I am delighted to publish this Guest Blog by Douglas McAdam who is chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates. The article first appeared in the Herald newspaper today. It is published here in the spirit of a mature debate and those posting comments should observe this wise counsel. Comments policy is here.

Let’s have a mature debate that does not demonise landowners

Douglas McAdam 28 June 2013

The most ardent advocates of land reform in Scotland went into overdrive when they did not like what they saw emerging from the Government-appointed Land Reform Review Group.

Even though the group published an interim report containing measures that could be seriously detrimental to private landowners’ interests, it was not enough to satisfy the blood lust of those who will only be happy if rural estates are wrenched from their lawful owners, broken up and sold off.

Those in favour of draconian land reform try to claim the moral and emotional high ground. However, we are confronted with a debate about the future of the countryside, communities and rural economies that is not rational. Instead, we have a propaganda war where fact runs a distant second to fiction. To create a more mature and informed debate we should attempt to separate fact from fiction.

Take tenant farming. In a recent Scottish Parliamentary debate, one MSP referred to the terrible “oppression” suffered by tenants who, she said, were operating in a climate akin to the Highland Clearances. The fact is that the agricultural landlord and tenant relationship is already among the most heavily regulated in commercial property arrangements. Around 80% of tenants have virtually complete freedom of use and can pass on the tenancy to future generations. Tenants have unrivalled security of tenure.

The Supreme Court recently ruled, in what has become known as the Salvesen case, that a landowner’s rights were violated by law passed by the Scottish Parliament which prevented the landowner ending what is known as a limited partnership agreement with a farmer. Those in the industry who were aware of the real circumstances did not try to make capital out of the situation and knew this was a complex and technical case. But it was portrayed in some quarters as a charter for landowners to throw tenant farmers off their land, with hundreds facing eviction; emotive, but false. There is no possibility of mass evictions of tenants.

Last week, Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, criticised landowners for not bringing farm land to the market for rent yet 96% of estate land is already farmed under some kind of arrangement, with 70% being let to tenants. Farms do not become available every day to landowners or tenants. Estates are generally fully let but there could be opportunity if older generation tenant farmers retire and also if confidence could be given to the owner-occupier farmers to let land.

Inevitably, the land reform lobby focuses on who owns Scotland and how unjust it seems that anyone should own what is perceived as a lot of land. All too often we hear that half of Scotland is owned by a few hundred people. This is misleading. Yes, there are large-scale landowners but often they own low-quality, fragile land. In reality, the 16 biggest private landowners hold less land than the Forestry Commission. More importantly, the vast majority of people who own rural land own less than 1000 acres, accounting for many thousands of these people.

There is a rich mosaic of land ownership across Scotland. The Government owns land, as do local authorities, charities, communities, NGOs as well as private individuals; quite a healthy mix. The caricature of a few landed gentry exercising complete control over Scotland does not reflect reality.

In one of the few pieces of research carried out into public attitudes towards estates, the public revealed it did not think about estates often, enjoyed the facilities and thought estates should do more to promote their activities -– all perfectly reasonable observations.

A mature land reform debate should be about use and management rather than ownership. It is time for the debate to move forward and concentrate on making decisions, based on fact, that will help rural Scotland. Private rural landowners are a constructive and progressive voice to be heard in that debate.


  1. Aye, well! It’s good that the SL&E is promoting a “mature debate” and not engaging in that nasty “propoganda war where fact runs a distant second to fiction.”

    Glad that at least we can trust one interested party!

  2. Let’s pass over the fact that accusations of “blood lust” and “propaganda wars” aren’t necessarily helpful in promoting a less emotional, more mature debate..

    To me, it all boils down to one simple principle. Do you agree that an important resource such as land should be managed to create the maximum benefit for the maximum number of people?

  3. Douglas Griffin

    If the author genuinely wants a mature debate then he should perhaps look at his own language – is it really necessary to start the article by describing the perfectly legitimate desire to see a fairer and more equitable distribution of land in Scotland as “blood lust”?

  4. I note that he doesn’t actually break down the percentage figures of each of the ownership categories of his “rich mosaic”.

  5. This is exactly the language they have been using on over wildlife crime for decades. “You’re demonising us.” “It’s only a few bad apples!” Follow these whinges up with a lot of stuff about how their opponents facts are all wrong – without ever giving a single quoted example, and you have the same pattern. Meanwhile, Scotland’s raptors are decimated year after year after terrible year by the gamekeepers in the interests of a small number of rich people’s “sport”. It’s sickening.

  6. The article does not even mention Land Value Tax which strips the power away from landed property without demonizing any individuals.

    Decisions about the quality, fragility, best use and management of land can be made by people who know how to get value from land bidding for it. If the laws are so generous to tenant farmers as claimed, why don’t the gentry join them on a level playing field?

  7. “A mature land reform debate should be about use and management rather than ownership.”

    Mature debate doesn’t try to exclude factors which are central to the matter in question. Ownership of land is fundamentally important to how wealth is distributed (and to how effectively land serves society at large), and existing laws are manifestly producing gross inequality. Anyone who’s serious about land reform should welcome discussion about how ownership is determined.

  8. Landownership is a very complicated subject and Doug’s right that its best not to assume that all landowners are the same. I don’t know the statistics but I know there are lots of different attitudes out there and SL& E don’t represent many of the attitudes that exist, even the ones found amongst their own members. (I know this because I have fought without success to get SL&E to publish a more moderate and more representative position on beaver reintroduction). Farmers are different from sporting estate owners , although there is overlap, and there are many subcategories of both. A lot of farmers are at odds with environmentalists aims for one set of reasons, and sporting estate owners for another. Small owners with their own wee bit hill and glen can’t be counted on to manage for wildlife or community any more than dukes and hedge fund managers. Community ownership can’t even be counted on to pursue management policies that everyone in the wider public agrees with. I’d be for some kinds of Land Reform, but only if I could be sure the new owners would manage in the interest of the public and of wildlife better than the old ones. To achieve this we need reform of CAP for a start. At the moment, to keep the single farm payment, farmers are obliged to keep their land in “good agricultural and environmental condition” – an oxymoron which means that you can’t allow forest to return to fields and hill grazing land, even if you (and the taxpayer who subsides you) are losing money on a sheep farming operation. All owners will be caught by this until it is reformed, except the very richest who may decide to forgo the single farm payment.

  9. Slurry Stirrer

    Well done Andy for editing Macadam’s article. I read the version in the Herald and it was quite disturbing …. and then to suggest that some may capitalise on this is a disgrace. The article never gets going because Macadam always resorts to ridiculing those who speak out, IT IS ONLY THE TRUTH FOR HEAVENS SAKE. We are just telling our story. Macadam has no story, Tweedie paparazzi with no soul.
    Calling for mature debate? methinks he doth protest too much.
    STAG, Scottish Tenants Action Group, is now gathering support and will neutralise the spin which constantly spues from the ‘fake, plastic,propogand machine’ SLAE. If Macadam and his pal Borwick keep up their current form then they will be hoisted by their own petard.

    • This blog includes a minor edit made with the agreement of the author. I have also edited your own comment.

  10. Andrew BruceWootton

    Well done Doug McAdam, everyone in this debate should be looking at land use not land ownership. Jumping to the conclusion, without evidence, that changing the current balance would, in itself, lead to improved land use can’t be the right approach. There are generally pros and cons with each type of ownership structure and from my experience, extreme views over which one provides the greatest potential per capita or per unit of investment are not helpful. A balance is what we require, the debate needs to examine on the basis of fact and evidence if that balance is currently correct and how better potential can be delivered from each type of tenure.
    Most large estates, both public and private, are working to well developed land use strategy plans which tie in to national objectives for bio diversity, renewable energy, affordable housing, food and timber production, leisure and tourism and community development. They have the advantage of being able to deliver those objectives, with their partners, on a relatively large scale, taking advantage of efficiencies and integration. Thats is the pro. Against that there can be problems with single issue management objectives, disconnection with communities and dominance but that can happen in the public as well as the private sector.
    Those who call for radical land redistribution tend to act instintively based on hard held convictions and as Doug suggests, the facts tend to get in the way. Politicians resonate to the call to protect the oppressed and again, in their attraction to the cause they forget to check the big picture and then get tarred by the subsequent consequences.
    We should all be supporting changes from the land reform debate which deliver better potential for the use of land. Support for better efficiency, suport for new blood, clarity over land use planning which is linked to investment in infrastructure, measures that unblock stagnation. Land use.

    • I am not sure a mature debate is helped by insisting that everyone “should be looking at land use not land ownership” Is this the advice you are giving to the Land Reform Review Group?

      We had a debate around a land use strategy some years ago. The current debate is not about land use – it is about land reform. There’s little point in trying to redefine basic well-defined terms. I think most people know the difference between land tenure, land use and land reform. If not, a basic dictionary will provide the answer.

    • Slurry Stirrer

      Andrew Wootton, Sorry but iam not going to just look at land use and not ownership, even although you have just told me to. Can you imagine what kind of comments and submissions a Land ‘USE’ Review Group would get? quite different. What we have been invited to contribute to is Land REFORM, whether you like it or not that boils down to ownership. So if your going to continue to try and change the objective, then carry on, and i hope you enjoy your own private reveiw. The rest of us are talking about REFORM and OWNERSHIP.
      Let me give you a wee taster, i will try and do it ‘Macdam style’
      tenants virtually have the right to plant trees, But not quite!
      tenants virtually have the right to pass on their tenancy to anyone they like, But not Quite!
      tenants virtually have the right to diversify without the Laird cashing in, But not Quite!
      tenants virtually have the right NOT to be rent racked on their improvements, But not quite!
      tenants virtually have the right to be protected from Resumption, But not quite!
      There is ONE right that takes care of all the above. The right to own the one farm that we live and work on, our home our livelihood. My grand father would be proud.

    • It does not take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that those who own the land might have quite a big say in how it might be used. Both you and Douglas McAdam are basically just attempting to deflect the issue away from the core problem.
      I doubt very much if the owner-occupiers of Rogaland ( thousands of them) would take kindly to having their private houses, farms, forest, fisheries, hunting cooperatives and communal hill grazings turned over to a clone of Atholl Estates or similar for a 6 month short assured house tenancy or an agricultural tenancy with uncertain longevity. We could say much the same for Finland and Sweden or the 250,000 private forest owners of Maine. The current tenure system is inimical to an extensive property -owning rural democracy. Next you will be telling us that they are all out of step except us Jokes.

    • hebrideanfarmer

      Andrew Bruce,
      I am concerned and worried that you have such a narrow view of Land Reform.
      The central theme of any meaningful Land Reform agenda is land ownership. The views you express in this public forum clearly highlights the problems we as Scots face with the choice of advisers on the Land Reform Review Group’s panel.
      If you really believe that Land Reform is not about Land Ownership, then I would ask you to resign from your advisory capacity.

      • HebrideanFarmer: One wonders what was going through the SNP mindset when he was appointed and a convenor who came from an organisation which is one of the major landowners in the country. ‘No oligarchy ever gives up its power voluntarily’ ( Stalin)

  11. Alastair McIntosh

    “A mature land reform debate should be about use and management rather than ownership.” – So the implication is that those of us who think it is wrong to hold on to historically stolen property, that it is wrong for the rich to live off the rents of the poor, are “immature”.

    Can you people not understand that the ordinary people of Scotland simply want you – the patronising, undemocratic, rentier class – off our backs?

    This is not a debate about how land should be managed. It is a debate about the politics of power in the kind of nation that we wish to become.

  12. “Wrenched fron (L)awful owners” is the funniest bit.
    The lairds claim to the basic land is dubious enough, but their claim to the three centuries worth of tenants improvements upon it is entirely false.
    They have been stealing from tenants since the act of union or earlier, drainage systems, buildings, dykes, scrub and boulder clearance, the list is endless.
    They steal the improvements so they can collect the enhanced rent from the next tenant, who are sometimes one and the same!
    That is the ultimate indignity, paying rent on ones own improvements, which Ireland outlawed in 1873.
    Here we are 140 years later, and improvement theft is still widespread, despite legislation in 2003 which is so full of holes, its more like a collander.
    Scottish rents in 1885 were based “three fourths on stolen tenants improvements” and today it is even worse, with even the tenants sfp considered to be the landlords.
    Right to buy cant come quick enough, and put a stop to the lairds right to steal.

    • Hector

      Legislation (albeit complex) provides for compensation to be paid for qualifying improvements.

      Rent cannot be charged on improvements.

      SFP is paid to the occupier ie the tenant not the landlord.

      • hebrideanfarmer

        Stuart, you are almost right. But you have forgotten one big fact “The black art” This is when a factor puts a tenant through an unfair rent review and bases it on exactly what you have mentioned above. You can have all the legislation you like but it wont change anything, factors apply the pressure and tenants cant do anything because they are too feared to go to the land court. The next disaster which is about to breech tenants human rights, are rents based on open market value. How on earth can it be fair to base a sitting tenants rent on what another potential tenant would pay for that holding, bearing in mind the generations of hard graft, thousands of tons of lime, miles of drainage, hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of fertilizer, grass seed, reclaimed bog etc.?
        But of course the landowner is due a return on his property, yes the landowner, ownership, ownership, ownership.

  13. Hector is it the case that all drainage systems on tenanted farms were paid for by the tenants? Is it the case that all building improvements were paid for by the tenants?

  14. “with even the tenants sfp considered to be the landlords.” For those tenants who have SFPs can they sell on their SFPs leaving the holding without one? Louise Ramsay is right to throw the SFP into this debate. Those who hold the SFP, presently hold the power.

  15. Alistair, can you identify exactly which properties were stolen and when? How will the likely new beneficiaries be defined? Will all citizens be able to apply for a piece of the returned stolen properties. How do you propose to define “ordinary” in terms of 21st century people? All taxpaying citizens subscribe to the building and upkeep of social rented housing, some of them might be “rich” do you have a problem with their higher tax contributions?

    • Slurry Stirrer

      Daye. you must be joking? Stolen land? read some of Andys books. New beneficiaries? tenants. All citizens who can show that their life would be improved be getting back once common land will be encouraged to do so. Ordinary citizen? any person who does not kill wild animals for personal pleasure or rent rack tenants. Rich tax contributors? no problem, its the ones that dodge tax like sporting estates that need to be tackled.

  16. I suggest you you both read your history, but you wont find it in any lairdy libraries.
    Stuart you gave the game away, with your brackets on” albeit complex”
    it is designed to trap the unwary tenant into donating his capital and labour to the landlord when he is at waygo and unable to retrieve the situation.
    This is the whole reason that leases used to be 19 years, so that improvements could be harvested every 19yrs by the laird and a higher rent set. modern ldts and lp s follow a similiar pattern of victorian theft.
    These limited time leases are a very poor use of the land, as truly long term improvements are never carried out, and the best farming system rarely followed. Cash for rent rules the system, and the best use comes second.
    Lack of investment in let farms is a deliberate policy of landlords to drive the tenants off, and tenants who invest do so now at their peril.
    The Irish corrected the improvement problem 140 years ago by giving ownership of improvements to the tenant unless the landlord could provide proof that he carried them out. And they never could, since 99% were done by tenants.
    At the same time they also got the right to assign the lease and a fair rent, again unheard of in scotland.

