“I’m deeply dismayed that this issue has been re-opened again. I can understand that there are always going to be some people who object to large-scale landownership but we felt that that was dealt with at the time of the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

What is being done challenges the nature of the society we live in and property rights. It also, in practical terms creates deep uncertainty in planning for the future and I think that’s going to be the disadvantage of the rural economy……..”

285 Comments

  1. This is a great early result for the land reform campaign.
    If buccleuch is going to “shrink” their mismanaged estate, that has to be good for all concerned and the rural economy in general.
    All the dilapidated farms,steadings and houses on buccleuch might now get the magic touch of owner occupation and serve as a template for a general right to buy for all tenants.

  2. This man deserves NOTHING, we need to take it all from him and let others manage it much better.

  3. The Duke of Buccleuch has interests in a company that wants to burn the coal seam under the Firth of Forth between Fife and Lothian to extract gas.

  4. Time for land reform is long overdue; these landed families got the land by theft to start with it’s high time it was taken back into community ownership.

  5. Were you not touched to your soul by the picture book his vassals and serfs put together as a gift.? I hope the pics of the ladies were not too inviting to avoid any noblesse oblige-ing.

    • No doubt put together at the insistence of his factor!

    • Speaking as someone who grew up in rural areas (inc. 2 privately owned estates where I lived in a tied house), referring to employees and tenants as “vassals and serfs” is really very derogatory to everyone concerned. We’re in 2015 not 1815 and people who live in tied houses and work for other people are regarded and referred to as “employees”. There’s no requirement to be rude about people who choose a different way of life and refer to them in that way.

      • Regrettably Ruth, a great many estates still think it is 1815 or even 1415.
        Tenants on large estates are not allowed to have political opinions which differ from their landlord, a recent example being the referendum where tenants knew very well where a yes sticker in a window would get them.

        • I know that. So what? I stand by what I said – to have people on here or anywhere else refer to my family and thousands of others like them as “serfs and vassals” because they have chosen particular professions is rude and unnecessary. If the owner of a shop thinks their employees are all lazy is it OK for the rest of us to refer to all those people publicly as lazy? Of course not.

        • Hector
          Not for the first time that’s complete tripe. Our tenants put up whatever referendum regalia they wanted including some enormous YES signs. Interestingly the only party on the estate not to voice an opinion was the estate itself because like many other businesses we were intimidated into silence.

          • So i made it up did i?

          • “””Intimidated into silence””””…. wow!!!… did you not have the strength of your own convictions?…. did you prefer to play it safe?…. did someone actually present themselves to you & suggest you keep your silence??… did you not recognise that the people of Scotland…. or those that hadn’t been scared witless by the threats of no pound… no pensions… NHS in danger …. with the connivance of the bbc…. were willing to take the future in their own hands and leave this disunited kingdom…. leaving you to run your business as you had previously…

  6. Ca’ Canny! Remote control never works. LOCAL…the key word. Custodianship & stewardship of the land, & its people; its grazing animals, life and wildlife….not separable. Here in Galloway, the shepherded hills were traditional Hill farms supported by their owners, who forsook rents in difficult times… until Forestry commission all funded and all subsidised to this present day, swept in like a behemoth to seize 300 square miles of our land..evictions abound, ….LOCAL vibrancy, connectedness, meaningfulness, raison-d’etre, way of life irredeemably lost; life and wildlife now gone. Generally the hill farms bore long-term tenancies…continuity…rich legacy of landscape, life and wildlife maintained with hefted hill-bound flocks and herds in tact. Mismanagement, lack of accountability,
    dearth of responsibility, devastation, ruination, desertification through ABSENTEE LANDLORDISM Yes! Press PAUSE! Large scale land CONTROL URGENTLY needs re-visited. A VISIT Andy? NAY! a concentrated FOCUS ….ON FORESTRY COMMISSION in Galloway.

    • aye, private landowners per square mile and not square miles per private landowner. Nae quasi-Stalinist neo-tribal kibbutzist collectives. Land owned by people and not the mysterious ‘the people’. An extensive property -owning democracy operating with greatly empowered local political administration and enlightened central government, funded not by deadweight taxes on labour and physical property, but by the full collection of land rental value. Certain HSBC clients eat your friggin hearts out.

  7. I am still not content that the proposals go far enough. I think that the issue of limiting the extent of land ownership per individual and restraints on inheritance are not necessarily the way to go here. A comprehensive land value tax which would replace council tax could take some of the heat out of property values and transfer the burden from poor to rich in a meaningful way. It would also reduce the incentive to but large estates as simply a place to park money.

    • Pity you used the T word, but otherwise strongly agree David. Worth a google at Scottish Land Revenue Group

  8. I have no problem with people owning large estates but I agree with MVArmstrong in that that ultimate responsibility for these estates should be local ( exceptions would maybe have to be made for charities such as RSPB , John Muir Trust , etc ?) . From my limited experience of two estates ,one on the west coast near Oban and the other in Aberdeenshire which are both run by the owners who live on the estates as their prime residence . Both these estates although very different geographically have a vibrant community. The owner on the west coast allowed people to upgrade their caravans( there were quite a few) on his property by adding more permanant conversions, that is until the council stepped in and told them to take them down as they did not have planning permission . ( most of them are still there ) . These people living on the estate have created a vibrant working community . The other estate has developed a great farm shop and cafe for their estate produce , providing local employment . But what a difference driving over the Cabrach in Aberdeenshire , it is so sad to see so many deserted farms on this large estate which is run by some absentee landlord from London ( I think ) and the only major contribution I can see that has been made to this estate is a nice selection of large wind turbines with as far as I am aware no contribution of the revenue going to the local community (sic).

    • John Muir Trust? Isn’t that the charity that fundraised to “save” a hill farm that was for sale and “saved” it by planting it and making the shepherd redundant?

  9. William Ferguson

    Are there any thresholds below which reforms would not apply? Would the thresholds be measured in terms of acreage, type of land (different areas yield different returns), no. of employees etc… Also, been looking at LVT, as you know I have my views on the different implications across different types if land but do think if given the choice, a sensible LVT would be fairer than an aggressive IHT. Any comments?

    • your getting there William, but the LVT term is not accurate, what is being proposed is the collection of a land value rate or its land rental value. Yes that varies across perceived societal demand for land. A quarter acre of land in Soho may have more LVR due than ten or a 100 acres of land in a Highland strath. All land should be rated and only government land should not be evaluated as obviously it does not make sense for the government to collect rent from itself. On the other hand, no income tax, no council tax, no rates on buildings, no corporation tax, no UBR and preferably no sales tax either. Have you taken a look at the Scottish Land Revenue Group website?

  10. In our struggle to have the Tinker’s Heart scheduled by Historic Scotland and therefore protected and preserved by Argyll & Bute Council, we sent for FOI re ownership of the site. This was the reply: 1967 Crofter Counties Programme-Acquisition of Land. “It was reported and noted that the Chairman had authorised the completion of negotiations in connection with the acquisition of land on reports of the district valuer as follows…Struchar-Cairndow-Toward road (sic) (A815) Baddarach-Laglingarten section- J.S.B & M.A.C. Noble of Ardkinglas- twenty four plots of land-NIL.” (refers to cost). I assume they acquired public land at no cost. When asked for documentation of ownership, nothing came back. Public land, passing into landowners; the heavier the silver spoon….! This will not change overnight, these people have been ruling councils, since they were formed.

  11. Ruth . Your comment re John Muir Trust highlights that the charitable trusts management of their lands are maybe at odds with the local people wishes and act more as absentee land owners . I remember back last year we were told by the SNP that only a scottish run government would do the right things for the scottish people, i.e local control is best . Maybe we should apply this logic to land ownership.

