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Holyrood demonstration held in support of tenant farmers facing eviction

People gathered in support of the affected tenants
People gathered in support of the affected tenants

A group of tenant farmers who are faced with eviction due to flawed legislation gathered outside Holyrood yesterday.

The farmers and their supporters held a demonstration to coincide with Scottish Greens MSP Andy Wightman questioning the rural economy secretary on the issue.

Mr Wightman recently put forward a motion asking government to take action to stop eight pending evictions which have arisen following the Salvesen-Riddell case and subsequent remedial order.

The motion, which has gained cross-party support, calls for emergency legislation to be put in place to stop the evictions.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing responded to Mr Wightman’s questions on the issue by saying government was extremely keen to do everything possible to help tenant farmers.

He said he was unable to comment in more detail as court cases surrounding the evictions were ongoing but said once the cases had concluded, government would consider with “great care” the outcome of the litigation.

Following the questioning, Mr Wightman spoke to the farmers and their supporters outside parliament.

He said: “Tenant farmers and their families are facing eviction through no fault of their own. Businesses and livelihoods are about to be lost.

“This huge mess is made even worse by the fact that I have been warned against questioning ministers on the issues at hand. The rural economy secretary’s response, that the government will consider the outcome of the current court case brought by tenant farmers, does not end the uncertainty.

“We must have emergency legislation to halt evictions and we must see mediation to enable farmers and landlords to reach a settlement.”

Scottish Tenant Farmers’ Association (STFA) chairman Christopher Nicholson thanked those who attended the demonstration.

He said: “The demonstration has raised awareness amongst MSPs of this sorry saga, and we hope that Holyrood’s political parties can work together to seek a fair resolution for the tenants involved.”

The evictions are a result of a remedial order brought following the Salvesen-Riddell case – a legal challenge brought about by flawed legislation introduced by government in its 2003 Agricultural Holdings Act.

While the legislation was being approved and amended, it emerged that general partners in a limited partnership tenancy might be given security of tenure, causing some landlords to issue letters to quit to their tenants.

In reaction, the then farm minister, Ross Finnie, decreed that anyone served with such a notice would be granted a full tenancy.

This was then challenged, via the Salvesen-Riddell case, and deemed to be against the human rights of landlords.

A remedial order, which came into force in April 2014, decreed that any full 1991 secure agricultural tenancies created as a result of the flawed legislation were no longer guaranteed for those who had their limited partnership dissolved in the 2002-2003 window.

In these cases, landlords were given the option to convert the tenancy and take possession of the holding following a three-year notice period. Government also offered to fund mediation between affected tenants and landlords.

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