    • Totally agree that limited time leases are detrimental to the land. What has been the driver for this destructive leasing system? If leasing land of any duration is bad and tenant ownership is good through ARTB which is the implication from many posts, how are new entrants to get onto the ladder? Which is more risky, borrowing from today’s flawed banking system with fluctuating interest rates or paying a rent under a highly regulated system to a landlord? Take the latter away and choice is removed from aspiring tenants.

  17. Andy the land use debate is surely intertwined with land reform? What would be the point of redistributing land without taking account of its strategic capability in terms of benefit to society and the nation?

    • Slurry Stirrer

      Daye, you put forward a lot of questions. how about some answers? Do you think the ownership of land in Scotland is too concentrated?

      • Sorry, it’s a debate! There will be a variety of answers out there, but they need to be practical and respectfully articulated to encourage rather than close down debate. Re concentration of ownership, on paper and set only in a geographical context, it would be folly to argue against that. However owning land is more complex than size. An acre of Grade 2 Scottish land is more productive than many many acres of Grade 6. The Grade 6 might be set in a beautiful landscape and have tourism value whilst the Grade 2 might be next door to a power station. Power is much talked about in terms of land holding size, but scale has little to do with power in the context of power over a community wishing to build resilience. That’s when it comes down to individuals.

        • Slurry Stirrer

          Daye, You say “scale has little to do with power in the context of power over a community wishing to build resilience” who or what is it that has this power over a community that you mention?

          • If the community needs to create affordable housing, allotments, community woodland, orchard, growing space, partner in renewable energy, if land is part of the mix and the owner rejects the community’s request, the owner is exercising his right to refuse. However that right is a form of power as Andy says. Scale of land ownership has nothing to do with an owner of land exercising that right/power call it what you will, its down to individual personalities. A large community may have a section of a householder’s garden blocking the only entrance to a field donated by a benevolent landowner for affordable housing where that householder knows well the value of a ransom strip.

          • You are right of course but not entirely. There are many places where a handful of owners – an oligarchy – own virtually all the land in a parish. By virtue of scale they exercise an additional level of power since there is no-one else to do business with. The town of Langholm, for example, is in effect a company town being completely encircled by Buccleuch Estates. I have the stats somewhere on this at a parish level. Furthermore, even with the universal power that derives from the simple fact of ownership (regardless of scale), it needs to be moderated and yield to the public interest. Across most of Europe this is achieved by kommunes and municipalities having powers to intervene in the land market in the public interest. My 1999 McEwen lecture is worth reading in this regard.

          • Andy,
            Spot on. I live in an area which is dominated by a handful of estates, including one of the largest in the country. This simple scale allows them to control all the main development and economic potential directly founded on land based enterprises. It is the classic ‘square miles per landowner’ scenario in which a negative synergy feedback occurs due to the virtually powerless Community Council structure extant. When I took around some Norwegian landowners from Rogaland, from the ‘landowners per square mile’ culture of their own region, they were shocked at the emptiness of the countryside and the lack of financial and social executive capacity of the local CC compared to their own Kommune system.

    • Since lairds have written most of the important land laws, no one can really benefit from land unless they own it. sad but true.
      If tenants had had a fair deal, we wouldnt be even discussing this.

      • Slurry Stirrer

        Hector, your absolutely right, its when our fellow tenants suffer and we see them leave our communities that we feel we must fight back. Strong campaigning to prick the consciences of the general public and the government will deliver a fair deal to the ordinary working family on the land.

      • It’s not an even picture Hector. Ask Angus McColl. His Tenant Farmers Association represents tenants. Like all membership organisations TFA also has to balance opposing views within the membership. TFA members are so split on ARTB that Tom has seized the high ground to progress his own battle for land reform. There will of course be the usual accusations that the remaining TFA tenants are frightened to speak out, but the reality is that many, many tenants are content with their business arrangements. The positives of a tenancy are that it frees up working capital.

        • Slurry Stirrer

          Frees up working capital? i bet all the owner occupiers had a good laugh at that one.
          Hands up who wants to go back to a tenancy ? not one! If you ask the bank manager for funding, they ask “are you owner”? i suppose they are just protecting tenants from the laird robbing the investment(which he wouldn’t have allowed anyway)

          • Actually yes, I’ve heard exactly that articulated by a tenant farmer, which is why I felt able to state it. However not owner occupiers as you suggest.

  18. Its not just agricultural tenancies that need the right to buy, house , shop and factory tenants need it too, and complete security of tenure in the meantime.
    Landlordism is the ruination of scotland.
    Fletcher of saltoun wrote in 1697;
    “The poverty of our nation can be attributed to the excessive rents levied on our lands, which impoverishes our farmers, their workers, and every shopkeeper in every town across the land”

    • Slurry Stirrer

      The government need to put an immediate moratorium on all notices to quit. Can you just imagine the tactics being discussed in estate offices?

    • Excessive rents? Are you privy to rents? Are all rents excessive? On what evidence do you base that statement? There may be some that come into that category I grant you but is it wise to be comparing what was said in 1697 with today? If rents are so excessive why is there such a demand for tenanted farms? Shortages notwithstanding, a tenant would be foolish to take on a tenancy with an excessive rent, he or she would quickly go bankrupt.

      • indeed Hector and nothing much has changed in this regard since the late 17th and early 18th century. The Union was negotiated between two sets of landed ruling classes for their benefit and then they went on to the biggest land-grab in history. Fletcher’s later statement just after the Union was just as telinging ‘Scotland is now only fit for the slaves who sold her’ ( that begs a basic YES or NO answer).
        However in respect of your more immediate point; this once more indicates the vital nature of a 100% collection of societally created Land Rental Value to replace direct taxation as the primary source of public revenue.

  19. Tenants young or old do not “aspire” to be tenants. they aspire to own land, but that route can only be satisfied by emigration, as history has shown.
    Till half of scotland is owned by 50,000 people, not 400, it will stay that way.
    New entrants will always get a start on grass lets or sldts, there is no problem there.

    • Wrong Hector FCS has been overwhelmed with applicants aspiring to become tenants. But you are right in that they also aspire to own their farm eventually. Aspirations can be progressive.

      • fcs may provide starter farms which are badly needed, and are very popular as the tenants know the govt landlord cannot be unfair. Many more fcs starter units are needed. I well remember telling lochhead about 8 yrs ago that govt land was the place for new entrants.
        But fcs is also causing a problem. At least two farms i viewed to buy were bought by the forestry commision, second quality places that an ex tenant might just afford.
        The forestry com can buy farms even though there is a higher bid, as the vendor knows the govt wont fail to find the cash.

        • Sympathies, but at least Richard Lochhead was successfully persuaded to call a moratorium on blanket plantings and FCS told to create starter farms on the best quality land of the purchased holdings as in line with Land Use Strategy. So more starter farms should become available in the future.

      • Slurry Stirrer

        Aspirations like ARTB?

    • There is a huge discriminatory problem for new entrants accessing grass lets or LDTs. It’s called the SFP. The recipients have the POWER to outbid the non recipient at every turn.

      • Slurry Stirrer

        Are you suggesting that landlords are only after the top bid and have no regard for a young guy trying to get started? absolutely disgraceful surely this doesn’t go on in Scotland ?

        • By landlords I presume you mean estate owners. However, many farmers let out some of their land for seasonal grass lets and provide the bulk of seasonal letting in my area. Yes, unashamedly they let through the Auction Mart to the highest bidder to boost their farm income. That’s business. There is one landowner nearby who has given a youngster a start, the two have come to some sort of share agreement which seems mutually beneficial to both parties. Neither get SFPs, and the youngster has a job as well as looking after his sheep and the landowner’s cattle.

    • Slurry Stirrer

      yeah your right, there are loads of units for new entrants to get started. The lairds are claiming that the ARTB will ruin Scotland’s tenanted sector and there will be no more starter farms for new entrants… what a daft argument. But then, if your a laird you believe that ordinary people will agree with you. Its in their upbringing and their education. They are just so blind.

      • ARTB is just that – a farm that is bought by the incumbent. It will do nothing for a new entrant and will just be another farm removed from the tenanted sector. The only gain will be the pocket of the tenant who has bought at discount. Will he or she then re-let the farm on the market ?

        I suggest you go out and speak to the young people who wish to get into farming and are appalled at how their horizons are bing closed down by those with non farming agendas.

        • Slurry Stirrer

          “another farm removed from the tenanted sector” i thought you said that ownership wasn’t important but land use was?
          all the young farmers that i work with tell me that the lairds aint letting the land. Of course they are not going to tell you that or any factor. What most young wannabe farmers tell you is exactly what you want to hear.
          Are you suggesting that a bought tenanted farm can never be let out again?
          Are you suggesting that all tenant farmers have never parented any children and there simply are no youngsters on these farms to take over?
          I suggest you put on some working clothes, go and clean a few drains or drive a tractor and learn something about tenant farming.

          • Thanks Slurry,
            I wear work clothes quite a lot as I manage my own small place. Many people work their land themselves – it’s not just tenants who work the land. I think you should look around a bit more. By the way, I also clean my own drains,.

            The rest is quite simple. Most of the larger estates have most of their land let, others have it in a mix of productive in-hand farming businesses and let land. The “lairds” don’t have much more to let, but those who do, the smaller Esates and owner occupier farmers, will not let land while the land reform lobby keep shouting loud they want to steal their land, Surely that is obvious to you.

            Most of the young people I have spoken to want to get in to farming on their own merit, without a leg-up. I suggest you speak to that next generation of our farmer businessmen.

          • Doug McAdam: can you exemplify how the ‘land reform lobby’ want to steal anyone’s land. Evidence please?

        • Each farm removed from the tenanted sector would also remove a tenant from the tenanted sector. That sounds like progress to me.

  20. Daye, there is nothing you or i can do about the sfp system that excludes new entrants.
    But then, what is the point of getting an sfp if you are just going to give it to a laird?

    • But we HAVE done something about access to SFPs for new entrants Hector. CAP negotiations completed on thursday revealed agreement on Direct Payments and New Entrants to receive entitlements from January 2013. A level playing field at last. Check out the detail with the New Entrants Group.

  21. I would like to thank those who have contributed tonight. It’s a shame some search back to the 1600’s to make comparisons. I would like to think most are not stuck in that rut. I have to say I am quite surprised at calls for a right to buy for houses, shops and factories – clearly it is quickest way to kill any letting in these areas.

    Hector – do you have experience in the letting sector that enables you to comment on such commercial arrangements.

    • What is wrong with quoting historic figures who spoke the truth? Do you not like the truth?
      As to shops and factories, freedom of contract letting has destroyed the high streets and many businesses. The model you all trumpet, of upward only rent reviews, no compensation for improvements etc has reaped its own whirlwind of boarded up property from lands end to john o groats.

      • Hector, we live in today, hence comparisons to 100s of years ago is bizarre. I do like the truth, fact not fiction, and so am driven by evidence not speculation.

        • A hundred years ago Scotland had one of the highest concentrations of private land in the fewest number of individual owners hands—–and Robiin Callendar’s, Auslan Cramb’s and Andy’s books show what exactly?

        • It amazes me how so few seem to learn from history, who object to .being taught the lessons of the past. Humans, on the whole are very curious and delight in learning. As a biologist, I always find it striking when I come across a member of species who attempts to avoid, and/or inhibit curiosity. There are always reasons for such behaviours and as such are worthy of serious study.

          Perhaps studying the conditions of the Scottish slums of the past should be avoided given they are a thing of the past? Let’s live in slums in order to learn about them, forgetting we have already learned those past lessons… my thesis is the past is irrelevant to those who do not, will not suffer the same miseries. I am, as yet, at a loss why humans would verbally manoeuvre others into a position where certain curiosities are either avoided or inhibited. Perhaps I misunderstand.

      • Hector the reason for boarded up high street properties caused by rents which don’t reflect the economics of the times is because, property is valued on its rental value, so it looks good in the books for investment fund purposes……….it’s a mad world and that particular debt is hitting all our pensions, it has more to do with banks, pension funds and Gordon Brown’s fingers in the pensions pot years ago than it has to do with Scottish landowners.

  22. those happy tenants you describe are a shrinking band. i have heard it so many times, “no we wont join, we are happy with our landlord” than six months later, “the laird wants 50% more rent, can we join now?”

    • Join who Hector?
      Did you look at the Scottish Government tenancy stats published a few weeks ago, they were quite specific about rent levels – check the facts. Your suggestion above seems out of line as a generalisation and verges on scaremongering. Happy to look at facts.

  23. The evidence you dont want to see is easy to find if you know where to look, the wealth of the land was created by tenants, we just want it back.

  24. There is a simple fact since facts matter. There is a finite amount of land in Scotland and though there is some movement between different land uses, agricultural land covers around 4 million hectares. Many people would like a share in this and the goal of land reform is to enable as many as possible to fulfil their aspirations. To create opportunities for the landless, including new entrants to agriculture, necessitates that the land is shared more equitably. An obvious consequence of that is that farms (already the largest in Europe) will get smaller. How fast this happens depends on how effective the programme of land reform is. There is plenty evidence from around the world that smaller farms are more efficient, better for the environment, better for rural communities and produce more and better quality food into shorter supply chains.

    • So being honest as you have above then Andy, you seek land and wealth distribution – irrespective of what damage that does to the current farming and rural sector. What do you say then to the thousands of farmers and landowners across Scotland, engaged now in productive farming, who will see their businesses and hence families and employees suffer under your proposed vision as their business is broken up. Have you actually spoken to our farming community?

      • It’s quite possible to have land reform which doesn’t have any immediate effect on distribution, Doug. Addressing the flaws in inheritance law, for example, would spare future generations many of the inequalities we see today without the damage you’re envisaging.

        • Thanks Malcolm,
          I appreciate your point, but I do not see what we have as flawed. Look at it through the wide lens, not the narrow lens of the land reformers whose aim is to break up the larger estates,

          • Slurry Stirrer

            Doug, try and see the problem of mass landlordisim as removing trust and potential from the land. When lairds from afar send in their henchmen to take care of business, things are going to deteriorate, it is the culture and well being of tenants which is eroded.
            What the agricultural industry in Scotland requires is strengthening the hand of more individuals to create resilience and efficiency. This can be achieved by granting secure tenants and those on limited partnerships the ARTB. Not all tenants would buy their units, those that wish to remain in the tenanted sector can do so.
            The beauty of this is that communities and individuals get a greater stake in the governance of their locality. Believe it or not but landlordisim would actually evolve for the better. Aggressive factors would no longer be needed, and the lairds would be encouraged to work with tenants. BUT it is important to understand that that the oil on the cogs which allows all this to run smooth is the ARTB. It works in the crofting model.
            i think it would also help the debate if you were to remove the scare mongering, like owner occupiers and ordinary property owners are going to loose everything. The only group of people calling for the ARTB are tenants whose Absentee landlords actions have made their existence miserable.
            We all know the statistics, the history, the reasons that Lairds are opposing a right which would enhance tenants. So please try and understand that we are telling our story, we need change. i am just telling you how bad things are in the tenanted sector, that is fact. i unlike you are not paid to participate in this land reform debate. I appreciate that you have a job to do and it must be difficult to have everything you send to the press checked over and given the nod from above. But it is exactly that difference which exposes the gulf between us, no wonder mature debate, fact not fiction dont look into the past are uppermost in your mind.