  12. I find the idea of one man owning the post office, pub, petrol station and most people’s homes abhorrent. But I don’t understand why the only viable alternative to large area landlordism is for local folks to stage a “community buy out”. They then spend all their free time sitting on committees and making grant applications & trying to get everyone in a parish to agree a way forward. A thankless flippin’ task to my mind. There must be an alternative surely?

    • indeed and the path to that lies in the 100% collection of land rental value to replace imposts on labour and taxes on bricks & mortar property as the source of public revenue. As I said, an extensive property owning democracy where there is private landowners per square mile and not square miles per private landowner

  13. For me the most striking aspect of this video was the background furnishings as Buccleuch spoke of his being one of the people,and the contrast with the background in Andy,s.Evidence if we needed it of a lot of hard graft at thedesk.
    His Grace says he thought this had all been dealt with years back.However he personally has been manning the Landowners, tent at a number of country events I have been at anyway,in past few years.I recognised him as had a bit of an issue when I sent into the tent purely to see what sort of message they were trying to put across.I saw a snare on display in the tent and was looking at it so I could identify it if I came across it,when the man I later realised was Buccleuch came over and demonstrated to me what a great bit of equipment this was.AS I have been vegetarian for 40 years,I told this unknown man I thought it was absolutely barbaric,and then 2 henchmen closed in on me saying I was the only one that thought that way.presumably gamekeepers.so I have recognised Buccleuch when I saw him manning thiss strand tentt since then.why woul he had not been concerned?

  14. Can someone explain to me why people need to own a million or more acres?…for what purpose?….for what gain to the community and the country?…..A lot of this land is eroded, deforested, the wild life extinct except for game animals, and the ecological damage is ongoing. There should be an absolute upward limit of ownership. This should be calculated on the state of the land. mountain grazing requires far more area than potato farming, for example. My own thoughts are that for individuals, 10,000 acres of mountain land is the max, and that for class one agricultural land, a quarter of this. (2500 acres of potato’s is enough for anyone.) Communal land owning, as in forests, etc, should be multiples of this. The law that they have in Cuba, which is that the access to land is guaranteed, at low rents, and the state allows all earnings to be tax free. (In a Communist country!). The ancient Roman law of “User Fructus”. But: land banking, not doing anything to the land, not being productive, no crops or trees, means confiscation by the state and the land is assigned to someone who will work it. Simple. Also all land must be registered for ownership in a Scottish company, no offshore ownership. Also residents can own land as an individual, but not non-residents. Charity and trust law needs changing, to stop the outrageous scams and frauds that some get up to. Lastly, there needs to be a rural green bank, for loans, development, and farming and forestry support. Scotland’s forest industry is a fraction of that of most Scandinavian countries. All this has to be done as soon as possible.

  15. I wonder if Buccleuch’s investment in UCG. looks like going pear shaped, despite all his grooming of Fergus Ewing. If so, he might think that selling off some of his assets is a good idea. The evil me hopes he loses his shirt!

  16. What would the Duke feel like if just one person owned all of Scotland , and it was not him ?.

  17. This is Scotland & we live in 2015

    What & how people obtained their land is in the past – Scotland needs to move on ?

    These large estates, what is the difference between one land owner & community ownership ?

    I say divide up these large, community owned estates into smaller managable plots & small holdings ?Allow people the right to buy & buy outright, plots & small holdings, to live, build, farm, start, grow & flourish in businesses & invest in their futures ?

    Anyone purchasing or leasing these sites must be accountable, responsible & financially sustainable – just like any other private property or business ?

    Any houses that are derelict or in need of renovation should be upgraded & inhabited and let or sold ?
    (In Ireland they had a scheme if a new house was being built, the old one must be refurbished & used for holiday let or sold on ?)

    But above all – Scotland – we need to STOP this terrible, vicious acrimony ?
    The only people we are letting down is ourselves & Scotland ?

    Scotland is a proud nation and I for one want to remain a proud Scot.

    Scotland can & deserves better

    • totally agree that the sooner we end this terrible vicious callous, and often barbaric persecution of our wildlife, conducted to promote profits for a tiny minority who already have immense wealth in comparision with the average scot, the better.Travelling around Wanlockhill, Leadhills, for example, the skies are so empty of birds of prey.The sight of one beautiful bird can lift a thousand hearts in one day.You are right Lizzie we have had enough

    • How the land was got is still relevant and will be until it is addressed properly.
      What is even more relevant and recent is how the landlords obtained the tenants improvements into their own ownership for zero or a fraction of their value.
      The land was broken in from its raw “state of nature” by farm tenants, not the lairds, yet now the lairds claim ownership of fertile drained fields when all they really can lay claim to is bog, rock and briar, worth perhaps ten percent of vacant value.

      • an excellent point

        • Carol
          It would be if it was correct which it largely isn’t. Many estates ploughted the modern equivalent of millions into improvement schemes which included drainage, new housing and buildings. The suggestion that this was all done by farm tenants and stolen is a distortion of the truth. I have no doubt it happened in some cases but Hector has yet to provide the evidence of this widespread practice. Its also worth bearing in mind that over the last 65 years tenants have been protected by the AHA (indeed there were acts prior to 48/49) and in that period investment has continued by all parties – including government grants – and where made by the tenant they are entitled to compensation if they notified the landlord of the works. And on top of that SLE volunteered an amnesty on improvements where notice wasn’t served so tenants could get compensation where they were not legally entitled to it.

          • But none of your comments address ownership. That businesses (the estates) invested in their businesses is hardly surprising is it?

            The old feudal ideal of land ownership in Scotland has long since had its day. At last the winds of democracy are blowing through the glens.

    • Tricia Mowat Slater

      Totally agree Lizzie Stewart!

  18. Andrew

    Once again I could count on you coming away with a comment like that .

    Check out as you say in TESCO terms . Just a joke

    Landlords have not invested in the farms to the same extent as the farm tenants . You are aware of this . Why are you denying this fact ?.

    • GD
      And I assume you intend to provide evidence of that?
      Hectors point related principally to the original transformation of land from an undeveloped state to it’s modern state. Clearly that’s a process and not an event but it’s simply wrong to suggest that Landlords have had no role in that. In many cases theres will have been the dominant role. And as I point out where tenants make the investment they are entitled to compensation in most cases and are not rented on it. If they make an investment it will be to make money out of it.
      So you can count on me to try and inject a modicum of reality into a discussion which would otherwise be people for various reasons giving a distorted portrayal of the reality on the bulk of farms. If yours is not one of that majority then I’m sorry, and there are many legal protections to address this, but the minority of problems should not be allowed to be portrayed as the norm. The views of tenants on their relationship with their landlords would suggest that the majority believe their relations to be good or perfectly workable.

      • It is not a distorted portrayel in my case as my ancestors reclaimed 7 fields from moorland and scrub in the 1890s using a pair of oxen and a single furrow driven by a neighbour and a squad of 12 men removing stones building the dykes and digging in and constucting stone drains up to 12 feet deep all paid for by the tenant at the time.
        The stone drains are still working at about 30% and are led into any new drains we put in. I am sure that if you could travel back in time you would find that many of the tenants of that period did the same.Its just that not many are left to tell the tale.

        • WELL SAID! One of the few tenants left to tell the true tale. Whether its the dykes or the drains… in Scotlands’ hills or plains…of urgent necessity, to provide the groundbase for the framework and foundation of “proper use of the land” ( Read Chap.3 “Small is beautiful ~Economics as if people mattered” by EF Schumacher; written more than 40 years ago but no less pertinent today.) Yet, against our great legacy from past landlords of our culture of agri-culture, “cross-compliance” penalties are incurred unless you “block up all drains and gripps” or “fence” instead of repairing the dyke… in our servility to the powers & rigid rules of the “experts/advisers” who control most of our land, who “advise” government-led policies with no degree in or of common sense ie FC, SNH, SAC, RSPB, land agents et al. Who can afford to stand up and be cross…NOT …compliant with the Rules of Cross-Compliance?

