A FARMER who lost a long-running legal dispute with his landlord has been found dead just weeks before he was due to leave the land his family had tended for more than 100 years.
The body of father-of-four Andrew Riddell, 52, was discovered after he had harvested his final crop.
Tributes have been paid to the man friends said lived for his farm and family.
In March, after a year-long deliberation in the Court of Session, Lord Gill released a ruling enforcing a notice to quit on Mr Riddell, who was in a specific type of “limited partnership” lease.
Mr Riddell, of Peaston Farm, Ormiston, East Lothian, was then given notice to quit by millionaire landowner Alastair Salvesen.
It is understood that Mr Riddell had just completed his final harvest as tenant at Peaston, and that Mr Salvesen’s machinery had just arrived to establish the next season’s crop.
His death has raised concerns held by MSP Rob Gibson, a member of Holyrood’s Scottish Rural Affairs Committee, which is currently examining farming tenancies.
Mr Gibson said: “My thoughts are with Andrew’s family at this awful moment. I’m horrified lack of security in tenancy law may have claimed the life of a tenant in the midst of legal turmoil.
“The urgent need for change could not be more pressing.”
As well as working tirelessly on the farm, Mr Riddell had been a long-serving director with the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA).
The STFA said that, along with the rest of the agricultural community in Scotland, its members were stunned to hear the news of Mr Riddell’s death.
Chairman Angus McCall said: “This is distressing and sad, first and foremost for Andrew’s family to whom the deepest sympathy is extended, but it has shocked and cast a gloom over the wider agricultural community.
“For all of us who knew Andrew as a friend and fellow farmer he was regarded as a genuinely good and decent guy, dedicated to his children and wider family.
“He had an attractive personality, unassuming with natural easy good manners and he was excellent company.”
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead, said: “I had the privilege of meeting Andrew at a recent event and I am deeply saddened to hear of his shocking and tragic death. My thoughts are with his loved ones at this difficult time.”
A police spokesman said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.
Mr Salvesen was not available for comment.
A 2010 Land Court challenge ruling by Mr Riddell gave tenure to him, but Mr Salvesen’s appeal of that decision was upheld in March.
Measures put in place to protect tenants in such arrangements were found not to be compatible with the European Convention of Human Rights. It is understood the decision could be appealed at the Supreme Court but it is unclear if this would have changed Mr Riddell’s specific legal position.
Mr Riddell’s family had farmed Peaston Farm since 1902 but the family’s secure tenancy did not survive, as it was left by Andrew’s grandfather to his uncle, who died with no successor. The owners at the time, Hopetoun Estate, agreed to let the farm to Andrew and his dad, but only on a limited partnership tenancy.