Farmer wins festive reprieve from eviction

Andrew Stoddart has invested �500,000 into the farm in 20 years. Picture: Ian Rutherford/Hemedia
Andrew Stoddart has invested �500,000 into the farm in 20 years. Picture: Ian Rutherford/Hemedia
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A SCOTTISH tenant farmer facing eviction can breathe a sigh of relief after a deal was brokered to allow him to stay at home for Christmas.

Andrew Stoddart, his wife and three young children are being forced to leave Colstoun Mains Farm, near Haddington, but they have been given a stay of leave until January.

And an 11th-hour deal has been agreed with the Coulstoun Trust, the owner of the farmer, to compensate Mr Stoddart.

The farmer had been locked in a long-running battle with the landlord, which claimed it wanted more of a hand in the running of the farm.

Mr Stoddart said he had invested half a million pounds in improvements to Colstoun Mains in 20 years.

The trust has blamed “faulty” legislation passed by the SNP which was then changed back in favour of landowners.

The decision came after a ten-year battle over rent with the Colstoun Trust. The family was scheduled to leave the property on Friday, but a last-minute settlement has been reached that will allow the Stoddarts to remain there until the end of January.

The deal follows pressure from campaign groups, including protests and a petition signed by 20,000 people.

“Following the 11th-hour mediation, we have come to a settlement with the Colstoun Trust,” Mr Stoddart said.

“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 a result of “flaws” in the 2003 Agricultural Holdings Act.

Angus McCall, Scottish Tenant Farmers Association director, said: “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.”

Plans to create a “right to buy” for tenant farmers have been dropped from the Scottish Government’s current Land Reform Bill, introduced to the Scottish Parliament in June.

David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, welcomed the Stoddart deal.

He said: “We are aware there was a willingness on the part of the landlord to deal with the issues involved.

“It was very regrettable that Mr Stoddart was, as were other tenants in Scotland, given false hope by defective legislation brought forward by the then Scottish Executive many years ago. We would appeal for very careful consideration of complex agricultural legislation which forms part of the current Land Reform Bill.”

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “This has been an incredibly complex case involving flawed legislation to a breakdown in landlord-tenant relations.”