Calls from the leader of the Scottish Conservative party for freedom of contract for tenant farmers came under fire yesterday.
Ruth Davidson was at Clochnahill Farm, just south of Stonehaven, along with her party’s West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine candidate, Alex Burnett, following Wednesday night’s heated debate at Aberdeen University.
Ms Davidson took the helm of a quad bike, driving it through a field of newborn lambs with their mothers as she underlined her party’s commitment to rural Scotland.
She said: “I think it is a nonsense that there are laws which say you can only have a tenancy of this length of time or this length of time.
“If you’ve got somebody willing to let land and you’ve got a willing tenant (you) can work out a deal between them. Why not do that in the same way as you would do to have a contract like that in any other business in any other industry?”
However, her suggestion was labelled “destructive” by the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA).
A spokesman said: “It is deeply disappointing that Ruth Davidson has chosen to attempt to make tenancy reform, a matter devolved to the Scottish Parliament, an election issue.
“Attempts to remove the laws which regulate the letting of land and govern landlord tenant relations have already been comprehensively rejected by the agricultural industry and successive governments.
He accused the Conservative leader of appealing to the “landowning party faithful”, adding: “It is unhelpful to the already fragile relationships between landlords and tenants.”
Ms Davidson also hit out at what she called the “centralisation” of Scotland under the SNP yesterday and claimed a Conservative government would be best placed to answer the needs of the north-east.
She said: “There is a real sense that the central belt is what is captivating the minds of the Scottish Government and we say that is not good enough.”
For the owner of the farm itself, Hugh Gordon, a vote for the Scottish Conservatives was not only about the interests of farmers in the north-east, but about the wider UK economy.
He said: “I think it is the only party that is able to get the deficit under control.”