Supporters press Holyrood to help threatened farmer

A crowd of protesters gathered at Holyrood to hand in a petition in support of tenant farmer Andrew Stoddart. Picture: Ian Georgeson
A crowd of protesters gathered at Holyrood to hand in a petition in support of tenant farmer Andrew Stoddart. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A ROW has broken out between a farmer and a landowner after hundreds of protesters staged a rally outside Holyrood to stop him losing the tenancy of the farm he has worked on for more than 20 years.

The crowd gathered to watch a petition containing nearly 20,000 signatures organised by the campaign group 38 Degrees being handed to MSPs in support of Andrew Stoddart.

Only one proposal has been made by the Trust and that required immediate removal”

STFA STATEMENT

Mr Stoddart, of Colstoun Mains Farm, Haddington, claims he and his young family will be turfed out of the farm on November 28.

His concerns have attracted widespread support from campaigners, who have said his case typifies the situation facing tenant farmers in Scotland.

Landlord the Colstoun Trust has blamed legislation on Mr Stoddart’s “false hope” and said the family would be allowed to remain in their home.

Francis Ogilvy, factor of the Colstoun Estate, said: “The portrayal of Mr Andrew Stoddart and his family being evicted from Colstoun Mains on November 28 is misleading and a distortion of the real position.

“We have offered Mr Stoddart the opportunity to remain living in the house at Colstoun Mains on the assumption that they do not have alternative accommodation.”

Negotiations with Mr Stoddart’s advisers over compensation for an estimated £500,000 of investment at the farm is taking place, he said.

The Colstoun Trust has said it wants “greater involvement” in the running of the farm.

Mr Ogilvy said: “He rented the farm for fixed period of time in the full knowledge that the lease would terminate.

“It is very regrettable that this matter has become a political football.”

In response, the Scottish Tenant Farmers’ Association (STFA) issued a statement on behalf of Mr Stoddart, which described the Trust’s comments as “inaccurate”, adding the offer to remain in the farmhouse “comes as news” to him.

It said: “Mr Stoddart’s advisers are still in dialogue with the Colstoun Trust through the offices of the Scottish ­Government in response to offers of assistance from cabinet secretary Richard Lochhead and hope to begin to mediate a settlement shortly. Only one proposal for compensation has been made by the Trust and that required immediate removal from the farm and an unacceptably low offer.”

The statement added that the tenancy of the farm was not intended to be of fixed duration as repeatedly claimed by the Trust – instead, it was for an initial term of 15 years and rolling thereafter until terminated by one of the parties.

It also stressed that the date of quitting the farm was formally set by the Land Court, and “not willingly agreed”.

The phrase “defective legislation” relates to a law on agricultural holdings passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2003, which a test case found was in breach of landowners’ human rights. Remedial legislation was passed last year, which the trust has used to take back Colstoun Mains.

A Scottish Government spokes­­woman said: “Given the urgency of this situation, the cabinet secretary, Richard Lochhead, personally intervened and has spoken to both Mr Stoddart and the Coulston Trust.”