  19. Andrew

    Why would farm tenants need protection from those nice landlords of yours ?.

    • Archie
      Because some people, regrettably, don’t act reasonably. That applies to landlords and tenants. It’s also why we have laws to cover many aspects on our lives – to police people who don’t do as they should. There are protections for landlords to ensure tenants repair and maintain fixed equipment. A small minority simply don’t. It cuts both ways.

  20. Andrew

    O K .

    Let us start with something simple .

    I have never seen my landlord lift stones in a field that is being cultivated . He has never offered .
    Do you think he would share in this improvement on the farm ?.
    It would be greatly appreciated !!.

    • Well when the new budget based rent review process starts make sure you put in a figure for stone removal. Mine will probably be around £15/acre involving the removal of around 35 tonnes of stones every spring.

      • And you will be entitled to argue that. But bear in mind that all aspects of your costs and performance will be considered as well. I fear that the solution some believe comes with this new methodology is going to lead to at least (probably more) disputes than exist under the current system given the number of variables. Rents may also go up on some farms. Early runs through of the methodology on cropping farms have shown some interesting results.

    • GD
      Presumably your rent isn’t the same as for land with no stones. You pay less becuase you have higher cultivation costs / lower productivity. As the stones will still need picking long after your lifetime – ie they won’t run out – your picking them is a farming cost not an improvement. If you rather miraculously managed to remove all the stones and none appeared thereafter then you might have a claim for improvements. You’d also not be bothered as you’d have sold your patented stone erradication method around the world.

  21. Andrew Howard, do you mean to be so patronising or does it come as a natural gift?

    • I’ve been working on it!

      • Andrew, you say that the removal of all the stones would be an improvement. Actually this would be bad for the ground. Stones not only provide drainage structure but also maintain soil temperature.

        • SS
          I was slightly in jest at that point which was received poorly and has caused us all to yellow carded.

          • Andrew, yes i know you were slightly in jest, but i couldn’t resist having a wee dig at you.

  22. Please all remember to be civil to each other.

  23. That is some video! Richard Scott stating his gratitude to his workers and his tenants. I assume that he was trying to show that land reform is not required if people are mutually happy. A point which Andrew Howard tries to reinforce. Surely it should run much deeper than that and deserves more scrutiny looking into the future. To place land reform policy in terms of who is happy now and what certain polls show is short sighted. Alternatively we should be targeting what is required to encourage people to thrive in Rural Scotland. People need to be able to have a real stake in the part of Scotland they live and work. In terms of Agriculture, we are maintaining large areas of Scotland where the only holding types are tenanted,and to make things worse 91 acts can now trade in for 35 yrs and pass on. This breaks the family link, and then judgement day will come for the next handing-on of the lease. I know that the Estate i am on is looking to a future where all holdings will have a change of family. The 91 act tenancies are dying out because young folk don’t want to live under the current system. A run down large estate is a nightmare to live on!

    • It’s interesting. I’ve now had 3 emails from folk featured in that wedding gift book. Needless to say, they don’t share Mr Scott’s patronising view of their role as partners.

    • i have just read over my last comment and i have not explained the point i want to make. The Land of Scotland is here to provide everything for the people who live here. Water, shelter, food, energy and a clean balanced environment. So do we have our land delivering this to the max? Could we do it better? Should we have every last acre owned by the State for the people? Or as i believe should we ram it full of hands-on-people and make sure they have ‘complete’ control of their aspirations?

    • SS
      You raise a very good point which is the need to look to the future. One thing that struck me about the Land Reform consultation was the automatic assumption in the document that land reform was needed and that that also meant change of ownership. There was the section on Land Rights and Responsibilities etc. What I didn’t see, and think is crucial, is the evidence of failure of the existing system , an undertaking to put together a proper land use strategy for Scotland (the where we want to get to in how our land is used bit) and then some evidence that options for how that might be delivered had been – or would be – considered.
      You might expect me to say so but this process seems completely dominated by who owns what with what we might want to do with land, and how best to do it (given where we start), is a victim of that political kickabout.
      So, SS, back to your point – I agree the future is where we should look to. We have different ideas as to what that means but we should go through that process nonetheless.

      • come on Andrew, you say you agree with me but you have totally rubbished my principal. Are you saying that land ownership does not require scrutinising?

        • SS
          The question which I think is relevant to landownership is does it impair the ability to deliver the land use objectives set. My issue is we haven’t set those yet. The presumption is that we need to change ownership but with no evidence (other than annecdote), no land use objectives and no assessments of the cost of change and what benefits if any might accrue. So not rubbishing your argument but I can’t accept change just on the assertion it will be be better if we do.

          • Some years I ago had a conversation on a local side road with a local buisnessman and he said to me that he could identify all the houses in the surrounding countryside that were owned by private individuals just by the care and investment they had had spent on them compared to the local estates houses that had had nothing done to them for years.
            I had never looked at the houses in this way until he pointed this out, so in some cases maybe it does matter who owns the countrtyside and the land and buildings in it

          • A situation like that is unfortunte but at the same time estates supply large numbers of affordable let housing in rural areas. If we sold all ours they would, in many cases, not be occupied by those families do now. They’d enter the owner occupied sector which may be beyond a number of our tenants. I’m not ducking the quality issue – that needs to be addressed – but do that with standards (which now exist) not by prescribing owner occupation.

      • mmm, I wonder if who owns the land has anything to do with how it’s used—go on surprise us all.

      • And what of politics?

      • Andrew

        You are neglecting the politics of land ownership are you not?

  24. Andrew

    I do not think you simply understand , or want to
    Lifting stones and boulders is an improvement to the farm . That is common sense .
    The landlord did not help with this improvement , he ” has taken no role in that ” .
    It is a total tenant’s improvement .
    The tenant farmer carried out all the improvement to make the field a better field to work .
    This is a simple exercise of showing how little the landlord contributes to the farm , but you claim to the contrary .

    • GD
      We’re clearly interpreting the same scenario differently. Theres no point restating what I’ve said. I agree that picking stones is beneficial but as it’s a temporary benefit – ie the stones keep coming – it seems to me to be a working cost which is reflected in the rent (it’s lower).

      • 20,000 tons of stones were removed off one farm i know, that is a massive improvement.

      • All improvement are temporary are they not? Without constant intervention the improved land would very soon revert to unimproved land. So your logic is a bit dodgy here.

  25. The bulk of tenants improvements were carried out in the 1800,s ,but he law requiring compensation to be paid to tenants only came in in 1893, and only applied to NEW leases, so was as much use as a chocolate teapot .
    Landlords in some cases contributed, but in just as many cases did not.
    When a laird part financed a new steading, the tenant had to pay capital and interest on the money, yet had no asset at the end, putting him in danger of bankruptcy.
    This has to be probably the greatest theft of capital from one class of person to another that the world has ever seen.
    I have evidence in front of me of cases where many thousands of pounds were expended by tenants on drainage, reclamation and buildings, yet at the end of the lease, death ,or bankruptcy ,the tenant received not a penny piece.
    Those improvements are mostly still in use today, gathering wealth to the laird, while the tenant either went to the poorhouse or emigrated.
    The grossest injustice has to be against john innes of Durris, who sued for £90,000 for improvements in 1815 when he was evicted early from a 100yr lease by the duke of gordon. He received nothing at all in compensation.
    The poor man died on the day of his sale, leaving a wife and ten children in poverty, while the duke of gordon engineered another change in the law to allow him to sell the improved land , which he did for £300,000

    • Hector
      It hasn’t been the 1800s from some time now. The law has been clear since 1949. I see no point in arguing about what did or did not happen (based on scant evidence to say the least) between 100 and 200 years ago. In many cases the tenants and owners will both be completely different. As SS has sensibly suggested looking forward would be more productive.