          • So what is so good then about the large estates? Have the Fennoscandians got it so wrong? Was Douglas MacArthur so wrong in Japan?

          • Actually, Doug, I am already looking at it through a much wider lens than land reform. I came to the subject from trying to envisage how a healthy society should be constituted, and my focus is not solely on the injustices of the present situation, it’s also on the integrity of Law.

            It’s a fairly fundamental principle that law does not exist for private benefit, but at the moment that’s clearly how inheritance law operates. My view is that people’s power to bequeath their ‘legislatic’ property (property whose ownership is primarily a matter of legal entitlement rather than possession) should properly be regarded as a responsibility the state delegates to them, rather than a privilege it grants them.

            That shift of perspective wouldn’t change anything directly, but it would mean that landowners would be expected to consider the public interest when passing on their land. They could ignore that responsibility of course – Lord Tomnoddy would still be able to bequeath his 20,000 acres of tenanted land to his investment banker son – but their bequests would be open to challenge in a way that they aren’t today.

            That clarification of the law would remove a major barrier to substantial reform because it could make land available without taking it away from its current owners.

      • How are they going to be broken up exactly? No one is propounding wholesale state expropriation. You ignore the capacity for existing business to adapt and new ones to be created.

      • I don’t seek anything “irrespective” of the impact. I have no desire to see businesses, families and employees “suffer”. I seek reform in the public interest to promote greater equity, opportunity and public benefit. Of course that means that there will be losers. That is no secret. Those who seek to defend the status quo in this respect are perfectly entitled to do so but no-one should be under any illusions that, at heart, this is a power struggle between the landless and the landed. That is an inevitable consequence of the failure over two centuries and more to undertake meaningful land reform.

    • The other simple fact is that pre the 2003 Land Reform Act there was a healthy tenanted sector. The tenancy decline was further increased with the introduction of SFPs and decoupling in 2005 which provided many tenants and owner occupiers with extra money to invest in expanding their businesses by buying up another farm or adjacent bare land as other farmers came out of farming to retire and become slipper farmers.
      I’m with you on the efficiency capabilities of smaller farms Andy and you’ll be pleased to hear, so is the EU. In the next CAP there is to be a focus on Direct Payments for smaller farmers. Now I’m knackered and off to bed after last bottle feed for twin lambs that were a big mistake!

      • hebrideanfarmer

        Re: Ms Tucker.
        Please let me comment on your statement “The other simple fact is that pre the 2003 Land Reform Act there was a healthy tenanted sector. ”
        There are facts and figures in the Scot Gov website that shows that the tenanted sector has been in decline way long before 2003 !!
        Here are some facts and figures. The official total area under tenure in Scotland is and was as follows;
        1982…….. 2,352,815 hectares
        1992…….. 2,155,786 ”
        2002…….. 1,693,171 ”
        2011…….. 1,453,649 ”
        Would you still say that the tenant sector was healthy up until 2003 ?
        My view is that any farm moved from the Tenanted sector to the Owner Occupied sector is healthy, would you agree?

        • “any farm moved from the Tenanted sector to the Owner Occupied sector is healthy,”
          I would indeed agree on the face of it with that statement, because any tenant, farming efficiently enough to exit the tenant sector and become an owner occupier deserves respect for his skills and efforts. The fact that tenancy numbers are declining and owner occupiers are increasing is surely evidence of many successful healthy tenancies and should be celebrated?

          The flip side to this success is that, under the present system
          the tenant, if he is the recipient, takes his SFP with him leaving a new tenant at a disadvantage. When some tenancies became vacant the holding was split to help neighbouring tenants expand their farm businesses. Landlords responding to their tenants requests for more land were then criticised for reducing the number of tenant farms.

          • hebrideanfarmer

            Here are some more facts Daye;
            Owner Occ farms are more sucessful than tenanted farms (SAC business accounts)

            Small family farms are more efficient than large farms (mainly due to family labour)

            More young entrants come form Owner occ farms than from tenanted farms(due to youngsters not being willing to work under landlordism)

            More new entrants loose out on land to the established farmer than to the threat of ARTB

            Do you offer less respect, and does the farmer have less skills if he /she is left in the tenanted sector ?

  25. Alastair McIntosh

    Daye …. hello …. you wrote somewhere away up above:

    “Alistair, can you identify exactly which properties were stolen and when? How will the likely new beneficiaries be defined? Will all citizens be able to apply for a piece of the returned stolen properties. How do you propose to define “ordinary” in terms of 21st century people? All taxpaying citizens subscribe to the building and upkeep of social rented housing, some of them might be “rich” do you have a problem with their higher tax contributions?”

    a. A good start for such identification would be “Our Scots Noble Families; A General Indictment” by the former Secretary of State for Scotland, Tom Johnston. The Anglicised (as distinct from the culturally Gaelic) psyche has bought in to what developed as the Lockean concept of private property that is quite alien to our indigenous traditions (see Locke’s Treatises of Government). Let us remember what was done. I will take my home Isle of Lewis as an example. Commencing in 1599 he issued orders for the ‘conquering of the Lewis … by rooting out of the barbarous inhabitants … void of all religion and humanity,’ including granting authority for ‘slaughter, mutilation, fire-raising and other inconveniences’ – all in the name of trying to bolster the royal purse from renting out the land thereby colonised.

    b. By extension of the existing Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, my view is that all communities (not the same thing as all individuals) should be able to re-acquire land into community ownership.

    c. “Ordinary” defined as ordinary resident members of democratically accountable communities.

    d. I have no problem with a higher marginal tax rate paid by the rich – if only they would pay it. At the moment estates are widely used as tax dodges by the rich, and in the case of sporting estates, a means by which to pursue a hobby in tax deductible manner. Also, at the moment, the highest marginal effective tax rate in Britain is paid by poor people, like many of my neighbours here in Govan, trying to get off benefits, and notwithstanding the rhetoric of benefits reform being unable to escape the poverty trap because such a high proportion of what little they might earn in part time jobs on minimum wage get deducted from their benefits.

    I hope that answers your question – and by the way – thank you for participating so fully in this debate.


    • Thanks Alistair, you’ll understand, I’m no academic, and in common with many, a very limited knowledge of my Nation’s history, in particular, the detail of the Clearances. I don’t have the luxury of time at present to research your suggestions in a) but as soon as I do, I will. It sounds as bad as the Vikings. As for b) that is the one that interests but confuses me. My own community now owns property and we have aspirations to develop further projects which may or may not involve land. We’ve just achieved completion after 10 years of ups and downs, all our aims in our Community Development Plans and are about to consult on the next one. How many of the decedents of the Scots Noble Families that perpetrated the actions you describe, still own the land on which the actions took place? Who owns Lewis now and were those owners decedents involved in the slaughter? c) I like democratically accountable, it provides confidence. d) I agree the wealthy should pay their share. Where that share goes and how it is spent though, is of more interest to me. I don’t want ALL of it disappearing into Westminster’s coffers to be spent on illegal wars. I want as much as possible to flow back into Scottish local economies. Ensuring HOW it is invested to benefit our local economies is surely the job of our own devolved Parliament.

      • Alastair McIntosh

        Hello Daye … For me, the principle is that land is a quantity that they don’t make anymore. It should primarily serve the nation, and private individuals inasmuch as the greater objective is compatible. As such, I am all in favour of family farm private ownership where the farmer or family work the land, and there will be contexts in which tenanting is appropriate within such a modest rubric. What I feel kills the spirit of communities is when land is held primarily for renting out and as such, as a capital investment. Land should not be a commodity. It should be a context in which life unfolds in the fullest way – the parish as para-oikos – alongside the home, and my concern in work for community based land reform is to shift the structure of landed power so that, more and more, land is held and used in a proportionate manner by real people in real places. As I’ve said before on Andy’s list, I think that LVT with the proceeds applied to community land buyouts is the best way to achieve that, and that democratically accountable open community bodies should be exempt from paying the tax.

  26. A healthy tenanted sector pre 2003?
    Dont make me laugh.
    It certainly was healthy for estate owners bank accounts, with stolen tenants improvements flowing like a river from poor to rich. Every agricultural innovation ever invented has ultimately ended up further enriching landlords, not the ones who invested in them.
    They also benefitted the most from all the set aside and area payments emanating from brussels.
    The historic sfp actually stemmed the decline in tenanted land for a while, but the clearances are in full flow again so lairds can grab all the new CAP money on an area basis.
    Are Daye and Doug getting paid overtime for late working last night and double time on a saturday for defending the indefensible?

    • Hector I’m an ex tenant with no SFP and no I don’t get paid for any of the time I give to any of organisations or rural stakeholder groups I’m involved with, and nor would I ask it.

  27. Slurry, we will have to agree to disagree. You generalise to propose the tenanted sector is broken and needs fixed, yet the evidence shows that the majority of tenants and landlords get on just fine. The working of legislation can always be improved and the TFF work together to try and achieve that. I don’t doubt there are some bad examples out there – on both sides. Indeed I have been involved in trying to resolve some, but a few bad examples does not constitute a charter to break apart and change a system. The majority of farmers have already spoken – they don’t want ARTB and see it for the land and wealth redistribution agenda it is. I mention owner occupier farmers because it is well known and accepted in the farming industry that it is within this group where the opportunity for more land to let lies. Most large estates are already well let and/or have their own productive farming business, but the smaller estate and owner occupier sector if it had confidence – confidence which is shattered by ARTB discussion – have land that might be let. I should also point out that when I write in print or on blogs, these are my views. I did not leave the commercial sector where I spent my whole career to work in this sector to get rich, far from it. I do what I do because I care about this sector and I want to ensure there is a proper balanced and evidence based approach to the debate that moulds our sector.

    Malcolm, thanks for your interesting point.

    Thanks for comments from all, I’m signing off now. School prize giving day etc.

    • hebrideanfarmer

      Re: Douglas McAdam.
      I would like to comment on your statements.
      “evidence shows that the majority of tenants and landlords get on just fine.”
      Not so I’m afraid;
      As reported in a previous comment, the only evidence I am aware of is the survey commissioned by the NFU that SPECIFICALLY asked the question pertaining to Landlord / tenant relationships. The results showed the VAST majority of tenants unhappy with the relationship they have with their landlord. Other tenants wanted this same survey to be rolled out across the Country, to once and for all show exactly the strength of feeling on this subject, and this was agreed by NFU (I have a letter to prove it) but sadly this survey never saw the light of day again.

      You continue;
      “The majority of farmers have already spoken – they don’t want ARTB ”
      Not so;
      Let me point back to an NFU survey again, that asked the specific question on the ARTB. The majority of farmers in the survey actually came out in favour of the ARTB, but only when the NFU board’s views and other “working groups” feelings were added in, did they come out with the thumbs down for the ARTB.
      However Mr McAdam, just because a majority doesn’t want something doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen.
      I believe it’s the Scottish Government’s duty look after the interests of all it’s population, especially a minority that feels oppressed.

      Finally, you write;
      “I want to ensure there is a proper balanced and evidence based approach”
      That’s precisely what everyone wants, and not out of date and out of touch rhetoric.
      I hope the facts I have provided may help towards the debate

      • Hebridean Farmer you now need to be aware that the survey you mention was an internet survey, open to the public AND importantly, repeat responses from individuals? It was this latter that triggered the subsequent membership survey and the result showed a majority against ARTB. I do understand that NFUS membership does not represent the views of ALL Scotland’s farmers, but that should be a reason for them join NFUS, have their voice heard, and influence NFUS decision making.

        • hebrideanfarmer

          2 points Daye.
          I am a member of NFU, and I was not surveyed a second time, in fact this is the first time I have hear of it ….details please, because it would appear my views were excluded.
          My second point relates to the online survey. NFU were clearly unhappy with the result, and have been doing their best to criticise it. The online survey had a block so that only one survey per computer was allowed, further to that there was a check on IP addresses, so there were NO repeat responses. What a pity NFU have led you believe to the contrary. On the other hand I can provide you with names of people who PHOTO COPIED the paper survey and sent them in to be counted. Get the facts right Daye !

    • I’m glad to hear you found that an interesting point, Doug. I’d half expected that you’d ignore it in the hope it would go away.

      What I think makes it particularly interesting as a route to radical reform is the fact that it lies wholly within the sphere of the courts. That simple clarification of inheritance law would radically shift the terms of the debate, while allowing the harder questions to be resolved later – and all it needs is for someone to provoke a court case around it.

      But perhaps you think the existing custom can be justified? If that’s the case I look forward to hearing your reasoning.

      • With respect Malcolm, the idea that a person’s testamentary bequests could be challenged in the public interest (I hope that’s a reasonable summary of your point) is not a “clarification” of inheritance law which it lies within the power of the courts to bring about once a court case to that end is brought before them.

        It would be a fundamental *change* to inheritance law which could only be brought about by Parliament (not the judiciary).

        • Thanks for the response, Neil, but that’s not quite what I’m suggesting (what I’d said to Doug previously is here.

          The clarification I’m referring to concerns the purpose of inheritance law, and the nature of a testator’s power to devise land. The question is whether that power is a privilege the state grants them (which can be exercised however they like), or a responsibility it delegates to them (which should be exercised in the public interest). I think there are good reasons for regarding it as a responsibility, and none that I can see for regarding it as a privilege – even though that’s clearly how it operates currently.

          As to how the courts would see it, I really don’t know. I think there are powerful arguments for treating it as a clarification even if there is something in statute which defines it as a privilege (which I suspect there isn’t, though I’ve only had a very cursory look). But I’m not envisaging a case being brought directly on that point; it would be a case brought by a landowner’s executor or beneficiary against someone claiming adverse possession, and that question would come up as just one element of the defence.

  28. Jamie McIntyre

    I read this post when it first appeared and made a mental note to return to comment – next time I look it has already received 83! I think that kills the suggestion there is no interest in the subject…..

    Coming late to the discussion means I can perhaps open up a new front in the debate. In many years of land-based and community-based work, I have always felt a pragmatic rather than dogmatic approach yields the best outcome – which is at the end of the day what matters. Not to say I am not also stirred by some of the more hot-blooded sentiments expressed above – it’s just that I don’t think some of them are the best arguments to deploy in order to make progress.

    It strikes me that there is actually some common ground and we should focus on that. I think most on both sides of the land reform debate agree that ‘community’ ownership is not a panacea, even if it appears to have grabbed the focus of the LRRG’s thinking. Equally, most on both sides agree the importance of private ownership, not least as demonstrated by other countries where ownership of smaller areas of land is an entirely normal state of affairs. So could we not agree what we agree, and to work together to facilitate this?

