Thousands back tenant farmer in eviction dispute

Farmer Andrew Stoddart. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Farmer Andrew Stoddart. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Pressure is mounting on a landowner to reverse a decision to evict a tenant farmer who has invested half a million pounds in the farm he has run for more than two decades.

A dispute between 
Andrew Stoddart, who works at Colstoun Mains Farm, Haddington, and landlord the Colstoun Trust is showing no sign of being resolved despite interventions from Scottish ministers.

He and his young family have been told they have to leave by November 28, with the trust claiming it wants to have “greater involvement in the running of the farm”.

The Stoddarts, along with the two workers they employ on the 900-acre arable and sheep farm, will have to leave their homes and livelihoods behind.

This would also be without compensation for the investment they have made.

The eviction follows a 
ten-year dispute over a rent review requested by Mr Stoddart.

Now a petition calling for the trust to reverse its eviction decision has attracted 15,542 signatures.

Mr Stoddart, 52, has been supported by Agriculture Minister Richard Lochhead, but a solution has not yet been reached.

He said he was “totally 
devastated” by the eviction, adding: “We have made this area our home. This is our life.”

Alyn Smith MEP said: “We should be supporting our farmers, not turfing them out of their homes. This case is a prime example of the climate of fear and suspicion that bedevils the debate on land reform in Scotland.”

George Kerevan MP said: “I urge the Colstoun Trust to think again. Andrew Stoddart has worked his farm 
successfully as a tenant for two decades and invested £500,000 of his own money into making it a success. He deserves to be allowed to continue.”

In a statement, the Colstoun Trust blamed “defective legislation” 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 said it has used to take back Colstoun Mains within a short timescale.

“In this case the trustees offered at an early stage to settle all claims by Mr Stoddart relating to the tenancy, including improvements, but this offer was rejected on Mr Stoddart’s behalf. Whilst agents for landlord and tenant may have some discussion in advance of waygo on proposed claims, it is premature for comment to be made at this stage,” the statement said.

“The disappointment and frustration that Mr Stoddart is now experiencing is not due to the actions of the Colstoun Trust but because of an unprecedented legislative failure which has affected many tenants and landlords.”

kaye.nicolson@edinburghnews.com