      • Andrew

        Planting trees being a prime example – tenant plants trees, trees belong to estate. Not from the Victorian era.

  26. Andrew

    Are you sure ?.

    I hope you are not making this up as you go along ?.

    • GD
      I’m not a lawyer. If picking stones is an improvement then point me in the right direction in the legislation and I will stand corrected. If not then I stand by my assertion that it’s an operational cost reflected in the rent.
      And if I’m making it up as I go along as I suspect I’m not alone!

  27. Hector

    It looks like the lairds are trying to get back to how it was 200 years ago . Total control over who lives and works on the estate .

  28. Andrew

    The very short term farm tenancies being offered ? ? .

    • Probably more a symptom of political uncertainty and that many new leases go to existing farmers who have different needs / more flexibility. But these are commercial desicions not about “controlling who lives and works on the estate”. If anything any owner property has less control over their property now that at any time in history. Planning is state controlled, access is freely available to anyone who wishes, 80+% of tenancies are 91 act tenancies where the owner has little or no control over succession, forestry is controlled by FC regulation etc etc. Now many of these things have brought many benefits if looked at in the round but its makes the idea that a property owner now could approximate the position of one 200 yrs ago is somewhat laughable.
      I should add all our farm leases are 91 or LDT. Our contract farming agreements are also multi year to give the contractor certainty. A minority view I know but it seems sensible to us.

  29. Andrew

    With your many years of experience of estate management , can you give one example of less rent being paid because of stones and boulders having been lifted to improve a field ?.

    • GD
      Not because they’ve “been” lifted but because they have to be lifted – yes. Stony land is likely to be defined as less productive land by Macaulay (James Hutton now) and as such we’d expect a notably lower rent to reflect it’s lower productivity, narrower range of crops etc.

  30. Andrew

    with the very short term tenancies being offered either to established farmers or the intended new entrants YOU have control over them , have you not ?.

    • Fiona
      The owner of the land has choice over the tenant (if its a new lease) and the period within the confines of the law. The lease may determine the nature of the farming activity – arable, dairy etc. Thats about it. Just the same as any lease of any type of property. You may not like leasehold arrangements but they’re a vital and very useful part of many business sectors.

      • Andrew

        You actually highlight the problem in your comments.

        ‘The owner of the land has choice over the tenant…………..’

        I have never heard a credible defense of the estate, tenancy farming model. It is based on the very crude idea that ‘this is my land etc’. Land reform seeks to challenge that very assumption.

  31. Andrew,1949 is an important date, i am glad you brought it up.
    The vast majority of 91act tenancies date from before 1949, and if i remember correctly a large number are pre 1900, with some going back even before 1800.
    So what happened in the 1800,s is very relevant to a lot of people, and just because the names may have changed on some estates, the principle that improvements were stolen is unchanged.
    Another case i know of where the tenant was forced into bankruptcy after a failed harvest led to the tenant going to the debtors prison , while the landlord sailed off with thousands of pounds worth of improvements.
    What needs to be recognised by reformers is that landlords should only be allowed to charge a ground rent of say £5/per acre which reflects the worth of the land in its unimproved state, with the profit from improvements remaining with the tenants who executed them.

    • the LVR will not be going to the landlord and will be set independently based on the maximum permitted use under planning law, but neither the tenant, nor the owner, will be paying any tax on their income or buildings

      • Ron
        Who pays the tax, the occupier or the owner? If the latter how does one deal with a situation where land is allocated in a local plan one land use but is tied to another land use by a secure farm tenancy?
        And so far as I can see by any reasonable definition rates are a tax.

        • it is no more a tax, than a parking fee, or the hire of a hotel room. The driver of a Rolls Royce pays no more for 2 hrs parking than the owner of a Ford Escort. Someone earning £20 K pa does not pay half as much as a person earning £40K for the same grade of room. There will be no rate levied on buildings or improvements on the buildings. There is no increase in LVR, merely due to profits made within the maximum permitted use increasing. Profits and building upgrades are thus incentivised, not punished as at present. The landlord cannot put the tenant’s rent just because the tenant has made more money.
          I rent a flat as an assured tenant and pay the Council Tax as the occupier, as I benefit from the site potential. If the flat was had no tenant, my landlord becomes liable for the CT. What we would see is an intensification and extensification of that principle. Let properties without a tenant thus become a liability and the landlords will have to compete for tenants or assume the full responsibility for the LVR and/or of course take up the economic potential of the land themselves. No loss to the public purse either way. Your last question has the aroma of a red herring. The Duke of Buccleuch owns areas of land all linked together in one great estate, but that estate comprises land of varying economic potential and varying permitted use under planning law. He and /or those occupying that land as tenants will pay a varying rate of LVR per classification under that same principle. However their profits will not be taxed. I suggest you google Scottish Land Revenue Group and come along to the conference at the National Piping Centre on the 25th February.

          • Ron
            Lets not argue about whether rates are a tax as I suspect the average member of the public (ie me) can see through that a mile off.
            To be clear, the occupier would pay?
            The current tax system already incentivises use. We have no desire to pay CT or rates on commercial properties by leaving them empty. I accept that agricultural land etc does not carry an automatic charge but I don’t see any evidence of abandonment in the UK. You can have arguments about whether sporting use is optimised use but as it receives no subsidy and alternate uses do (ag and forestry) maybe the public purse does OK out of such use as the productive capacity of that land is limited anyway.
            I have visited the SLR website. If I may make one observation. You will get nowhere in making your case beyond other like minded academics whilst you all speak in inpenetrable language. I read Prof (sorry I can’t recall his surname) paper and it was written in a way you had to read it three times to try and have a hope of understanding what was being said. You could argue I’m a bit thick (don’t jump too soon Hector et al) but it had the hallmarks of people using esoteric language just to sound clever. Until you start to explain things in more accessible ways LVT and it’s supposed benefits are going to continue to look like too good to true alchemy to most people.

    • Hector
      From the evidence I’ve seen it is not correct that the vast majority pre-date the 49 act. Many, many tenancies have been created in the post war era. So what happended in the 19th C is largely neither here no there.
      As for your final idea I won’t credit that with a response it’s so ridiculous.

      • Thats exactly the situation with crofts, so its not so ridiculous after all.
        It would destroy all the estates and release the potential of tenanted farms, putting real cash into the economy..
        Very few heritable tenancies have been created post 1949, and certainly none after 1970.
        I know some people who have a full tenancy dating from 1965, but they gave up a full tenancy on the same estate to suit the landlord, so you cant count those situations as new lets of 49 act leases.
        What happened in the 19th century was wholesale robbery of tenant farmers by the landed interest backed up by their lawyers. No less a crime than the highland clearances.

        • Hector
          And crofts are a shining example of agricultural efficiency and advancement. We had a number around Inverness – created for returning soldiers after WW1. All bar one now exercised the right to buy for buttons and then broken up and sold off as housing plots earning those that did so a tidy sum. Result – the only croft left still let from us – is the only one who does anything remotely agricultural.
          So it would break up some estates and it would put very handsome sums into tenants pockets when they sold up. How much in yours Hector? If you bought your farm at rock bottom prices how much would profit by when you sold it a year later? I think that would be helpful context.
          The last secure tenancies here were issued until the late 1970s. Then LPs came along and boosted the let sector by encouraging letting. So 1949 to 1975 (say) would have been a period where lost of tenancies were created.