    The current pattern of ownership has not developed by accident. Reforming it is as much about prpgressively reforming the policies, processes, incentives, and subsidies relating to landownership as any immediate ‘direct’ intervention. Perhaps current landowners would feel less threatened if we focused on the former – and indeed there are many opportunities which could be taken which are no threat whatsoever to current owners, but can assist in making land more available to a greater variety of people in the future (which I hope we all agree would be a good thing).

    To give just one example: disposal of public land. All government departments routinely dispose of surplus assets. How they do this can either help to diversify ownership, or concentrate it. Although there are rules about how sales are handled, a proper consideration of ‘best value’ should give flexibility to use the opportunity creatively to deliver better outcomes for the public at large.

    One of the barriers to accessing land is not just price, but the size of the parcels available. At present 5,000 acres of public forest in Argyll are being sold in just two lots. If some effort had been taken to explore alternative approaches we could be looking at numerous opportunities for smaller-scale woodland owners – and all at no threat to existing owners.

    Although I would put Daye and Doug on the other side of the debate from myself, they make many good points which I can agree with – and I hope they feel the same about me. We clearly don’t agree on everything. But before we all fall out over the ‘hard’ stuff, we should surely try to identify some easy wins. Let’s see if we can work together to deliver them.

  29. Thanks James, a good note to end on. I’m all for jaw jaw and not war war. Happy to meet anytime to discuss and identify common ground. Indeed I hope you saw some things in our response to the LRRG that would fit into such a category. You can email me at douglas.mcadam@scottishlandandestates.co.uk
    83 comments maybe, but many from same people!

    Now I really am offline before the family lynch me.

  30. doug, you keep repeating this porkie about most tenants being happy.
    Some tenants may be happy, before the huge rent rise hits them, but to claim most are happy is laughable.
    After ARTB is introduced, chances arethose “happy ” tenants will not exercise the right and remain as they are.
    Meanwhile the huge number who are unhappy will become owners.
    Only time will tell.

  31. Wee edit made in line with my comments policy. Thank you.

  32. Andy, you removed my comment? I think Hector’s offensive comment should be there for others to see.

    Anyhow, I suggest anyone who wants the hear the view of a tenant on ARTB should read this:


    • Of course some farmers will not want to exercise their rights under ARTB. But Neil will be OK – he already owns a 250 acre farm, rents a further 700 acres and is a secure tenant of 650 acres. And we wonder why there are few opportunities for new entrants!

  33. My comments policy is to not publish anything that is offensive.

    • Slurry Stirrer

      Looks like Doug was going to get found out with his spin on facts and figures. We have had meetings with secure tenants on our estate, the turn out was as i remember 85%. with the vast majority firmly for ARTB . only one tenant was not for nor against.
      Dougs info will be coming from grazers and short term tenants where they have to smile and say everything is great. I know four, relatively new entrants and they don’t speak at meetings openly, they are in terms of our community broken men, fear rules. fear of eviction. These are also the same men which landlords ask to lobby for freedom of contract, i know this because i too was asked. So facts are only any good if they are real, and i am afraid Doug is being fed only the stuff he wants to hear.
      I suppose the STFA now have a similar problem a membership split between short term and long term tenants, half for the ARTB and half not for ARTB. its a pity that the lairds have us divided with their threats. even if the ARTB is granted and it is dealt with and complete, these Estates are not going to suddenly give out security and assignation. They are using you as pawns and the new entrants, to try and fight the ARTB. Divide and conquer! Lets stand together strong and fight for what we all need. Fight for the ARTB to get it dealt with, fight for security, don’t knock another tenants needs to get second best for yourself.

      • Any tenant who can muster the finance to buy out the Landlord, even at a reduced price, has done extremely well under their tenancy. With the threat of Direct payments being reduced from 2015 and climate change weather challenges causing feed shortages, it’s a brave man who takes on buying his farm unless of course he’s getting it for nothing. Last time I checked out bank loans for farms it was 7.5% and there’s talk of interest rates rising.

        • Slurry Stirrer

          very patronising Daye, some of the tenants who are calling for the ARTB have been on the farm for a lot longer than the laird has owned it. We understand full well the finances behind buying the family farm. Ownership as you know opens up many more doors.

      • Have you spoken to the New Generation Group and the SAYFC……you should!

  34. Alastair McIntosh

    Keep stirring it, Slurry Stirrer, and stir others to also speak truth to power.

    Some years ago I looked at the handbook that was given out to justices of the peace. It said something to the effect that the function of government is to protect the people from tyranny. When I hear the kind of dynamic you’re describing, when I see it as I regularly on the ground in the deadened emotional bearing of some tenants, I think of that passage.

    Landed power kills birds with by gunshot but human lives by suffocation. That way you don’t hear the noise. Then it hides. The Scottish Landowners Federation a.k.a. Scottish Rural Business & Property Association a.k.a. Scottish Land & Estates. “Keep you doped on religion, and sex, and TV/ and you think you’re so clever, and classless, and free/ but you’re still … peasants/ as far as I can see/ A working class hero/ is something to be.”

    “I’m all for jaw jaw and not war war” (above). Aye – talk them into the long grass while all the time, drawing their rents.

    We didn’t get the Isle of Eigg out of private hands by interminable fireside jaw jaws up at Schellenberg’s Lodge. Power shifted when the community found its voice, when it developed the courage not to fear, when more and more engaged in varying forms of non-cooperation with the Lodge and de-legitimised its plausibility structures.

    Time to stir the slurry and spread it on the fields. If it stinks, get everybody asking: why? why? why? Keep on asking why until it shifts to compost out of which new life can grow.

    “Nobody takes Alastair McIntosh seriously” – Convenor, Scottish Landowners Federation, 1999.

    • I’m also in favour of spreading slurry onto the field to fertilise new life, but there are rules and regulations around spreading slurry for good reason.

  35. neil thomson is out of date, the unreasonable rent demands started about 4 years ago, in fact straight after lochhead took ARTB OFF the table.

  36. Alistair, tyranny is alive and well, and its mouthpiece is scottish land and estates, and henchmen the edinburgh lawyers.

  37. Were these the ones in Perthshire Hector? There was much activity from NFUS over that, because it set a precedent that wasn’t commercially viable. It was Grade 2, south facing, well drained, potato growing ground and there was intense competition for it to the point that few of us could see the point given the weather risk. But we’ve all seen it at the Mart at grass let time. Some farmers just go ballistic in their determination to have a certain field and it can bear no relation to the return on the crop.

  38. Paul Cochrane

    I am not impartial.

    When iconic Scots landmarks such as Ailsa Craig can be sold to continue a lifestyle that is ill-deserved; when the Salvesen Case allows landowners to claim the moral high ground in restraint after victory does not enlighten us with the fact that poor Mr Riddell sought his own form of closure and when an estate such as Balmoral can operate outside of the norms of law that the rest of Scotland has to, I take sides.

    Mr McAdam says “Those in favour of draconian land reform try to claim the moral and emotional high ground” he is only half right. I would say that the land reform movement does have the moral high ground. What’s productive and contributory about claiming tax breaks and grants only because you own the land? Remember what started in the the 80s when Terry Wogan and Genesis bought estates to grow wealth and trees on? The arch-nemesis of benefits cheats, the Daily Mail, has, through both its owner and its editor, set a fine example in land use for tax evasion and wealth accumulation as they verbally slaughter single mother claimants and refugees seeking safety and the bare minimum to survive. I may be angry but God bless all of the above as they have not broken the law. A set of laws that allows the elite, inherited classes to reinforce the old saying that tax is for the poor.

    It is an emotive issue because our identity and common wealth is tied up in land. Our ability to provide the next generation a home is tied up in land. Our very future as a nation being better together is linked to land.

  39. They were all over the arable areas of scotland, stupid rents being sought by factors, intended to destroy family farms. Rents based on areas of fertile ex long term tenanted land.(which would soon be sucked dry)
    With rent routinely charged on tenants improvements.
    daye, you seem like a reasonable person, and you confess not to have researched the history of land tenure. Maybe once you have, you may see it differently, like michael fry after he researched scottish independence.

    • I thought we ( NFUS ) had won that particular battle re the rent racking based on a few mad potato growers? However, sadly not. If Section 13 re Comparables was removed, it would surely go a long way to relieving tensions where some unreasonable rent rises have taken place, some have been threatened and some simply live in fear of it reaching them. It would take some of the heat out of the land tenure debate. Why is rent NOT based on productive capacity? It doesn’t make sense to continue with a flawed Act that creates fear in both Tenants AND Landowners.

      • Actually, rent rises should not be allowed at all unless the landlord has somehow altered the earning capacity of the farm, by installing irrigation for example.
        Since input prices usually mirror output prices, margins never change much, but factors are only interested in the grain /beef price rising so want an increase.
        As to sect 13 rent reviews, we were promised all sorts of better laws in 2003 if only we would back off from ARTB.
        Unfortuneately some politicians bought into that and they backed off. The better laws never came.
        We wont make the same mistake this time.

  40. To Alistair McIntosh, ref your comment above in which you said:-

    “The Anglicised (as distinct from the culturally Gaelic) psyche has bought in to what developed as the Lockean concept of private property that is quite alien to our indigenous traditions (see Locke’s Treatises of Government). Let us remember what was done. I will take my home Isle of Lewis as an example. Commencing in 1599 he issued orders for the ‘conquering of the Lewis … by rooting out of the barbarous inhabitants … void of all religion and humanity,’ including granting authority for ‘slaughter, mutilation, fire-raising and other inconveniences’ – all in the name of trying to bolster the royal purse from renting out the land thereby colonised.”

    … what on *earth* is the relevance in a mature debate about the future in the 21st century of events more than 400 years ago?

    If we’re going to go there, Gaelic indigenous traditions in the 16th century may not have included Lockean concepts of private property (whatever that is) but they did involve such delights as calps and cuid-oidhche (sp?) – tributes paid in kind to warlords by a dependent peasantry. And shutting people in churches and caves and burning them alive.

    Would it be OK with you if the Macleods of Lewis (extirpated by King James VI with the help of the MacKenzies of Kintail in the early 17th century) had managed to hang on to the island after all and still owned it at the present day? And if you want to go down the ancient history route, why stop in the 16th century – how did the Macleods get hold of Lewis in the first place? As I understand it, they were descended of viking stock so I don’t imagine they registered a right of pre-emption and waited patiently to buy it with a lottery grant when the aboriginal Celts put it on the market!

    • Alastair McIntosh

      To Neil King (resident in the Azores? or is that somebody else’s blog site? residency does seem to be relevant in this debate.)

      I recommend a book on the Gaelic psyche such as Michael Newton’s “Warriors of the Word”. The old clan system in principle was one where the chief was “the highest apple” in the extended family tree. It was the Statutes of Iona (1609) that began to break that down, forcing Anglicisation by requiring that the chief’s children were educated in the English language (thus effectively, “public” boarding schooling and all that brings).

      We’re not talking about going back to that today, but we are saying that the indigenous principle was that land was not a commodity to be marketed. This is where the claim of right of community ownership substantially comes from – plus it is about justice.

      • But we are where we are Alistair and the Scottish Government is strapped for cash. Do it’s multifarious spending priorities include buying up land beyond the budget already allocated for Community Land and which under your suggestion might unjustly force land from some people who had nothing to do with past wrong doings and who’ve worked hard to buy their property?

        • Alastair McIntosh

          Good question Daye – i.e. about the justice of lowering land values (via land value taxation (LVT). It is the same with any asset. If you buy shares in a company, and then the govt puts up corporation tax, not only do you pocket less in net returns on your dividends but you also suffer a fall in market capitalisation (share prices) because investors move out of equities and into debt, or gold, or land, or whatever. The justice of the matter is therefore up to the body politic to decide in what kind of a political system it choose to vote for.

          If you live on your property – like many a farming family does – then in some ways it doesn’t matter. We paid £112k for our house 9 years ago. It went up to £130k and now they’re going in our street for less than £100k. But so what? If we had to move, and stayed at the same social stratum, we’d buy cheaper elsewhere, so as somebody who seeks to live but not to speculate, I’m cool about that.

        • with LRV, working in conjunction with local government reform, we could assist the lairds to pay for their own consignment to the dustbin of Scottish history rather than go to the expense and trouble of state expropriation. For the time being though, it would appear that the SNP have been subverted, traduced and suborned by the land monopoly cabal. I wonder how many schmoozing dinner parties that took?

      • Another highly privileged individual, Jay Gatsby, had the same problem:

        “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

      • Yes Alistair, I live in the Azores. It’s not a secret but I’m not sure what you’re hinting at by mentioning it. Could you clarify?

        Back on topic, of course I accept there were differences between the Gaelic and “Anglo-feudal” cultures and that these cultures clashed in the 16th century. But the differences are not nearly as big as commonly supposed. I once read (can’t remember where) that the Highlands and Islands were patriarchy with a big dose of feudalism whereas the rest of Scotland was feudalism with a big dose of patriarchy. Elsewhere, I read (Dodgshon I think but might have been Devine) that the H&I were simply less completely feudalised than the rest of the country. Now, one could have a jolly interesting historical debate around the margins of these propositions but what is undeniable is that both systems were in essence about a small minority of top dogs lording it over a big majority of underdogs – whether you call it rent or cuid-oidhche, the effect must have been much the same as far as the peasant was concerned.

        You say the indigenous principle was that land was not a commodity to be marketed. I rather suspect it would be more accurate to say that in the 16th and 17th centuries a market for Highland land simply didn’t exist. But when it emerged in later centuries, the clan chiefs embraced it wholeheartedly. In fact, the “top apples” went decidedly rotten when they didn’t stop at renting and selling their land over the heads of their clansmen, they actually sold the clansmen themselves on one occasion. (I’m referring to the event in the 1720s (I think) when MacLeod of Dunvegan conspired with Macdonald of Sleat (I think) to sell people into slavery in America, the plot only being discovered when the ship carrying them was wrecked off the coast of Ireland.) The point being that indigenous principles didn’t provide much of a bulwark against the evils of the market when they came to the test.

        But whatever – fascinating as history is, the events of hundreds of years ago have practically no relevance to charting a course today for the future (as, indeed, you seem to recognise when you said “We’re not talking about going back to that today …”)

        • Iain MacKinnon

          Good morning!

          My name is Iain MacKinnon. I belong to a crofting community on the Isle of Skye and my involvement in this debate is in part due to an interest in how the present day landownership patterns of Scotland are a product of past processes of what Scottish historians are now referring to as our ‘internal colonisation’.

          In reply to your comment, Neil, it was TC Smout in his ‘History of the Scottish People 1560-1830’ who wrote that late medieval social relations in the Highlands were essentially kin based modified by feudalism, while in the Lowlands they were feudal but tempered by kinship. Contrary to your assertion what this means is that even Smout, whose writing repeatedly demonstrates his own historical preference for the ‘polite’ society of the Lowlands, acknowledges a big difference between what was going on in the Highlands and in the Lowlands at that time. The big difference is that in the Highlands the system of social relationships within a territory was essentially ‘coordinated’ (Hugh Cheape and Isobel Grant write well on this) whereas in the Lowlands social relations within a territory were essentially ‘antagonistic’. This is because Lowland (and, in fact, many parts of mainland Highland Scotland) had, by the late medieval period, endured complex but nonetheless delineable processes of internal colonisation by which a small but economically and militarily powerful Anglo Norman or Anglicised cultural elite were able to impose domination relationships on the majority indigenous society. It is the development of these colonial processes into the present that will help us to understand the current state of landed arrangements in Scotland today.

