MSPs demand action for eviction threatened tenant farmers 

Twenty-four Green, Labour and Lib Dem MSPs notes call for halt to pending evictions 

TENANTS THREATENED BY LANDOWNERS with eviction have won the backing of almost half of all Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). 

Motions in support of vulnerable tenants, six of which have been forced to go to court to seek security, have grown following a rally over the Glenree eviction scandal on Arran. 

Yesterday [Thursday 17 November] campaigners demanded action a fortnight ahead of a planned eviction of the Paterson family from their farm of over 20 years by their aristocratic landowner Charles Fforde.

MSPs from across parliament joined the rally, and have shown their support through two competing motions proposed to parliament. 

Andy Wightman, Scottish Green MSP and renowned land reform expert and author, called for swift emergency legislation to be brought forward to seek a halt to the immediate evictions - and highlighted the failure of a “tripartite mediation” process to materialise. 

Supported by 23 colleagues across the Scottish Greens, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, Wightman’s motion “further notes the calls on it to take action to stop all pending evictions”.

 Read more – Land reform movement demands action on Glenree eviction scandal

The Paterson family’s local MSP, Kenneth Gibson, proposed an amendment signed by 33 SNP MSPs diluting criticism of the Scottish Government, while expressing concern at the “stress and insecurity” faced by tenants and calling on “the Scottish Government to do everything within its power to assist affected tenant farming families.”

An emotional Ian Paterson, one of the two brothers threatened with imminent eviction, addressed the rally outside parliament yesterday. 

The case following the Colstoun Mains eviction scandal of 2015, when tenant farmer Andrew Stoddart and his family were forced from their family farm. 

Read more – 2015: News timeline of the Colstoun Mains eviction scandal 

Wightman, who has challenged the government on the issue, saw parliamentary authorities attempt to restrict his line of questioning due to ongoing court action. 

“Tenant farmers and their families are facing eviction through no fault of their own. Businesses and livelihoods are about to be lost,” Wightman said.

“This huge mess is made even worse by the fact that I have been warned against questioning ministers on the issues at hand. The Rural Economy Secretary's response, that the government will consider the outcome of the current court case brought by tenant farmers, does not end the uncertainty.

“We must have emergency legislation to halt evictions and we must see mediation to enable farmers and landlords to reach a settlement.”

“The demonstration has raised awareness amongst MSPs of this sorry saga, and we hope that Holyrood’s political parties can work together to seek a fair resolution for the tenants involved.” Christopher Nicholson, Tenant Farmers Association

Christopher Nicholson, chair of the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association added: “We would like to thank all those who turned up to show support, both tenants and the wider public.  The demonstration allowed MSPs to hear at first hand from the tenant farming families who now face eviction as a result of legislation passed in 2003 now found to be defective.

“Prior to the demonstration STFA representatives met with the cabinet secretary, Fergus Ewing, who gave reassurances that government would give whatever assistance it can to affected tenants. When questioned in parliament about compensation to tenants for the losses they have suffered, the cabinet secretary indicated that government would enter into dialogue with the tenants once the decision is known of the recent court of session hearing seeking a judicial review of the legislation which allows for the eviction of the tenants.

“The demonstration has raised awareness amongst MSPs of this sorry saga, and we hope that Holyrood’s political parties can work together to seek a fair resolution for the tenants involved.”

The Scottish National Party membership rebelled against its leadership on the issue of land reform - voting down its official policy at its 2015 Autumn conference for not going far enough to tackle land inequality and give individuals and communities stronger land rights, including tenant farmers. 

While the Land Reform Act 2016 was strengthened slightly as a result, tenant farmers were still not afforded an absolute right to buy. 

Commenting on the issue, SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said: “It is important that cases where disputes have emerged between landlords and tenant farmers are resolved quickly and amicably – I welcome the availability of a mediation service and would echo the call for all in dispute to use this service to seek resolution of issues. It is reassuring that there are mechanisms in place, as well as legislative changes coming into effect, which help support and strengthen the role and rights of tenant farming.”

The Paterson family faces eviction on 28 November. They plan a sale of their belongings on the Arran farm next Thursday [24 November], and have invited Scottish Government ministers to watch the eviction process take place. 

Picture: CommonSpace

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