          • If i was to buy my farm, at the proper sitting tenant valuation of 50% of vacant possession, not “rock bottom” as you say, i certainly would not be selling it over again in a year. Such actions would be highly unlikely as capital gains tax would clobber you. I would invest in the future of the farm, and therefore my families future. All the the local tradesmen would get an immediate boost as the landlord neglect is rectified.
            And if i did buy at the proper discount, the landlords are still receiving far more than they deserve, as 90% of the value has been created by my ancestors who had their improvements stolen and rented back to them as a matter of course.

          • Hector
            You may not sell but you COULD. And you’d get CGT roll-over if you bought another suitable asset.
            Oh, and I don’t accept 50% is a fair price.

  32. Andrew

    Come on now Andrew

    You know full well that it is only secure tenants who may Be able for a right to buy . If that ever did go ahead there would have to be a minimum period before any such sale by the former tenant could take place .
    As for the ” rock bottom price ” . what might that be ?.
    Landlords appear to enjoy landownership , so why are you trying to deny more people to fulfil the same enjoyment ?.

    • Fiona
      I’m not denying anyone the right of ownership but it’s a fundamental principle that the property should be for sale. ARTB clearly strikes against that core principle. Its a basic property right.

  33. Andrew
    am incredulous that you are ridiculing those who are looking back at how these vast estates and wealth were acquired. my only difference with Hector is that he only mention’s the Highland Clearances.Virtually on the borderline with England,the village of Castleton was forcibly evicted.The large Bowhill dwelling and estate of the Buccleuch family sits now by the ruined old village church and cemetery,in a glorious setting

    • Carol
      But how do you legislate to correct any of that. In some cases the descendents may be in place. In others the tenants families may be long gone and the estate may have been bought on the open market by someone utterly unrelated to the property in the 19thC. Yet they also get dragged into whatever legislative process you propose. I’m not ridiculing Hector, I disagree with his assessment of who improved the land, but its frankly daft (because it’s impossible) to try and untangle the complexities of history. Angsting about it isn’t taking us anywhere except rancour and bitterness which is all the more hopeless given none of us really understand the issues and circumstances of that time.

      • Where there is a will, there is a way.

        • Absolutely, and the way forward is, as Ron Greer argues, through Land Value Rating where landowners pay according to the value of the land held. It is axiomatic that everyone should have an equal right to what nature has provided, but it would be ridiculous to try to achieve that equality through physical redistribution of the land, rural and urban, throughout the population.

          Land values are generated by the public at large as a measure of overall demand for location. They are further enhanced by the provision of publicly-funded services and infrastructure. They are distinct, and readily distinguished, from the value of capital improvements on the land, which are rightly the property of those who put them there. Land values should be the prime source of government revenue. Then we could begin to dismantle our current system of deadweight taxation that penalises work and enterprise, and which has been shown to be corrupt and ramshackle and heavily reliant on personal and corporate honesty. You cannot disguise land, nor hide it away in a Swiss bank. Transparency is of paramount importance.

          We don’t need land nationalisation or enforced redistribution. We simply need to take land rental values as public revenue. Those who claim to own the country would then have proportionate responsibility for its running costs. The pattern of ownership would soon change as the privilege of owning part of the land resource was balanced by a corresponding financial obligation on the owner.

          • John
            I’m not sure whether the prime focus of LVT is redistribution of land or an effiicient tax system. I remain unconvonced that LVT would simply result in a more efficient and productive use of land because there are so many other constraints / controls on the use of land. The impression given is that LVT is somehow obvious and simple whereas it’s likely to end up complex and with reliefs and exceptions just like any other tax. You cannot hide land, I agree, but the arguments over optimum use and value could be extensive.

          • Luckily John is not talking about tax, but about land rental value. The collection of land rent will provide a secure source of unavoidable public revenue and at the same time encourage a redistribution of land without imposing statist expropriation. So we get a win win situation on both counts. The level of rental collection naturally takes into account the restrictions of planning law in terms of maximum permitted use. This part of your argument falls too.

          • Andrew – the focus is social and economic justice. The power of land monopoly would be neutralised once owners are paying into the public purse for their privilege. This would enable us to shift the burden of revenue-raising away from punitive taxes on production which, as we already knew before the HSBC scandal, are easily dodged either legally or illegally. Valuation would be based on optimum permitted use based on current market trends, much the same as is done at present, taking into account prevailing controls and constraints with no exemptions for land held idle or under-used. Land of no economic value because of, say, conservation designations, would have no liability. But the hoarding of valuable land would become a burden on the owner and unless he were a fool, voluntary disposal would be the outcome if he had no intention of making use of it himself.

      • Andrew

        The larger family estates in particular cannot have it both ways – they celebrate their long land owning history on the one hand and deny any responsibility for the outcomes of that long history on the other. Having their shortbread and eating it.

        It is all about history of course – it is precisely because of this history that we are in the position we are in now (and, of course, you know it fine well). You are seeking to remove the politics from the land issue as if the debate was merely restricted to efficient management etc. The ‘rancour and bitterness’ arise from the unjustifiable distribution of land ownership and management usage in a 21st century, highly educated and sophisticated democracy.

        The wrongs of the past can be dealt with through legislation – it is called Land Reform.

        • Stuart
          But history is incompletely understood and doesn’t apply to many owners in that they weren’t a part of it. I don’t agree that the pattern of landownership is unjustifiable. the 423:50 stuff is a distraction which ignores the nature of Scotland and it’s land . Given the relatively unproductive nature of much of it’s upland I am neither surprised nor concerned that a good deal of it is held in large units. It happnens elsewhere. What does the pattern look like in Fife?

          • You raise a good point – why should the tax payer fund these massive upland land holdings through subsidies when the average tax payer gets nothing it? Massive subsidies for no public return; the abomination of tied cottages; wildlife persecution; artificially inflated deer and grouse populations at the expense of the rest of the ecology, especially forest regeneration; absentee landowners etc, etc have no place in a modern democracy.

            Personally, I would re-wild the most unproductive of our uplands – something the tax payer is much more friendly towards – the visitor economy, wildlife tourism etc are a far more egalitarian way of spreading the wealth in these areas than the traditional sporting estate. The latter is in fact an anachronism in this day and age and is the very personification of the privileged elites. I’ve often said to shooters ‘wouldn’t you prefer to hunt wild animals properly in a truly wild landscape instead of shooting fish in a barrel?’ Wandering around a grouse moor drunk on whisky blasting little birds is hardly the stuff of wilderness man!

            The entire sporting estate model and all the pretentious snobbery that goes with it is highly offense to most of the population. Land owners need to wake up and realize the old days of living in their little bubble unaffected by the mere plebs are gone. The light of democracy is shining on them and their ways at last.

            Of course, (proper) farming is a different matter as is commercial forestry, especially the FC holdings, the latter as a public body and the biggest landowner in the country, is especially in need of reform, massive reform.

            If we were starting all over again would we support the large estate, tenancy model of farming? Of course not, would it not be better if the farmers owned their farms instead of paying rents to an estate? And the land reform proposals are fairly timid – no landowner will be out of pocket, they will get a fair price for their estates if broken up. The radical option would simply be to just take it off them. They should be thankful we do not live in a more radical country. They have had decades to reform themselves and have just carried on regardless. The present situation is entirely of their own making.

          • And we haven’t even touched on the loss of all those cottages to wealthy commuters – houses originally built to house the rural working class, now way beyond their financial reach. A form of social cleansing in many respects.

            Land sold off for inappropriate high end housing developments in the country; hydro and wind energy schemes where the local community gets nothing. I could go on and on – the charge sheet is a long one indeed. No, no neutral observer could justify the current model.