          My understanding is that the ‘indigenous [as opposed to colonial] principle’ of landed arrangements that Alastair refers to is essentially cosmological. At his inauguration the chief was symbolically ‘wedded’ to his territory, the marriage being represented by his acceptance of the white rod of kingship. From this point on, only the proper commonly accepted and regulated standards of behaviour of the chief would make him ‘triamh talmhaidh coir’ [a rightful earthly ruler] and thus ensure the fertility of the clan territory for which he became responsible, and for the well-being of all his real and fictive relatives in the clan (‘clan’ is an anglicisation of the Gaelic word for ‘children’) . This put particular obligations of behaviour on the ‘uaisle’ (clan nobility) as well as on ‘na daoine’ (the people, or non-nobles of the clan). Strange though this cosmological principle may seem today, it needs to be pointed out that contemporary problems such as species loss, environmental degradation, global heating and consumerism are also behavioural issues!

          Concepts like cuid oidhche and calp are best understood through the principle of redistributive exchange by which the territory’s produce was first centralised through the local ‘bigmen’ related by either real or fictive ties to their fellow villagers and then redistributed according to need. There are many variants in local traditions but my description gives the general gist of social and territorial arrangements.

          Therefore, you are absolutely in error when you claim that “what is undeniable is that both systems [Highland and Lowland] were in essence about a small minority of top dogs lording it over a big majority of underdogs”.

          Some modern (mainly Lowland [or Azores!] based) commentators have claimed that this is the case but there is little or no evidence for the assertion, or of such opinions being expressed within the less or uncolonised Highlands during the late medieval period or afterwards.

          Of course it could be argued that the lack of evidence was because the ‘top-dogs’ held such absolute power over the underdogs, but the response to that claim would be that given the weight of evidence to the contrary such a view appears only to be pandering to prejudice.

          Some of the consequences of the emergence of the colonial (or Lowland) values in relation to land are dealt with in medieval histories of Scotland, one of which in particular seems to be relevant to this debate. John Mair’s history of 1521 noted that because there was no security of tenure for tenants they “do not dare” improve their lands. He also describes how this insecurity could at times lead to injustice, violence and death.

          I suspect the point that Alastair is making is that the co-ordinated military and legislative offensive against the Hebrides in the early 17th century (essentially invasion of the islands and kidnap of the indigenous leadership by the Scottish Crown, then followed by the coercive signing of the Statutes of Iona (1609) and later the Regulations for Chiefs (1616)) was designed to achieve not only the Scottish internal colonisation of the Hebrides as a territory, but also the internal colonisation of the Hebridean leadership by forcing them to send their children away from the Islands and their own cultural experience for an English language education.

          It was here, as they grew increasingly lost in the corridors of power of the Anglo-Scottish society and psyche, that the market values of feudal and commercial society that you mention were implanted in the young chiefs. Again, you are in error when you state that they embraced these values wholeheartedly. There is now a robust body of good historiography (and this need not imply any aspersion against the now rather dated work of Smout and Dodgshon) which follows the consequences and contradictions that these young men faced, and, it is becoming clear, suffered through. Allan Macinnes, Martin MacGregor, Julian Goodare and Alison Cathcart are all serious historians worth reading on the late medieval/early modern relations between Highlands and Lowlands.

          Long nan Daoine (the boat of the people), which you mention, when the Skye chiefs sought to put their own people in bondage is one sad consequence of Lowland Scotland’s colonisation of the Gaelic mind. There’s no need here, I suppose, to list some of the others.

          Because all of Scotland is now essentially colonised under this Lowland order of things (apart from perhaps, still, some of the Outer Hebrides where this week news of yet another community buy-out in Lewis emerged) this sort of argument from history can be deeply uncomfortable to those who have profited from the legalised but illegitimate pillage of the past, and for their apologists.

          Le deagh gach durachd

          Iain MacKinnon

  41. neil king , the truth about how the lairds got their estates is very relevant to the land reform arguement.
    As i said previously, the lairds possibly own the unimproved land, but just about everything to change it to productive farms has been done by tenants.

    • Hector/Slurry Stirrer

      It was interesting to listen to John Fyall on Radio Scotland this morning. We should be looking to the future not the past.

  42. I am fascinated at the sheer hatred in the correspondence. We were 500 years tenant in the same farm in Lanarkshire, when we left, we left the place in good condition. There was no bitterness. The farm we want to in West Lothian was compulsory purchased to build Bathgate, we moved on to East Lothian and was compulsory purchased out of it, and we are still fighting to have the option returned. The “enemy” with us has always been the Government, not the landlords. This whole debate seems, as someone looking in from the Borders, is about retribution for the Highland Clearances, and we sit here looking at this site I think you, and many of your supporters, are being used by the Government (Westminster) to fight the wrong side. Divide and rule. Be very careful you do not add fuel to the Unionist debate, unless you are a plant! The power of the landlord lies in our cities, you equate power with barren acres instead of urban square feet. If you want to look hard at the profit and manipulation then your talking about the wrong acres. But it is important for you to note, your mission to break up estates etc is just an ego trip to working farmers like us, unless you want to nationalise all the land and make us tenants to the government and really live in fear. what we need from land reform is the freedom to farm, but it looks like far from doing that, we will all be closing our doors and selling up to the Chinese, Saudis and Russians, because they have all been knocking on our doors. For those who think this mission is for the betterment of Scotland, and Scottish land workers, we are about to loose a large chunk of rented land becaus of it. The owner is an absentee personality who has no interest in the land, or us. What we need in Scotland is more people working the land and less people talking about it, but this whole debate has caused instability that both banks and policians have used to make excuses not to support us. Meanwhile, land prices climb and foreign investors and pension funds add Scotland to their portfolio. The truth is, Scotland is for sale, and there is nothing any of us can do about it, except bleat, but don’t punish the folk who are trying to hang on.

    • Why isn’t Norway bleating then?

    • We do not need to nationalise the land, all we need to do to start off is to collect the full, 100% societally created Land Rental Value, which is at its highest in desirable urban areas. I see though that the LRV at Canobie might go through the roof and the Duke of Buccleugh is fighting hard to retain it.

    • could you exemplify how we could get more people working in the land without land tenure reform?

  43. John fyall would say that wouldnt he? he is a land agent with a vested interest in the staTus quo.

    Just like patrick sellar, who cleared the highlanders speedily and brutally so he could lease the land himself.

    • Hector

      John is a tenant farmer.

      • Alastair McIntosh

        Hector appears to be right, Stuart, and you too. I don’t know what the said John Fyall was saying on Radio Scotland, but from the web he appears to be both a tenant farmer and the proprietor of F D Fyall “Farm and Land Management Services” though whether he merits comparison with Patrick Sellar might be doubtful!

        Can I put in a plea for people to be transparent about who they are in this debate? It matters in terms of what our interests and motivations might be. For the likes of Andy Wightman and myself, our interests and income sources are made completely transparent on our websites.

        • Fair enough Alistair: I am a retired freswater fish biologist, who as a young man started to plant deciduous trees around Loch Garry, near Drumochter, in order to provide leaf litter as the food base for the invertebrates that in turn feed the fish.( Arctic Charr and Brown Trout.) The loch, being a hydro electric reservoir had lost its natural littoral aquatic vegetation because of the fluctuation of water levels. A review of the literature soon revealed that much of it pertinent to Arctic Charr living in hydro-electric reservoirs was derived from Scandinavian studies. I learned Norwegian to access it more fully and from the early 1970s made a number of pre-Riddoch, pre-Reforesting Scotland study/work trips to Norway and Iceland, initially related only to my fisheries interests, but after travelling through country in oceanic western Norway, that had profound geo-botanical and bio-climatic similarities to much of the Grampians had increasingly stimulated an interest in wider land use, tenure and rural social issues.

          Standing beside a Rannoch-sized lake lying at 2000ft at the latitude of Shetland that was surrounded by a forest of Scots Pine, birch, wilow, rowan and alder into which were interspersed small owner- occupied sheep farms, started a process of questioning the ‘natural’ treelessness and emptiness of my home patch. The cancellation of a fingerling trout stocking in the lake due to the villagers we had hoped to hire to assist being away because they were aiding the processing and transport of a large bull Moose a team of their local hunters had shot, started a questioning of the rural resource access we have in the Highlands.
          However the real Damascene light came on a study trip in 1984 with Angus McHattie of the SCU, to various parts of Vestlandet. Standing in a sheep farmer owned birchwood, with the local mayor( who was a working landowner himself) listening to how that sheep farmer managed his forest in a cooperative system with others to achieve economies of scale was a positive revelation that was in contradistinction to the refusal of the landowner at Loch Garry to allow his sheep tenants to accept a free top of the range Norwegian sheep-inhousing unit offered by the Norwegian Consul General. A move which would have allowed deer and grouse habitat improvement on his land his tenants improved lambing rates.
          The lesson from 40 years of these study trips was in the end very simple—NAE LAIRDS REQUIRED.

      • stuart, as always you are economical with the truth.
        john fyall is a land agent, and also a particular type of tenant,a short term one, who must toe the lairdy line if he wants a renewal of his lease.

  44. Time to move on from the past Hector. Aileen Orr has hinted at the greater threat to Scotland’s land. While we hang in there and commit in a multitude of ways, you and others continue to inflate discord and generate fear. None of us even know who you guys are or how, or even if, you contribute to Scottish society and her economy as we do day in day out on farms. Yes everyone has a right to air their views but after all this so called debate, that is all you have achieved, airing of entrenched views. Attempts to persuade you to articulate practical solutions rather than a constant flow of insults and lessons in history have singularly failed. So time for me to move on too, back to the real world, imperfect as it may be.

    • well we are trying to move out of the quasi-feudal Victorian-Edwardian nightmare scenario, but a relative few in possession of the land seem to like that scenario.

  45. Daye, we have the practical solution, its called ARTB.
    As to entrenched views, the lairds view is the most entrenched of all, put forward incessently by their paid representatives on these forums and in the wider media.
    The Lairds always wheel out some land hungry young farmer like fyall to push their viewpoint, its an age old trick.

  46. Since when was land the sole preserve of farming? I guess I live on a cloud. I’m far more likely to be able to buy 1 acre of cloud than I am an acre of land for a wee hut – and why anyone would need a mortgage to buy a single acre of land is beyond me…. oh wait a minute……………

  47. daye, see my reply to your comment at 9.16pm.

    • Slurry Stirrer

      Daye, you dont know me and you never will, i,m a tenant farmer who is part of an organisation called STAG. i had no intention of contributing on these sites but it was your comments which made me realise that i should participate. You suggest that all i have achieved is airing of entrenched views, you couldn’t be further from the truth or reality. i have, and continue to devote my time at getting information into the people that count. My efforts on here are miniscule. Rubbish my cause and my style at your pearl, believe me Tenants will not stop fighting for the ARTB. Hopefully with time the tenanted sector in Scotland will be washed away, and in its place will be a land covered with small, medium and large family owned/worked farms. LVT to keep the greedy at bay and government help to allow new entrants to purchase a small farm.

      • Slurry Stirrer

        oh, one other little thing i forgot. The landed elite and their band of henchmen tell us to stop referring to the past, but they will use ancient and outdated laws to their full force!

  48. Well said slurry stirrer.
    Govt help to buy a small farm is the right way for new entrants, not life on the rent rack.

  49. Yes, slurry stirrer, the most ancient laws of theft ever devised!
    The most iniquitous being that the tenant has no right to the improvements made on the land, which are there for all to see, yet disappear in a puff of smoke at the wave of the factors wand.
    (In patrick sellars day it was literally a puff of smoke!!!)

  50. Part of the reason I don’t like anonymous forums is they get me quite angry; if you feel the need to use a pseudonym for fear of reprisal then please refrain from contemptuous attacks on individuals. To compare me with Patrick Sellar is to me one of the greatest insults and land hungry is unfounded completely. AsI left school at 16 with no financial backing or resources. I have worked for 20 years mostly for
    practical farming businesses and I did indeed get started in farming through who i know and what I know, I made it that way. I was a land agent for 2 years out of those 20. But as a land agent working for another firm they were quite aware of my sympathies and that is to the protection of farming. As an independent, which I admit to not particularly enjoying sometimes, I must keep high value farming going, but my ambition is to keep about 700 ewes and 20 cows. Enough to make a living off. I have given up land this year, as seasonal let’s at £105 did not stack up but then at auction they made £280 to subsidised farmers seeking to capitalise on a possible reference year. I work around 40 hours on the farm (including gathering & working with my neighbouring tenant farmer) 40
    hours on consultancy (mostly for utilities &
    farmers) and we also go out gritting at night in Aberdeen, all absolutely necessary to get started in farming and I currently have an overdraft of -89,000 and no savings except a pension and 9 shares in Dingwall Mart. I own no property except stock and a Beswick pigeon from my granny and a fiddle from my Grandad. My firm will not deal with naked acres in principle and does no sporting work. I have installed farmers on abandoned ground and been involved in the creation of 30 year LDTs. When I work with landlords agents they are aware that I am committed to seeing livestock maintained on estates and will try and ensure this can be done profitably for both parties. If anyone wishes to come round and see what I am about they are welcome. I have many views on land reform, but seasonal let’s are not a viable way into farming, and if you listen to Out of Doors you will see I am asking for stability to allow owner occupiers to let ground. We cannot just deprive people of their property, equally we should not have tenants walking away then renting scrub from said estates (without consideration for the former shepherd) to claim historic payment perpetually. I need a tenancy and have no aspiration to own land, as a mortgage would be near 4-5 times a rent plus all liabilities. I think we need to address land ownership, and indeed who can tenure it at the root; we are where we are but if you wish to buy or tenant ground perhaps a green card system like Denmark could be used. To occupy ground you would need to have say 5 years experience combined with knowledge in what you do, whether as a farmer or stalker or whatever. That would stop or limit whimsical buyers, investors and also some quite inappropriate tenants. I do think Andy’s discussion on people having more involvement with tha land is good, but we have to be wary of welfare etc if unskilled folk get starts without help, we also need more education in how to enjoy responsibly (we had another dog attack this week). Ms Orr is most correct; a tenant paying less for a farm than a town student flat cannot blame the landlord fir his woes; both would benefit from a more profitable industry that encouraged activity. One final point, when I moved back to Aberdeenshire I could not afford to buy a house on our industries wages, and the only affordable accommodation was a Dunecht house; having never met Stuart Young before I was grateful they have a stock of small farm & village houses which are basic but affordable. Everyone who gets such a house then complains when their circumstances improve that the estate will not sell, but forgot that if the estate did not have that stock, where would they have got a home. Same for tenancies. If we remove landlords we must have government intervention to make entry levels, or a government bank to assist entry and do we really want that? I am all for reform, but we have to look at merits of current systems and address ownership & occupation going forward. Without being drawn into personal and indeed hurtful attacks.

