Land reform movement demands action on Glenree eviction scandal

Solidarity rally calls for change fortnight before farming family eviction 

LAND JUSTICE CAMPAIGNERS demanded action to support desperate farming families facing eviction at a rally outside the Scottish Parliament today [Thursday 17 November]. 

The Our Land coalition, supported by campaign group 38 Degrees, rallied in support of the Paterson family of Arran - who face an imminent eviction in the next fortnight from their family farm of over 20 years. 

Wealthy right-wing landowner Charles Fforde plans to force the family from their home on 28 November, despite the tenants’ 20 years farming the land. 

The land reform movement has called for right to buy tenant farming reforms through legislation and urgent facilitation of the legal process to protect families who have been dragged through the courts by landowners. 

Justice for tenant farmers rally planned for parliament this week

The most urgent case is that of farmer John Paterson, aged 34, and his brother Ian, who have been the tenants of Glenree farm on the Isle of Arran for 15 years. Their father Jim took on the 5,000-acre livestock farm in 1996. 

Ian Paterson said: “If the Scottish Government don’t step into help my family, we’ll lose our home and our livelihood. If Scottish Government choose not to help us - if they let us be put out of our home - then I invite them to attend our farm sale, when we’ll be selling our furniture, farm equipment and personal possessions. I want Nicola Sturgeon, Fergus Ewing and our MSP Kenneth Gibson to see first-hand what their inaction will do to me and my family.

“The Scottish National Party like to talk about helping the people of Scotland. Today is their chance to take some action and back that up.”

A crowd of around 100 supporters gathered at the parliament over midday to support the family, with signs in support of greater action on land reform. 

Six tenant farmers, including the Patersons, are currently seeking compensation through the courts for the cost of evictions. 

Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman, who spoke at the demonstration, said: “As the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has been warning for months, tenants who face being evicted as a result of the Salvesen Riddell case are being hung out to dry. Promises of tripartite mediation and compensation have been broken and tenants have been forced to go to court to secure their rights.
 
“This failure is the reason that I am urging the Scottish Government to introduce emergency legislation to halt any further evictions until proper mediation and compensation has been determined on a case by case basis.
 
“It is shameful that we are in this situation one year on from the eviction of Andrew Stoddart. I cannot begin to imagine the stress and worry facing the Paterson family on Arran as they prepare to sell their farm equipment and leave the island.”

The Glenree eviction scandal is almost exactly a year on from the Colstoun Mains eviction scandal when farmer Andrew Stoddart and his family were forced out of their farm and home.

2015: News timeline of the Colstoun Mains eviction scandal 

Landowner abuses continue following the watered-down Land Reform Act passed by the Scottish Parliament this year, which did not include substantial right to buy powers demanded by tenant farmers.  

Lesley Riddoch, journalist and land reform campaigner, added: “It seems land reform is in danger of becoming an internal conversation between Scottish Government Ministers and their lawyers. Meanwhile - one year after Andrew Stoddart's eviction date - another tenant farmer family is selling off its livestock, farm equipment and furniture and trying to prepare mentally for their own eviction in precisely two weeks. Surely it's time to put people before procedure, action before risk aversion.”

Wightman has called for emergency legislation in parliament to halt the evictions, which stem from a legal challenge to the 2003 Agricultural Tenancies Act. 

Landowner Charles Fforde did not respond to requests for comment.

Picture: CommonSpace