          • And finally, the salmon rivers – currently way out of reach of your average Scot. A scandalous situation where folks who literally live on the banks of these rivers are effectively discriminated against as they will never be able to afford the ridiculous prices. An utter humiliation for some of us – I’m a native Tweedsider myself and this makes my blood boil! Poaching salmon around here was seen as legitimate – the plebs must get their share of this natural bounty being the justification.

            The land as a preserve for the rich must end, period.

        • Stuart, if we institute the collection of the full rental value of land through LVR, there will be no need for expensive purchase of land to the benefit of the already very rich. Instead they will be paying us to dissolve into history.

    • Carol: I fear I may have misunderstood you, but Bowhill is nowhere near Castleton. My grandmother’s parent lived in Castleton, and many of my ancestors are buried in Castleton kirkyaird.

      • sorry i have been worrying about that and have gone back to correct a few times but just cannot remember the name.Yes I realised within hours Bowhill was near Selkirk and I just can’t recall the name of the Buccleuch home near the blind bridge taking you onto the Jedburgh road,around 3 miles out of Newcastleton.My relatives from the village are now dead.It is indeed near where the old Castleton Churchyard was,and the village ,before they were forcibly evicted.Apparently the same happened to the village of Ettleton,which I thought was just a graveyard on the hill the other side of Newcastleton.Effie Jackson of N Liddle St would have known this

  34. Carol

    There is a continual cover-up and whitewash going on all the time in answer to how many of the estates in Scotand managed to acquire ” their” land . Feudalism has worked very well for landlords over the centuries . Landlords have had huge power over the people who live and work on the estate .

    • Know this well but appreciate all your guidance. My mum once worked as live in cook to big estate owner.their usual soup wasn’t kale and turnip but avocado-take 15 -20 avocadoes…same cost her weekly wage.

  35. As a townie, all this talk of “91 Act tenancies” and what is, and is not, an “improvement” seems impenetrable & arcane.
    Surely the nub of the matter is this: Is land the same as any other tradable item, or is there something special about it which makes it’s sale and ownership a matter of public concern and therefore regulation?

    What I seem to be hearing from those who have (lots of) land is this: “Owning land is a burden, it’s complicated, it makes no money, you really don’t want the hassle. Oh, and by the way I will defend to the death and change the laws of my country to protect, my family’s continued monopoly on land ownership”

    • I meant to add: Something ain’t adding up folks..

    • Land is not man-made, it had no production costs and therefore it has no capital value. It is in fixed supply and therefor cannot respond to standard supply and demand economics. All capital is created by the action of labour upon land. That’s a starter pack for you.

    • Wul
      I don’t hear landowners say that land is a burden etc etc. Most recognise the responsibility ownership of it represents.
      I would argue the ownership, use and management of land is already a matter of public concern which is manifest in the plethora of legislation covering land use. Rightly or wrongly there is hardly an aspect of land management which is controlled in some way by statute.

  36. The circumstances and issues of those times are still to be seen today, namely runaway rent rises, short leases and lost improvements. Young men bidding daft rents . Nothing has really changed.

    • Hector
      Runaway rent rises. Really? Even the AHRG seemed to suggest in public meetings that rents represented good value.

      • Were there any experienced farmers on the AHRG? ANSWER ; No.

        • Iain Mackay. A tenant. No landlords.
          The group consulted extensively with all parts of the industry and you no doubt submitted your views. Am I content with the conclusions – no. Do I think the group discharged their responsibilities well – yes. It was a hospital pass. A highly politicised issue with a government with it’s own view about what to do and an industry divided on the issue. They were brave agreeing to take it on frankly. The decisions that needed to be taken to actually add vibrancy to the sector (that was the brief) were not politically acceptable which leaves them with few places to go. This is a political solution not an industry solution. It remains to be seen what impact pursuing politics has.

  37. Wul, if you changed the wording slightly: “A tenant is a burden, he is complicated, he makes no money, you really don’t want the hassle of a tenant. Oh, and by the way I will defend to the death and change the laws of the country to exploit the tenant using my family’s continued monopoly on the land”.

    It begins to add up.

  38. Ok Andrew, I realise you are doing your best against an onslaught.
    When bringing the forced eviction of the Borders village of Castleton into the debate, I was not thinking of trying to compensate the exact families forced out hundreds of years.That is not the point,because although my own kith and kin are from this area, family history I was told did not go back that far.It is the injustice and the getting away with it that rancours very deeply.These relatives had a very hard life and all that could escaped. I never heard of any one of 3 generations that ever entered past the gates of the Buccleuch Estate just 2 mls from their home
    It is true none of us know all the issues and circumstances of the time, but treasured old Scots poetry books left to me give a flavour of the emotions
    The page opened to this:

    ‘An’ what’s come o’er the glens and hills,
    Whaur bonnie crofts the e’e did cheer?
    To mak’ a sport for feckless fules
    They’re a’ laid bare for droves o’ deer.’

    There is verse after verse in the same vein, and much stronger.
    This is not just a matter of who owns what -it was,is, about access to the food that these little crofts and gardens produced, oatmeal, barley, kail, peasemeal, berries, grown that helped keep bodies together.Land reform for me is also very much about Scotland’s health, access to cheaper veg and much more plentiful wholefood .

    • Carol
      Well perhaps not an onslaught but I’m feeling somewhat outnumbered!
      At the risk of further controversy why would cheaper food not come from an restructuring of agriculture that favoured larger, dare I say, more productive businesses? I await the backlash!

      • Another story 20 odd years ago my neighbouring tenant farmer retired and the estate farms took over.Their manager decided to plant peas in one field.A wet harvest followed and when they finally got to the peas half of them were on the ground as they had too much to do.He told my old neighbour that he was very happy with the yield but my old neighbour who used to count every grain off the fields was at a loss to understand his attitude and wondered what he would have said if they had managed to rescue them all.

        This is an ongoing story over the decades,my favourite one from my agronomist( he has over 40 years experience) is where a young person was sent to roll newly sown crop 8 miles away on a large arable unit on nice dry sunny morning ,heavy rain came on at lunchtime but he kept rolling and by night hundreds of acres of crop were damaged and the results of this were visible for the rest of the season. He also says this farming with such minimal levels of staffing is why yields have plateaued in the last few decades across the UK
        He also has many such tales of effieciency on large units where management is lacking so maybe output per member of staff is up but down or static/acre

        • These are examples of poor management (or bad luck in the case of the weather and peas) practices which are unrelated to the scale of the holding. Some of the worst examples of farming practice I’ve seen have been on small farms but I don’t conclude from that that small farmers are bad. I’d be interested in any objective analysis illustrating that larger farms farm in a less efficient or effective way. I don’t buy the small is beautiful just “because” mantra. Farming has to face up to it’s falling efficiency vis a vis our competitors; increasing reliance on subsidy to just keep going and lack of capital investment and innovation.

          • It seems you have been too heavily influenced by accountants who seem to think that one machine can cover many acres every year and pay no regard to the weather which is not the same every year.
            As regards subsidies lets get rid of them all and watch the bean counters(my agronomist now grudgingly admits they exist) in all our input side of farming bring their prices (our costs) down in a short time when they see that the market for them disappears as farmes stop producing. Also watch our buyers miraculously find more money to pay us higher prices as their bean counters tell them we will have to be paid more to keep producing.

            The classic one is fertiliser which mirrors the price of grain but which this year has yet to respond to the falling price of oil which I was always told was a major cost of nitrogen production.