  51. *above I meant to say I must keep high value work going to keep servicing farm; tha farming is certainly not high value. Slurry Stirrers idea for government assistance may be viable, it would certainly help my business if we had banks more like Credit Agricole in France, but there is no point in giving them the millstone of farms without being in the same system as other farmers, hopefully this problem will go after 2015 but that’s a different debate.

    • Thank you John. Behind a lot of what you say is the big question of oligarchical land relations (it’s great that Dunecht Estate let you a house but not great that they are in such a dominant position in the market), farm subsidies (which I intend to keep a close track of in future) and inflated land values. Land reform can and should tackle all three. In future land should be more widely available (that means sharing it out more equitably through various means including fiscal) and cheaper (end speculation and private capitalisation of public money). We should end absenteeism and secret ownership structures. We need far more localised governance like the rest of Europe with clear powers to intervene in land markets for the public interest. This is all achievable by those who see the need for reform.

  52. Interesting comments so far. Clearly there are vastly differing insights into the nature of the problem. I throw this next one in as an example that takes us beyond tenant farming. it is an extract from an unsolicited email I received some months ago and relates to a settlement beside a large (though not very large) estate.

    “There is a very strong dislike of ******* Estate amongst the locals. Because of your area of expertise, you have no doubt seen feudalism at its worst in Scotland. I am sure however that some of the things that have been happening in this Estate would leave you with your mouth open. A neighbour left without broadband for a year because the Estate would not bother to sign a paper allowing BT to pass a cable under a track. Collapsed mineshafts left unfenced until the Estate was finally reported to the Council’s Environmental Health. The Estate renting a Scheduled Monument (former *****) to ******** as a building yard (they shouldn’t because it is a protected monument). Locals having to wait more than 3 months to get a response to their queries to the Estate factor. There are so many more things going on here that I could tell you. Most locals would just be happy to see ******* off. Many would even be willing to pay for that.”

    My inbox is littered with such examples but this is one of the few that I have been able to secure permission to publish with appropriate redaction.

  53. John, I apologise for my comments re patrick sellar which was over the top. Sometimes things get said in a heated debate that shouldnt be .
    I didnt introduce your name to the debate.

  54. Re the comments on housing availability, all rural cottages and farmhouses still left in agricultural occupancy should have a section 75 slapped on them with rents controlled, to stop them becoming second homes, holiday homes or commuter homes.
    This used to be problem round the big cities, but now it is scotland wide.
    Rural people need homes.

  55. Also, very interested in Ron Greers comments on Norway, I was fortunate enough to see similar ventures in Abruzzo Italy and in Lulea, Sweden when young farmers CEJA rep. Co- operation has always been harder to maintain though it seems in UK. I studied Hordeland at college, similar to what Ron speaks of and possible template for upland & better parts of West Scotland, although my Norwegian vet tells me as farms get smaller relatively the income cannot attract young people and they are actively seeking youth. I know of a young couple from Borders just starting a sheep enterprise over there, actually ‘tenanting’ in first instance from a co-op type group. As I said in interview, they have freedom to make business arrangements, but actual ownership I believe is governed by rules. Sorry for spelling and grammar, I am fighting iPhone whilst trying to keep a tractor mower in a straight line. I bet Sellar never had to cope with such issues; he was driven by the money in what was a hugely profitable investment and as far as I am aware he did not regularly get his hands dirty at Culmaily. Quite oppositely I seem to throw everything I make into letting me and my partner wrestle with sheep on a daily basis at a loss! (albeit we’re getting there if lamb values stay static we will start to pay debt). And my landlord only has 87 acres which he wants to protect for his children should they wish to farm, so he won’t be assisting me in wholesale routing of the locality Sutherland Style to advance my agenda. And as an exHighland auctioneer who still counts the sheep at a diminishing Lairg I have publicly criticised estates up there who do not invest in farming and community, with only 1 man I know of under 40 years of age at Lairg making a full time living from sheep we need to urgently look at community generation and business, this will involve estates, less active tenants and existing & new residents, may need government intervention but above all needs a mature and constructive debate; self interests do not always represent best future and that is where governance is needed. Hector, your apology is accepted and appreciated, none of my agendas are hidden, I just want to farm and also let others including family enjoy that farm. Although self gained I appreciate I am fortunate to have opportunities and try to use my experience to help others gain a foothold, though nearly 40 now I should probably leave them to it and concentrate on my own business.

  56. Co operation has always been difficuilt in scotland, and i would blame that mostly on the divisive tactics employed by factors between tenants. Every tenant has spells of being in or out of “favour”.
    Take the factors away, let the tenants buy their farms, and co operation would return.

  57. Doug Macadam describes lairds as “private landowners” and they should have some input to the debate.
    Large estate owners are stretching the definition of “private” somewhat, inferring that they have undisputed ownership of a relatively small area.
    They occupy much larger areas, for which their moral title is not proven even if the legal title is.
    And upon that area they have contrived to relieve successive generations of farmers of their capital and labour, who developed from wilderness the farms we know today.
    These are some of the “facts” which Macadam does not want to hear, as they are not on his list of approved “facts” .

  58. Why do we need lairds in a national park? Are there any lairds in Sarek, Jotunheimen or Killarney and if so are any of them non nationals and /or non residents?

  59. RevoltingPheasant

    There appears to be an absolute breakdown in communication between the landowners and their Short assured tenants (non agriculture). Many of the tenants houses on this estate alone are in a very poor state of repair yet the housing tenants have discovered their appeals for repairs have fallen upon deaf ears.
    Why the poor communication between land agents and housing tenants? Why are these repairs being ignored and the rent payers enduring cold, damp, somewhat substandard housing?

    Time for the landowners to get their own house in order first as they are showing no ability or enthusiasm for getting their tenants houses in order.

    • RevPhes: I have more than an inkling why you can’t give your real name. This is a story that would not be unfamiliar to such tenants on local estates in my area. In fact it’s pretty much the normal run of the course.

  60. Alastair McIntosh

    Neil … stayed off this debate yesterday … my (French) wife is running a campaign to try and get me to be a better keeper of the Hebridean Sabbath when it comes to email. Why residency matters I’ve said in another post (above). There’s a huge difference between somebody living in Scotland and paying rent, and living in the Azores and in a position to advertise a holiday cottage for rent – albeit, I grant you, at a rate so modest that I’m almost tempted to come for a holiday myself, and were I to do so, given your background reading, I suspect there’d not be many drams left in the bottle the following morning.

    There is a place in this debate for arguing the case for the landed position and that has been part of the richness of this thread. John Fyall (above) makes some valid points about short term leasing, and I have a lot of respect for somebody who makes his comment from a mowing tractor, or as with Daye, with her lambs in hand. My response to John, however, is what a different world it would be if the farm and house that he leased were held by the local community – or “commune” in the French sense. Somebody mentioned France up above. With my wife being French we go there a lot, and the way their network of small farmer melded in with the “commune” which usually owns the forest and hill pastures and is run on a local democratic basis is exemplary. We should be talking not just about Norway, but also France. What you see in France – right the way through to the waiters in the cafes, is that they simply don’t have the entrenched social class system that we have here. You see a real pride in working people that’s a refreshing change from here. Look at how the French farmers stick up for vernacular (in Ivan Illich’s sense) agriculture. Viva l’Asterix! (And I look forward to his new book about Scotland).

    And Ron Greer … re your bio of yourself … every time I come down the A9 as I did last week, I slow down as I pass Loch Garry and look towards those trees that you planted back in the 1980s to show it could be done, and to improve the fishing. What were barely discernable clumps ten years ago now look like quite a little forest along the loch side. From the road perhaps a mile away at least it looks like quite a wooded way along the loch side. A symbol for the future.

  61. dont you mean vladimir illych ?

  62. I would say the watershed on freedom of contract letting is about the age of 40.
    Young farmers are happy to work 16 hr days knocking the lairds property into shape,without much thought for the future, but its only when the financial and time burdens of raising a family start to tell, and the old bones start to creak, that they realise that security of tenure is more important.
    And the ultimate security of tenure is right to buy.

  63. Alistair, see above.

  64. RevoltingPheasant

    Ron Greer – Many of the Short Assured tenancy tenants have lived in their houses for some number of years, one or two became impatient waiting for new windows, doors etc so installed them themselves yet received no help from the landowner (in fact, he raised their rent!)
    The tenants have been vexed to see the the improvements in the houses inhabited by the landowner’s own family members – brand new double glazed windows, insulation and other improvements.
    The general mood of the tenants has been that “There is no point in asking as you know the landowner will do nothing”. This is not a defeatist attitude but one of sheer despair and people do see an ‘us and them’ division.

    For this reason alone, I would add my support to the tenant farmers who wish to improve their own living conditions and who need recognition of the investments and improvements they have made to their farms.
    I found Daye Tucker’s comment “Any tenant who can muster the finance to buy out the Landlord, even at a reduced price, has done extremely well under their tenancy. With the threat of Direct payments being reduced from 2015 and climate change weather challenges causing feed shortages, it’s a brave man who takes on buying his farm unless of course he’s getting it for nothing. Last time I checked out bank loans for farms it was 7.5% and there’s talk of interest rates rising.” Chilling.
    It sounds as if the tenant was not supposed to do well under their tenancy and that she would be most surprised if they were able to raise the capital to buy their own farms. Rather an arrogant and entitled opinion?

    • Rev Pheas: yes I am familiar with this kind of thing by anecdote and repute, but I am sure that Andrew Bruce Wootton could assure us that this has not and will not occur on any estate he has direct manegerial input to.

    • Slurry Stirrer

      well said R’pheasant

  65. Alastair McIntosh

    No, not Vladimir, but Ivan Illich – the great social thinker who wrote books like Deschooling Society and Celebration of Awareness, but his relevance to this debate is his work on vernacular values. He says that like our vernacular language, vernacular values are the things we pick up on our mother’s lap without even realising that we’re learning. The word comes the Latin vernaculus for “domestic, native.” Google vernacular and Illich and it’ll come up. The interesting thing is that many old-style landed types, farmers and crofters have a very strong implicit understnading of vernacular values. Land reform is about extending that, and therefore not just about the land in a narrow agricultural sense, but in the more complete sense of “agri-culture” – the culture of the fields – that is about reconstituting human values.

    That is why I really urge landowners to let go of their grip on the land beyond what they can farm or otherwise use themselves in a manner that is proportionate within and accountable to local communities. This is about what Paulo Friere calls the “full humanisation” of everyone, including and perhaps above all, the erstwhile oppressor, who has dehumanised his or herself without realising it. If this sounds like out of place academic claptrap, then read Lesley Riddoch’s cracking full page obituary of Alan Macrae of Assynt on p. 27 of the Scotsman today – http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/heritage/lesley-riddoch-powering-change-one-man-at-a-time-1-2984100

    Specifically, Lesley writes (and the rest of this post is all quotation from the article):

    I once watched Allan rounding up sheep in a force-8 gale reading Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed whilst remaining upright and rolling a cigarette (with one hand).

    That book was important. Freire’s controversial classic suggests that living without power is an art form that requires vital life skills like spending next to nothing, making do with second, third or fifth-best, leaving instead of speaking out and above all discouraging defiance or ambition. But Freire’s contention is that these “skills” remain and a “second-best” attitude prevails long after conditions improve until they are consciously unlearned.

    Freire may have been describing what we call “the Scottish Effect” – unaccountably higher rates of disease and premature death amongst Scots (particularly Glaswegians) compared to UK counterparts. Scotland’s bad health outcomes cannot be explained by deprivation alone – but may result from the crippling disempowerment of living in a society which outwardly strives for equality but fails to back those who sacrifice everything to achieve it.

  66. Rev pheasant, high handed arrogance is the hallmark of landlordism.
    My landlord has sold land out from under me, but never asked me if i wanted it.
    Many tenants have off farm investments, for retirement or whatever, which can be cashed to buy their farms when the time comes, and it will.
    Always remember that a tenant buying his farm does not have to repurchase his improvements, and they can make a substuntial deduction from the tenanted land value.

  67. Neil King wrote: “fascinating as history is, the events of hundreds of years ago have practically no relevance to charting a course today for the future”

    Like you, Neil, I’m doubtful whether the outrage over the past that Alastair’s expressing takes the debate anywhere useful, but I don’t agree that events of the past aren’t relevant; the legitimacy and scope of existing land titles rests on the rights and responsibilities that adhered to them when they came into existence …. and on the integrity with which those responsibilities were exercised over the centuries.

    (I hope Alastair doesn’t think that, as an Englishman living in England, I should stay out of this debate, but I’ll declare my interest as he requested: I think of myself as a jurist, and for me land reform is an adjunct to the constitutional reforms which I’ve been thinking about for the last thirty years or so. For the last few years I’ve been arguing that fundamental change is more likely to come about through challenging the legal foundations of the existing system through the courts, rather than through political processes.)

    I’m more familiar with the position in England than in Scotland, but my impression is that the fundamentals are essentially the same, and that the landlords’ titles came into being as part of the machinery of government; those titles did not primarily confer rights of occupancy or use of the land itself, rather they conferred dominion over the people living on it.

    I’d say it’s worth looking very closely from that perspective at the powers landlords’ have to exclude people from their land, and the roots of their right to charge rent. It’s too big a subject to go into here, but I think the legal basis of much of what happens today would turn out to be very flimsy.

    • Alastair McIntosh

      Malcolm – as an Englishman or anyone else living in Scotland I’d see it as entirely fitting that you take a part in this debate. That said, it can be relevant to know one another’s earmarkings and especially whether people are directly part of the processes and peoples to which their comments refer. It’s a bit like the question as to whether or not it is OK for land to be held behind faceless corporations. I was very pleased the other day, in response to Ian Davidson’s question, that David Cameron said that he plans that companies will have to reveal their beneficiaries in future. I was born in Doncaster, by the way, and of an English mother. I’m very proud of those aspects of English identity that gave us such traditions as the Diggers, Levellers, Ranters (och aye) and the Quakers.

      I’m going to be checking out from this debate now, but it has been a very full one. I hope that budding historians somewhere will be saving it all to PDF (Ctrl P on a PC and then print to PDF if you have that option) as I don’t know of a richer online discussion involving multiple sides of the land debate. Personally, I thank you all.

      Can I just draw attention to the post from Iain MacKinnon this morning in response to Neil that’s about a third of a way up in this string. It might not have been noticed, since there’s been so many posts following it. If you go up to the top of the page and do a page search (Ctrl F on a PC) for MacKinnon you’ll find it. Very good stuff about why history matters.

      Go well all, and doubtless, see some of you another day. Alastair.

  68. Very interesting point malcolm.
    It is the landlords propensity for appropriating tenants improvements and charging rent on them which is at the root of tenant poverty and dissatisfaction, which goes way beyond the rent the crown allowed them to charge originally.
    And of course it has made landlords wealthy beyond measure at the same time,, to the point that they now regard tenants improvements as fair game to provide cash to continue their exotic lifestyles.

  69. Returning to the substance of Douglas McAdam’s article, he writes that

    “More importantly, the vast majority of people who own rural land own less than 1000 acres, accounting for many thousands of these people”

    I have read that Scottish Land and Estates has 2500 landowning members. What acreage of land does this represent and do you have a breakdown by size class?

