction from the farm he has run for more than two decades has won a last-minute stay of execution in a case that has deepened debate over the future of land ownership north of the Border.
Andrew Stoddart has been farming at Colstoun Mains Farm, near Haddington in East Lothian, for 22 years and has invested more than £500,000 in improvements during that time.
But Mr Stoddart, along with his wife and three young children, is being forced to leave the property with little compensation after the landlord opted not to renew his tenancy. The decision came after a 10-year battle over rent with the Colstoun Trust, which owns the farm.
The family was scheduled to leave the property on Friday, but an “11th-hour” settlement has been reached that will allow them to remain there until the end of January.
The deal follows pressure from campaign groups Our Land and 38 Degrees, including protests and a petition signed by 20,000 people.
“Following 11th-hour mediation, we have come to a settlement with the Colstoun Trust,” Mr Stoddart said in a statement.
“This has been done to protect my family from further anxiety.
“A short period of occupancy has been agreed to allow us to remove our animals and dispose of our equipment to better advantage.”
He added: “The laws which allow landlords to arbitrarily end tenancies in order to access farming subsidies directly need amended.”
Seven other tenant farmers share the same fate as the Stoddarts as a result of “flaws” in the 2003 Agricultural Holdings Act.
Angus McCall, Scottish Tenant Farmers Association director, added: “There are still a large number of tenants on short-term agreements who are just as vulnerable to having their tenure cut short at the drop of a hat. This insecurity must be tackled as Scotland contemplates land and tenancy reform over the next few years.”
Plans to create a “right to buy” for tenant farmers have been dropped from the Scottish Government’s current land reform bill, which was introduced to the Scottish Parliament in June this year.