            Question. What is your measure of agricultural efficiency output /acre or output per man or is it based on something else?
            And if you are comparing us to the praries of America we will never compete on their scale or with their continental climate and any units in this country that I have seen try to emulate this particularly in Scotland have come to grief as climate, soils and steep small fields come together to defeat them

      • this was reasoning decades back .same in US. but look at price fruit and veg in shops.many I work with have veg,fruit v little due to cost.scotland sick man Europe now. greed gets in way and grants and subsidies not supporting healthy diet.big grants for red meat promotion etc when it is v clearly linked bowel cancer espec, and we linger near top of world worst for this.This does really anger me as diet plays such crucial part in health.must suit your pals though. but then we will not hear from you prob as now after 9-5

        • Carol
          Assume to 9-5 jibe aimed at me. No need to take the moral tone thanks. Scotland’s diet and health issues are indeed something of a scandal. Contrary to some I fail to see how that would be addressed by giving tenants a right to buy or fragmenting the ownership of large areas of hill. Lifting people from poverty, education and to some extent cultural responses to change (Harry Burns had interesting things to say on this) need to be considered. The idea that land reform is suddently going to change these issues is a flight of fancy. We’ve probably never had more opportunity to buy healthy food – so it’s there – we need to focus on why some can’t afford it, or don’t buy it if they can.

    • Carol, he doesnt deserve an ounce of sympathy, he gets paid plenty to defend the indefensible.
      His last sentence says it all, he would evict us all in the name of efficiency and cheap food, the same slogans they used when your village was razed.

      • Right again Hector.Put yourself forward to stand with Andy

      • Hector
        I don’t get paid to argue with you Hector. But to take up an old theme you know who I am and what interests I represent. On this blog that’s an exception. So a casual observer has no real idea what the context is behind your arguments.
        Have I suggested evicting anybody? It seems only you’re interested in that – directed of course at owners. The longer that Scottish Agriculture continues to bury it’s head in the sand about it’s declining efficiency and performance the harder it’s landing will be when we hit the buffers.

    • Carol, if you’re not proposing to compensate the families forced out hundreds of years ago, what *are* you proposing?

  39. Andrew

    Why is it that in private , landowners crow about the value of their land but in public they go all coy and shy ?.
    Is it because they may be trying to keep the value from being rated ?.

    • Fergus
      Do they really? The value of land is of no real concern to us other than it’s too expensive. We look to earn income from it not trade it so changes in short term value are of little import. If you were to introduce LVT then the impact on value would be material not least because in the absence of other tax influences values would change.

      • your income from it is taxed so, when taxes go under LVR ( no tax is proposed) it will indeed change things, that’s the very point. The facile price of land would fall as land has no capital value ( merely a synthetic chronological compression of societally created rental value), so your first complaint falls.

  40. Every indefensible institution in history made a last stand and scraped around looking for ways to justify the unjustifiable and we are seeing again with Land Reform. Some of us who grew up on these estates (in my case Earl of Wemyss and Duke of Buccleuch) are fully acquainted with the reality of the estate model of land ownership and management. And all the bluster and bluff from the usual suspects will not deter us from pursuing the right course.

    I ended up in nature conservation and ecology rather than farming and the outright lies, half-truths and lies-by-omission that I have encountered from the sporting estates during my career could fill several volumes (and one day they maybe will). It’s a free country and they are entitled to their view of course but so are they rest of us of course. And we have spoken and Land Reform it is.

  41. Andrew

    Oh yes they do and you know it .

    During a rent review have you never heard of the value of farmland being highlighted by the landlord and the poor return he is getting from letting the land to the farm tenant ?.
    This is the patronising and bullying way that landlords treat their tenants .
    Land agents keep issuing statements in the farming press of how the value of farmland is performing against other commodities , so the value is very easy to find annually .
    On that subject , what has the value of Scottish farmland grade 3.1 , grade 3.2 increased by in the last 25 years ?.
    Or have you gone all coy and shy like the rest of them ?.

    • Fergus
      The capital value of land is not relevant in a rent discussion and if it is raised the tenant can safely ignore it. When figures about farmland returns are published they include capital growth which of course is only any use to you if you sell it.
      Assuming you mean capital growth then a lot. It’s quadrupled in our area since 2000. I assume that you’re not planning to pin the blame for that on me, or estates? It’ll be driven by tax status, farm profitability and shortage of supply. Most buyers remain farmers.

      • land has no capital value—-unless you have found an invoice from God or the Big Bang

      • Andrew I know you are a fair minded person but at almost every recent rent review I have had I have been told by my land agent that my landlord has to get a return on the value of his land.

        My reply was that if he had paid £6000/acre last week for it I would agree with him but as he had had it gifted to him for picking the right side to back 100s of years ago then I was going to dismiss this arguement!

  42. I agree with Stuart,
    Can anyone come up with an historical example whereby wealthy and/or powerful people have ceded control of an asset or entitlement to the common man on the basis of fairness, justice, goodwill or just plain old kindness?
    (and I’m not talking about a wee swing park or football pavilion on the edge of an estate, I mean Real Power)

    Seems to me that every democratic right we now enjoy (and view as “normal & civilised”), from votes for women to the right to join a trades union, has had to be wrestled from the powerful, usually in a long & bloody struggle.

    • Uncle Joe Stalin said ‘ no oligarchy ever gives up its power voluntarily’ and he knew something about running an oligarchy, but sadly unlike him, our oligarchy is stlll running our lives.

    • Leverhulme, Scalpay, Shuna, Barra, Canna

      • Leverhhulme! Come on Neil. He offered the locals the opportunity to become his pet highlanders (which they wisely rejected) and only offered to hand over any control once he was in financial trouble and bored of the whole adventure. He steadfastly refused to give the locals what they actually wanted; crofting land.
        But, yes there are some examples, Scalpay & Mr Fred Taylor being one. There are good people in all areas of society.
        Sadly, acts of charity don’t change the laws of our land.

        • Wul, if he wasn’t acting out of goodwill or just plain old kindness, why did Leverhulme not flog Lewis over the heads of the islanders to the highest bidder in a fit of pique and/or a bid to satisfy his creditors? Not everyone would end an impasse by offering to give away his property to the very people who have blocked your plans for it.

          • I think he came to respect the people of the island and wished to act in a way that was decent and in keeping with his principles. He seems to have been a man who wanted to be liked and viewed as a benefactor. Land values had fallen at the time and there had been recent “land grabs” and occupations. I don’t think he was ceding much in the way of his own power & influence, rather behaving like a child, who has grown tired of a slightly tattered toy and passes it to someone else. Fair play to him, he could have done worse.

          • Neil

            Surely your examples are the exceptions that prove the rule?

          • Peoples future should not come down the the whims of individuals, even if the latter have sound intentions.

    • Or take the other side, where a rich landowner has taken everything from a tenant farmer or other person in defiance of all natural justice, just because the law says they can.
      The list would be endless.

    • Wul
      I think long and bloody struggles is over doing it in the modern UK. That said the powers of any landowner large or small to do what they wish their land has been massively restricted in the past century in the wider “public interest”. This includes planning legislation, access, environmental restrictions, legislation over residential letting, farm letting etc etc. I can see how it’s in your interest to portray the owners of land and property as exerting far greater control than they have but it’s simply not reflected on the ground in nearly the way you portray.

      • Andrew

        You raise an interesting issue. Before Land Reform was on the agenda my own view was thus:

        Let them own it if they want but we, the society, will decide what they can do with it.

        It is about democracy as you and the land owing class know fine well. They will go down in history as an unreconstructed, selfish, arrogant feudal hang over. Seemingly totally consumed by their own greed and power and under the illusion that what goes for the rest of society is nothing to do with them. Well, the ‘good old days’, pre-devolution, when their Tory friends in the Scottish Office looked after them are gone forever.

        In none of you comments have put up a moral defense of the status quo. How the land owning class handle this issue is their one last chance to save at least some respect. But the angry almost childish reaction thus far is only adding to the very long charge sheet.