    • I hope you get an answer on this one Andy as it will help the detail of the debate.

  70. rural landowners are not the problem, it is the landlords who are .

    • the biggest problem regarding private rural landowners is that we don’t have enough of them.

    • To my mind hector, that comment neatly encapsulates that there are really two debates going on here – (1) ARTB and “landlords”; and (2) all other aspects of land reform and “rural landowners”.

      To be ultra devil’s advocate for a minute, I could imagine a situation in which ARTB had been conceded and then many of the ex-tenants who’d exercised their right to buy becoming distinctly lukewarm about the other aspects of land reform because they themselves have become “rural landowners” and therefore part of the problem of Scotland’s overly large farming pattern.

      In making that point, I’m not having a go at anyone or grinding any axe one way or another (I have no vested interest), I’m trying to shine a light to focus the real issues.

      I know Andy gets annoyed with me for constantly suggesting blog topics but I would urge him to concentrate on painting a picture of the mosaic of much smaller family farms reclaimed from sporting estates and discussing how that contributes (or not) in terms of such issues as food security, biodiversity, reducing CAP subsidies, addressing concerns such as will the townies vote for it (how do they gain from this rural revolution?) Etc. etc?

      Anyone else see what I’m saying?

      • Slurry Stirrer

        Neil, i know what you are saying, the current trend in Scotland is basically: no ground around villages for allotments and small turbines. NFU dictating that big is best & dont cap the CAP. Forests and rivers are totally dominated by the sporting/shooting scene. We have rural housing crisis, aging agri population. A dwindling and suppressed tenanted sector. It all boils down to too much land being owned by too few, and my immediate solution would be ARTB to get more pride and key decision makers into our communities. Young local folk cant look up to an absentee laird or a factor.

        • Good, slurry, another little snapshot of the vision – by using that terminology I don’t mean to demean your contribution. I get your point that ARTB would be a step in the right direction which could lead to other things. But I’m urging the “big beasts” of the land reform scene – i.e. the likes of Andy Wightman – to use their communication skills and place in the market (as it were) to develop the big picture further.

          I would urge Andy to do a full report on the sort of vision slurry stirrer painted a thumbnail sketch of there (along the lines of his reports on LVT in Scotland and England.) But with more commitment and ambition – if you don’t mind me saying – because you will be freed of the constraints of a remit given you by third parties (Green Party). Again, I know you hate my “advice” but I thought your submission to the LRRG was going to be your big moment but it was very disappointing because it didn’t convey a big picture vision.

          Anyway, to end on a positive note, let’s talk more about the benefits we’re looking forward to rather than niggling about what we don’t like which I feel the current “debate” has too much of.

          • Alastair McIntosh

            Neil … having checked out from this thread, let me briefly check back in to say how much I agree with you on this. What we’re seeing more and more here – the post from Otter I think it was is a fine example – is that tenant farmers are finding their voice, albeit under cover of anonymity for the mostpart, and my sense is that that’s helping others to see more clearly that there’s issues of real justice and humanity here. Maybe there’s a helpful perspective that can blow from the Azores after all! What was it we had in school? The “Azores Aunt” (anticyclone). Well, we’ll let you swap the gender round if you can send a bit of good weather over.

  71. the biggest problem we have with rural landowners is that we don’t have enough of them

    • Slurry Stirrer

      Ron and hector, i agree. What always amazes me is that absentee landlords don’t even know the soil type, what type of drains etc. are on the many farms they own. A total lack of connection with the land. They counter this by claiming responsibility for the community. A gentleman i met recently who was from an estate family, made the comment, that without the personal wealth of the large landowners much of Scotland would turn to a useless wilderness. What a terrible position rural Scotland is in.
      Alastair McIntosh made an interesting point that Land reform runs deeper than just farming issues, something quite deep and rooted about his comments, i like his books too.

    • Indeed Ron but I personally would find it helpful if more time were spent on painting the picture of what we’re aiming at in terms of the optimal size of rural landholding and a discussion of the benefits that would flow from that and the challenges involved in achieving it.

      • Isn’t it better to aim for a system which would allow the optimal size of landholding to emerge spontaneously? I don’t see how a realistic optimum could be envisaged in advance, because as long as people don’t have the freedom to leave the cities we have no way of knowing how many people would actually want to.

        To my mind it’s better to establish what principles society should embody, and focus on rooting out the features of the existing system which are inconsistent with them. Looked at from that angle most of the political battles have actually already been won; the problem is that the legal framework hasn’t caught up. Nobody argues against principles such as equality of opportunity, but the laws which violate them aren’t going to change until people start pointing out how absurd they are.

        • Isn’t it the case that we already have a system which has allowed the optimal size of landholding to emerge spontaneously yet people think that size is too big?

          • No, Neil, I don’t think the existing distribution of land can reasonably be described as optimal. As Andy said above: “There is plenty evidence from around the world that smaller farms are more efficient, better for the environment, better for rural communities and produce more and better quality food into shorter supply chains”.

            But I think you’re misunderstanding what people mean when they say that existing landholdings are too big. Although most of us do indeed think that large numbers of smaller holdings would lead to more vibrant communities that’s not quite the same as saying existing landholdings are too big. Where people are saying that, as far as I can see, it’s because they’re blaming the accumulation of large landholdings for the fact that there are large numbers of people whose need or desire for land is not being met.

            I prefer to blame that on the laws which a) allow the accumulation of land to carry over from one generation to the next, and which b) allow land (a resource which is finite) to be treated as part of an infinitely expandable stock of wealth. I don’t see any reason why a healthy system of land ownership should prevent large landholdings being accumulated – as long as everybody starts with the same rights to land. The ‘ration-book’ system (as Ron dubbed it) which I’m advocating would allow the distribution which exists today – but it could only come about through people choosing it, and it would only persist as long as people wanted it.

            The point I was making in my previous post, however, was that laws shouldn’t generally be formulated to shape society in any particular way – therefore the optimal size of landholding shouldn’t be a consideration. Government exists primarily to resolve (and pre-empt) conflict between its citizens, and the laws which allocate natural resources should be designed simply to allow people a fair share in those resources and the maximum flexibility in how they make use of them.

  72. I have arrived late to the party but have read all the comments.

    Neil, I see what you are saying and given the discussion topic is about a mature debate on the non-demonisation of landowners, then I shall assume it is mainly about Douglas McAdam’s article therefore the former.
    That said, it is difficult to address the ARTB without also addressing land reform and the wider Scottish populace. Both issues merge although the ARTB concerns the secure tenant only.

    The historic and academic comments are fascinating and must be taken into consideration as they add perspective and gravity to the issues raised.

    From a personal perspective, I feel we desperately need to be given the absolute right to buy our farms. It is very difficult indeed to garner any feelings of trust with the estate we live on and despite an admiral attempt by Mr McAdam to smooth relationships with those who run our estate and our family, surely he can understand our suspicion and mistrust when they suddenly wish to communicate?
    My husband’s family first approached our estate with regard to roof repairs in the 1970’s – the days when a farmer could approach the estate factor and sort out problems. Now, forty odd years on, we have a roof which has deteriorated to a dreadful state and have been fighting through legal channels to have it replaced. we are now dealing with land agents, not the old style factor and have been faced with many negative reactions.
    There are many houses on this estate which have been allowed to lie empty and fall into disrepair. Several secure tenants have been ripped off on waygo, barn roofs removed by the estate, communication between estate and tenant was not forthcoming and people were left feeling like lesser citizens.

    I truly hope those in authority and by that I mean Scot Gov; I hope they are reading this blog and taking all that has been written into consideration. We urgently need to move forward as a country, to reform, radically if necessary, to find trust again and build our communities up.

    Our family have endured years of rough conditions and years of being treated in a less than human way yet we are prepared to rebuild our home and livelihood and look to the future. As I see it, the best way we can do this is to do it as free men and women.

    • GentleOtter: I deeply sympathise with your position. When I first started planting trees by Loch Garry, the previous owner told me of his anger at the previous owner of the bordering estate ripping the roofs off a set of cottages to prevent people living there and ‘disturbing the deer and grouse’. He had offered to buy these cottages and renovate them for his own tenants, but his neigh’bour stubbornly refused. As I said in a previous post I had a ‘war’ with my own landlord over basic wind and watertightness problem that was ignored for years and only my full assured tenancy and determination not to knuckle under gave me the chance that 6 month short assured tenants locally did not have.
      I can assure you that members of the Scottish Government are aware of these kind of problems and have been since their time in opposition( I was a member of the Scottish Land Commission set up by Alex Salmond) They should be ashamed, but I think they have lost any sense of shame. I wonder how many schmoozing cocktail parties that took?

  73. I notice that doug macadam has retired from the discussion.
    Basically, farm tenants need the same rights that crofters got in 1886, which includes the right to buy.
    Once the right to buy is established, there is no need to act upon it immediately, time will be needed to acquire funds etc.
    There is no optimal size of holding, that is the wonderful thing about farming. Some farmers can live on a small acreage, others may farm part time, others need more acres.
    If the arbitrary power of estate factors to decide farm size is removed, the natural level will be found, although CAP may distort. Without the rent rack, and a solid asset behind them , farmers will become more efficient and profitable.
    Integrated farming and forestry will get going, as tenants currently cannot do so.Forestry is better small scale than blanket.

    • I agree here Hector and the varying size of the farms in Norway( and other parts of Fennoscandia) gives an indication, plus the universal access by farmers to forest that led to a very different attitude to so-called ‘worthless scrub’ . At the time of my early study trips the average farm size was about 7.5 Ha, but we visited ‘giant’ holdings of some 300Ha. Some time ago BBC 2 aired a programme called ‘ A Farm for The Future’ presented by the daughter of a large modern ‘industrial’. Nominally it was about oil based fertiliser support coming to an end, but the observations on small mixed holdings were very interesting. Have you seen it?

      • Slurry Stirrer

        Ron, sounds like an interesting programme, wish i had seen it. Food becoming increasingly local has to be the way to go. Very small farms (basically a croft) can be super efficient and really clean & green. Re-connect everybody in the rural population through food and outdoor recreation. All of this needs ground and premises (storage/processing) But most importantly it needs the channels which free peoples imagination and energy to do this. The current monopoly on land inhibits this not only by physically owning the land but also maintaining the myth that ‘nothing else will work’ …. ‘just leave it to us’
        LRRG are hopefully going to broaden out the remit again, so as there are real changes for individuals with flare as well as communities. Richard Lochheads review of agri tenure is hopefully going to deliver ARTB.
        I can really start to see a bright Farm/croft/smallholding/village allotment future, where ideas and projects are free flowing.

        • I have posted Andy the link to the TV prog from a friend and hopefully he can get it to you and Hector.

        • The LRRG is replete with reps from the sectional vested landed interests that are in large measure part of the problem and it is now worse than passe. Whilst still a member of the SNP and unaware of the cocktail party secondary agenda(s), I recommended to John Swinney, my local MSP, in relationship to strategic freshwater fisheries management that a commission comprising international experts from countries with similar environments to Scotland and convened by a respected Scottish political figure( I suggested George Reid at the time) to investigate present status and future options. I think we need such a team of international experts, independent of the Scottish political system, to replace the LRRG.

    • Aye, NB the silence from Daye Tucker, Doug Mc Adam and A.B. Wootton.

  74. Sorry Ron, havnt seen it , but i agree with the sentiments.
    When oil becomes too dear to use for fertiliser or tractors, small mixed farms will be the only way forward. Those inputs are now crippling arable farms, and yet factors seek more rent!. The tenure model of short/no security huge units relentlessly pursued by estates merely impoverishes the land and the tenant, and EVENTUALLY the landlord.
    This is now well proven in england, post the 1995 act where FBT tenancies took over.
    The 2003 act was supposed to mirror that, until jack mcconnell started talking about right to buy.
    Actually, the fastest diminishing resource in scotland is farming families, i know estates where half the tenants have gone in 10 years.
    Commuters now have the houses, and the land is semi abandoned, rushes taking over.
    Now and then an outsider rents a bit, without knowing the area too well, gets his fingers burnt, and departs.
    The big difference from 2003 is we now have the massive power of the internet, so discussions like this are possible.
    You mention your security of tenure on your cottage. Short assured tenancies are a disaster, and have led to the housing bubble and rural /urban poverty. A cottage rent here 20 yrs ago was £100/ month or about 12% of a tractor drivers monthly wage.
    Now the same cottage, they are asking £700 upwards, which is nearly half of a tractor drivers wage.
    Those regulated tenancies need to be brought back, and quickly., with a sect 75 to boot.

    • Hector, the introduction of LRV to replace income tax etc, would help this too as sitting on your bahookie doing nothing with land would no longer pay.

  75. The film was broadcast by BBC 2 in their Natural World series. The version I had is no longer available due to the uploader closing the youtube account.

  76. good news is that I have just accessed it by googling BBC2 Natural World Farm for The Future—best of luck gys–it’s worth sitting down to with a coffee.

  77. Interesting as this discussion was over the weekend, I withdrew at the point when the posts from the anonymous contributors started becoming insulting and abusive to named individuals – including myself being compared to the Nazi Goebbels. I am not prepared to discussing issues that way. Hence my input to this discussion has now concluded. As I am mentioned specifically in recent posts all I will add is that I am indeed looking into this case as Gentle Otter mentions. It has been raised and aired very publicly by Gentle Otter and so it is important to establish the facts and to work out together how progress can best be made. I have spoken to Gentle Otter and also to the person who runs the estate and, maybe not unsurprisingly, there are two sides to the story. I do not intend to discuss this case on blogs such as this as I believe that would be unfair to all the parties involved. I would hope we can be left to get on with trying to find a way forward to resolve the differences between Gentle Otter and the estate so that both parties can find satisfaction and move on.
    That is my final comment on this Blog item. I will not be responding and reading further. Over and out.

  78. If and when we receive the ARTB, the advantages to the (now ex) tenant would be many fold.

    We would be able to diversify without having to give the laird a cut, this has the potential to bring in tourists to areas which were formerly ‘closed off’ from the tourist trail. Areas which were formerly for game and little used, these areas could be restored and used for a myriad of ideas.

    Private water problems could be addressed and rectified, roads fixed…I could go on with a list the length of my arm.

    I would love to see farming and crofting skills introduced to the school curriculum from primary school level with farm visits a regular occasion. I’m not sure if there is a Career Advisor these days but feel farming and crofting skills ought to be championed and promoted.

    We ought to look to the Scandinavian model of hutting and read Lesley Riddoch’s excellent reports on how this could be put into practice, the health benefits, etc.

    To be honest, I cannot think of a single disadvantage to the Scottish people if the ARTB was made available plus radical land reform. Tens of thousands of acres, once locked up for ‘sport’ could be opened for small scale agriculture, food production or just a chance to get out of the city. The land could be shared by the majority instead of a small minority.

    Note to Ron Greer – You have been an inspiration to my daughter and she has been busy growing native trees from seed, ready to plant them in areas ‘In need of a tree’. Thank you for your work and vision.

  79. Douglas McAdam posted whilst I was writing.

    I look forward to hearing the estate’s version of our situation. as it is, we are never included in what the estate think – indicative of the breakdown and trust between tenant and landowner.

    In the past, we have discovered that events have been contorted somewhat, always to make the estate look good and to demonise the tenant. We know the truth and despite the estate spin, other tenants know the truth. The ARTB would free us from having to deal with slippery and duplicitous estate agents, free us from lengthy legal wrangles and ultimately, freedom from oppressive tenancy issues.

    • Slurry Stirrer

      Well said genttle Otter. The thing is, if you owned your land all the problems would be sorted right away.
      Poor Dougie M would have been better not posting that last comment. He has spat the dummy out just because HIS example of a so called ‘happy tenant’ turned out to be an owner occupier! Facts and truth? what a joke! mature debate?? by his last post i would say Dougie was about 10 years old.

      “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they attack you, then we win”.
      Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

  80. Doug, i apologise it was in bad taste. However the treatment we tenants receive tends to lead to extreme views.
    What happy tenant turned to be an owner occupier?

  81. I had hoped that Douglas McAdam, as CEO of the SL&E could answer my questions
    Why have certain estates been allowed to get away with so much damage to their tenant farmers? Why did some estates go unpoliced, unvetted and unnoticed for so long that the very buildings they own are now crumbling?
    Why are the tenants made out to be the bad guys every time?
    What do estates have to hide that they are prepared to become economical with the truth in order to save face?
    What is so wrong with a secure tenant farmer wishing to become a landowner of his own farm?

    The points raised in this very interesting debate are emotive for both sides of the fence, some have suffered true hardship and some may perceive hardship if the land issues are reformed. It is my belief that the ordinary people of Scotland and the land are considered first in what appears to be an acrimonious pre divorce squabble.

    We are not fighting about who gets the dog and the CD collection but how best our country can be utilized for the benefit of the entire population.

    • They have retreated from this debate, even though they initiated it, because they know they are on a hiding to nothing. Some petty retribution would not be a surprise.

  82. GentleOtter: Thanks for the appreciation from you and your daughter. I just hope she will see these trees she is planting become hers on her own land, not the property of a landowner, like most of mine are, and further live in a community where many other people are planting trees on their own land too. If you were able to get into ‘A Farm for The Future’ then the key sections are 20-35 minutes in. We would need to use a range of more northern species than those used in the Welsh and Shropshire example. Loch Garry proved the old ‘trees wulnae grow here’ defeatism totally wrong . What could we do in upland Scotland? Well google Reykjavik and Bronnoysund whih have a basic bioclimatic profile as Drumochter-Dalwhinnie-Braemar and see for yourself what other people have done with their ‘disadvantages’ —and NAE LAIRDS REQUIRED.

  83. in reply to neil king, 10.37pm.
    The optimal size is the size the landlord decided it is, which is not the REAL optimal size. It is the size that will deliver the biggest rent cheque for the least outlay. Humans are rarely considered.
    Tenants are awarded extra land for various reasons, like offering a high rent, or surrendering some development land.
    Ability or need for the land is seldom considered.
    But a beaurocratic imposition of size is the last thing needed.

    • I agree Hector, a universa, bureaucratic imposition of size is not the way forward, though I have tinkered in my mind with maximum permitted area and multiple ownership issues. I have already commented on the size of farms we encountered on the seminal study tour of Norway in 1984. The Rogaland-West Agder scenario seemed more relevant to much of the Grampian massif because of the geo- bioclimatic affinities, and the Jaeren with more lowland areas of Scotland, We never studied specifically Tromsfylke and Finnmark, but my experience of being there for other ecological studies and workshops indicated affinities with the far NW Highlands. With such a wide regional variation in topography, geology, climate and edaphic conditions both in Norway and Scotland a simplistic one size fits all approach to size of land holdings is just not a feasible proposition. However it was patently obvious that the Norwegians had no equivalents of Atholl/ Buccleuch Estates or Glenfeshie and Gaick- Dalnacardoch being owned by a non national, non resident owner and certainly not in a national park. NAE LAIRDS REQURED.

  84. Slurry Stirrer

    Watched the programme last night, i took from it that farms need to get smaller in order to optimise family labour. Really got me thinking about pasture and trees.
    The main thing was OWNERSHIP and pride which the lady made clear at the start, and without it she and many others wouldn’t bother to radically adapt their farms. This approach requires many more people working the land, trouble is the fiercely guarded circle does not like fresh faces. its not necessarily a greater mosaic of ownership Scotland needs but rather a huge increase in the number of owners. Then adaptation can follow with the people. in my local area there are Two land owners holding about 70,000 acres between them. They both live outside Scotland, so what they want and decide is what happens, it just doesn’t work. Both quick and slow reactions to trends and demands are impossible. We hear it time and time again, “whats best for the estate” when you analise this you begin to understand that an estate is actually nothing! it is not actually anything which needs to be preserved. The people who work all over the land, their culture, their energy thats what needs to be preserved and promoted. Scotland needs to be covered in loads of new owners.

    • Glad you had look at it and I see we have reached similar conclusions about the opportunities and challenges presented, especially by the land monopoly cabal regarding the latter. It is biologically and socially possible to attain this situation, albeit with local regional variations in tree species, vegetable-fruit crops and range of domestic stock. We should also not overlook the opportunities presented by wild mammal harvesting for a low volume-high volume crop.

    • Aye–landowners per square mile and not square miles per landowner. NAE LAIRDS REQUIRED.

  85. I read the book last night “Go listen to the crofters” by A D Cameron. It is an account of the Napier commision, the events leading up to it, and the end result.
    It seems the Napier commision was little better than the LRRG, it ignored the mass of small crofters, and recomended awarding the larger crofters 30 year leases if they undertook to improve the croft.
    Fair rent , Fixity of tenure and Freedom of assignation were not included.
    But then the commision was dominated by landlords and such like, with no crofter on it, so no surprises there.
    Without waiting for the result, the lewis crofters organised a land league irish style, and a rent strike, which the govt tried to break with 50 armed police and 400 marines.

    Fortuneately, the crofters won the right to vote in 1885, and elected five mps commited to land reform, and the govt gave them the 3 F,s, based on the irish model, to all crofters.

    It just shows what a waste of time the napier commision was, it was the direct action that won them proper rights.

    Meanwhile us farm tenants can only look on with envy at crofters who may not have much, but is THEIRS.

    • 5 MPs committed to land reform!!——would that be a luxury or a fantasy these days?

  86. Interstingly, A croft was defined as a holding with a rent less than £50 per year.
    In 1885, £50 was about the average annual salary of a working man.
    Translate that to todays terms, and anyone paying less than £20,000 rent should be classified as a crofter! With the 3 F,S and right to buy.!!!!!!

    • Slurry Stirrer

      exactly Hector. The crofting model could be rolled out across Scotland tomorrow. With the same ARTB, 15 times the rent. Doug M, i know you are reading this and you will think that equates to theft, but a lump sum paid to the ABSENTEE landowner subsequently invested to allow a return of 7% more than compensates for the loss of rent. Not even taking into account the fact that the laird is now free from liability.
      Ron, the vision of creating woodland/agri systems, whether that be forest gardens or hunting mammals for food(not pleasure) could then be achieved. SLaE which i also refer to as the EDL, Estate Defense League! are claiming to put together a ‘rural business tenancy’ claiming this is the answer to lack of investment by tenants. The truth is tenants are scared to invest, because no matter what happens the land agents will rent rack even more. Small scale efficient family farms cant afford the financial or emotional drain which tenant farming will sadly always have.

    • Iain MacKinnon

      Hello Hector,

      the crofters’ right-to-buy their holding was a provision introduced by the Government in 1976 and wasn’t part of the 1886 settlement. The debate on the right-to-buy provision created bitter divisions among crofters before the 1976 Act was passed. Jim Hunter’s 20th century history of crofting ‘The Claim of Crofting’ covers this period in some detail. The right-to-buy has been taken up by comparatively few crofters with, as far as I remember, less than 5 per cent of crofters in the Western Isles (which is the area that contains by far the largest number of crofts) exercising the right to buy as of 2010. On the one hand the statutory conditions that you mentioned make it largely unnecessary for crofters to buy their crofts. However, I think there may also be deeper cultural reasons for the Western Isles’ lack of interest in buying as the percentage of bought crofts for Shetland and Orkney is much higher. I suspect this can be partly, perhaps even substantially, attributed to indigenous land principles coming from their Celtic and Norse cultural traditions as these were, and are, manifest in the duthchas and udal native land tenure systems respectively.

      • Slurry Stirrer

        Judgement on uptake of cofters exercising the right to buy must be carefully examined. Tenant crofters used to qualifiy for a higher rate of grant aid compared to owner occupiers.

        • Slurry/Iain – is it not the case that the level of grants was the same but that access to them was means tested in the case of owner occupiers? May be wrong on that but my view on the relative lack of uptake of the crofting rtb had always been that crofters have relatively little to gain from it in the sense that, even as owner occupiers, they remain subject to virtually the whole panoply of crofting law. The same would not, I assume, be envisaged for ARTB. Imagine if that were to end up as “Well the good news is you’re not paying rent anymore rent but the bad news is you’ve still got all the rest of the grief to go through with the Farming Commission in place of your landlord.” It’s not a perfect a analogy, I know ….

          • indeed Neil, we seem to be shackled to the rosy concept of Crofting amd forget it is not just a wee hoose and wee puckle of land, but a defined legal entity and one that comes with its own ‘demons’.

  87. Ian, Yes you are right, i didnt make that clear that rtb was 90 years later.
    But as you say, with the 3 Fs, the factor is off your back, and there is no real need to exercise the right to buy until the time is right.
    The lairds can still strut about and massacre the wildlife, but they cant steal from you or evict you, They should be happy with that.
    It is a disgrace that the rest of scotland has been denied the 3 F,s.

  88. Funny how tory leader ruth davidson was slating the snp tonight for stopping council house rtb.
    At least the council tenants didnt have to build or maintain the property of someone else.

    • Slurry Stirrer

      yes hector i was laughing at Ruth to. Someone will have her pulled up on that. SLAE will try and use this to their advantage, but it is not really comparing apples with apples. Rtb withdrawal on tenant housing can be to do with trying to stimulate the construction sector. Something which farming Land cant do. (i know some countries have reclaimed large areas from the sea)
      Neil. i agree with what you are saying about still having the crofting commission rules. tenant / owner, they had different grant rates.

      • Slurry Stirrer: How about a modern, democratic, variable- size holding system of private land tenure, without the legal and cultural hang ups and entanglements of crofting , being rolled out across Scotland? We never met anyone in Norway, regardless of the faults in their own system, that would have wished crofting instead of it.

        • Slurry Stirrer

          Yes i agree Ron, Modern has to be the way to go. The beauty of ARTB is that unreasonable and aggressive land agents will simply disappear. People can invest as deep as they wish, knowing they are no longer under the shadow of feudalism.
          If the government introduces ARTB. then we need a moratorium on notices to quit now! also some form of ring fencing placed on these holdings, to prevent the lairds from offering big golden hand shakes for tenants to walk away. Because they will try and get them back and then never let them. this is happening right now!

  89. Council house RTB has done its job, house ownership has been broadened.
    Once land ownership has been broadened, artb could also be cancelled.

  90. Crofting is not what we want, just equal rights (human rights?) with them.
    Even if ARTB comes in, there will be those who wont buy for all sorts of reasons, from unaffordability to landlord legal chicanery. Such tenants require the protection of the 3 Fs until such time as they can buy.

  91. I am amused at the way in which the “Special Contribution” from the Landowner side of the debate is written. Terms like “Land wrenched from its lawful owners” show the fear they have of social justice and reform. I am surprised they did not mention mobs of rural peasantry, marching about with pitchforks, scythes and blazing torches, like something out of a Frankenstein horror film. (Actually, I rather like that idea. It could be a tourist attraction!).

    But in reality, this is not the French or Russian Revolutions, No one is going to haul Bertie, the grand laird and lord of Bute, off to the Guillotine or the revolutionary firing squad. (although some of his ancestors richly deserved such a fate, and should have been thus dealt with). What we have, in reality, is a relict and reactionary Feudal social and economic system in rural Scotland, with a local ruling class who were disposed of, without ceremony, in most of the rest of Europe more than a 100 years ago. Sometimes violently. This fossilized social and economic system is causing great harm, socially and economically. It has to go. Rural Scotland needs it’s own rural revolution, where it is peacefully transformed into a modern Scandinavian type social democracy. The people who live there are absolutely entitled to this. Such a peaceful revolution is accomplished not by revolutionary mobs, “Wrenching land from its lawful owners”, but quite simply from legislative reform by the Scottish Parliament and Government. We all know what has to be done. Land reform starts with land taxation, the “land value Tax” which cuts speculators and other economic exploiters off from land speculation. Extension of the Crofting Acts and reform of them to the whole of Scotland, and a land development bank for small farmers, a green bank for rural development, and land holding limits, (who needs a million acres for themselves, and why?) and other practical measures. Commercial blood sports are a massive damage to the land, are a gross misuse of the land, and have to be eliminated. Other countries have a system of wild-life management that works, and allows all to participate. Also non-domicile ownership of land by non residents for farming or forestry should be banned. Like wise large corporate ownership. None of this is in any way remarkable, in mainland Europe. In many places, it is the law. However, the present feudal and corporate rural power holders consider themselves above the law, and abuse it. The Scottish government appears to have been lobbied and bought off by these elements, aided by a reactionary judiciary. If reform is to come, it has to come from the grass roots. it needs a distinct organization for this, that does peaceful direct action and demonstration, and lobbies relentlessly the Scottish public and authorities for change. As Mao said: “Fight the Tiger. You will discover it is made of paper”. When action endangers votes, politicians listen, with great rapidity. The ordinary rural population greatly outnumber the feudal anti-social elements. We are many, they are few”…is a traditional and still valid slogan. Let it begin, and now.

    • Graham: As you may have gathered from several earlier posts, I am strongly empathetic to your views. Again, as per many other posts on this thread and indeed other related threads the key issue of the collection of Land Rental Value collection arises( using land TAX will provide the opposition with a fear word to use against us) The collection of LRV will of course apply to non resident, non national citizen ownership. Under EU regulations we cannot prevent members of EU states owning land here( the difference in Norway and Sweden is interesting in this respect)

      I think the silence from the initiator of this debate and his fellow SLAE members is very telling indeed and they probably realise that the more they input the more the case against their quasi-feudal Victorian-Edwardian nightmare version of rural Scotland grows.

      I share your views on the culpability of the Scottish Government in halting progress on land reform. I wonder what private torment Rob Gibson and Roseanna Cunningham are going through due to their ‘whipped’ engendered silence keeping them ‘on messsage.’

  92. Slurry Stirrer

    Graham, well said. Yes the EDL, estate defense league have gone quiet, they must have been told to pull out. But they ended in true style, all of them (3) sign off with a shot of ridicule. Good stuff in the Scottish farmer, STAG getting recognition, farmers starting to talk about it.

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