        • It’s ma baw and am no playing.

          Aye, bit, it’s oor baw noo!

        • Stuart
          Presumably you consider that property rights – as helpfully enshrined in the ECHR – are a normal part of any democracy? Assuming so it seems to me to be pretty anti-democratic to propose depriving a substantial number of people of their property against their will. And if this is about the redistribution of wealth then why only the focus on land on not any other asset class or form of wealth?
          I can’t remember arguing for the status quo. What I’ve said repeatedly, and did in our Land Reform response was that there is NO evidence that the redistribution of land will result in the benefits you say. The focus on ownership of land could result in an expensive and disruptive (damage to existing businesses and employment) impact that will actually damage the rural economy. There is no moral or other benefit to that. That is why the focus MUST be on use, optimising that, having first decided what land use outcomes you want.

          • Yes, was wondering when you would get round to property rights. Well, I’m not going to get into a political philosophy debate…………if tax is theft then so is property etc. Ditto wider issues of wealth redistribution.

            Property rights are indeed at the very heart of Land Reform – those of us in favour of the latter would contend that property rights re. the land are currently skewed in favour of the few and do not serve the needs of the many. Not very democratic in other words. In all honesty I don’t think you have got a leg to stand on playing the democracy card considering the very undemocratic history of land ownership and usage in this country.

            And again, I await your moral defense of extensive land ownership by the few. Neither have you addressed my point that surely it would be better for the farmers if they were not paying rents to estates?

            In many cases ownership dictates directly the usage, sporting estates being the prime example. Many would argue that this is definitely not efficient or productive use of the land. Never mind any moral or ecological issues associated with it.

            Politics, eh? Nobody likes it but we can’t escape it. If we are serious about looking for the most efficient, productive and rewarding way of using the land, then self evidently we have to start with the issue of ownership and control. Let us take an estate with, say five working hill farms all paying rents to the estate. Are you suggesting that dissolving the estate would change the farming operations of these farms? It is not at all clear to me what your defense of large land holding actually is? In what way does it promote more efficient and productive land use?

            However, I will not be deflecting from the central issue, why should so much land be in the hands of so few? You say there is no evidence that redistribution of land will result in the benefits I claim; Well, firstly, again, you fail to address the politics of the issue. But on the more practical front, neither is there any evidence that the current model is the best way to manage land either. And, stating the obvious, how are we ever to know unless we try something different?

      • Andrew,
        Anyone who chooses to let herds of deer, or sheep eat all the shoots of trees over hundreds of square miles of Scotland is exercising a LOT of control over our land.

  43. Neil
    re ‘not compensating exact families forced out’.This phrase came in because I suddenly realised at the start of argument my own forebears could have been evicted, and I did not want anyone reading this to think I was just getting involved, writing late at night with work next morning,in the hope of purely personal gain.I regret writing that line because others will have very solid claims .I made a mistake
    Re wealthy people giving up a profound asset,Astley Ainslie Hospital in The Grange Edinburgh sits in nice wooded grounds in a very substantial site in a plush part of Edinburgh, which many people say was land left philanthropically.Supposed reason why NHS still occupy it-legally not allowed to sell,so rumour goes.

    Stuart
    Hope you join Andy soon in Holyrood

  44. Our farming community has a small split within it, between some 91 act tenants and short term tenants. There are some who are encouraged to speak out in favour of short term lets and also criticise some people on a lower rent.
    But probably the greatest struggle and now division lies between 91 act tenants and the NFUS. The NFUS are firmly in support of scrapping ARTB. They chose to make ‘no comment’ on Land Reform in the SG consultation on land reform. This is a disgrace! But they had plenty to say about Deer Management proposals! NFUS also think that it is damaging to remove the sporting estate business rate tax. “NFUS is strongly opposed to the proposal to remove the rate exemption for shooting and deer forests” They also add in an extra bit about sporting estates providing biodiversity benefits. This is crazy, SLAE must have written the response for them.
    NFUS and SLAE should now amalgamate, and rename themselves C.A.B.A.L (Combined Association of Blinkered Autocratic Landowners)

    • Let me assure everybody as a professional that the sporting estates do not provide any biodiversity benefits. Quite the reverse in fact. I mentioned this earlier – exactly the sort of lies, half truths and lies by omission that has come to define the sporting estate. It seems that nothing is beneath them. Greed and lies is their currency.

      • Stuart
        And what is your expertise exactly? As it seems from other comments you hope to join Andy in Holyrood perhaps you’d like to let us know who you are and on what basis you make such an authoratitve statement.

        • The Holyrood thing was suggestion by Carol (thanks by the way) that I stand. I have no intentions of standing.

          I am a habitat ecologist, botanist and conservation manger. who’s main area of expertise is the uplands of Scotland and, to a lesser extent, northern England.

          On top of this I grew up on hill sheep farms in the Southern Uplands. I am, in fact, the first male on my dads side of the family not to go into sheep/cattle farming in the Southern Uplands since at least 1760. I have also experienced the horror of having to leave our ‘tied cottage’ and watching my mother descend into depression and an early grave because of it. I am a direct witness to many shocking things conducted by estates and have little time for the PR nonsense that they spout.

          Hope that clears things up.

          • Stuart
            Thank you.
            I genuinely do not believe your experience to be the norm but accept that it can happen and that the affect of that would be very serious. I do think we have to take great care not to damage many good things because of bad cases. Our focus should be on the bad cases.

          • Andrew

            ‘I do think we have to take great care not to damage many good things because of bad cases.’

            I agree 100%

    • it’s called land monopoly capitalism. We need to get it to pay for its own dissolution via the full collection of land rental values

      • Tax.

        • now, your deliberately refusing to understand its true nature. We do not need tax.

          • Ron
            If your rent is set and levied by the state and forms the funding stream for public services / government function I think most laymen would consider that to be tax. I just don’t understand why the need is felt to draw a distinction in language.

        • The local authorities decide the level of parking charges and the money I pay comes out of my pocket, but it is not a tax. My rent for my flat comes out of my pocket, but it is not a tax. All the local or national government would be doing is collecting a ‘national parking fee’ we all create and all owe each other. With labour, enterprise, sales and buildings not being taxed, one of the end products will be a decrease in state power and an increase in social power ( the antithesis of both land-monopoly capitalism and socialism)

    • SS
      I like the acronym. I have a funny feeling it won’t win much support in NFUS though. The only split I saw during this long debate about ag holdings was one between a group of 1991 tenants (by no means all as many seem content) and younger farmers and new entrants praying for a reinvigourated let sector. They can’t afford to buy land to farm, have no hang ups about letting, and want to get on. They were thoroughly hacked off at the damage they saw being done to their only realistic opportunity to the sector by tenants (some of whom have a genuine greivance some of whom don’t) who already had their place in the system, were often paying lower rents than them and through agitation for changes likely to scare away existing and potential landlords were dimishing their future opportunities. Their view not necessarily mine.

      • Now i am really starting to agree with you Andrew. You state that the new entrants cant afford to buy land, your right, that sums it all up. Also your description of 91 act tenants “had their place in the system” . When someone from outwith the Landlord class reads this, it perfectly describes the problems rural Scotland continues to face.

        • SS
          Pleased we agree on something although I think we may think we’re agreeing about something different!

  45. The next time you hear a representative of the sporting estates tell you that this form of management is a benefit to wildlife, ask them in comparison to what exactly? Grouse moors are artificial mono-cultures; so called deer forests are man made ecological deserts. You could also ask them why they are still burning over peat bog (Scotland’s single most important habitat globally speaking – some 15% of the worlds blanket bog occurs in Scotland) despite both the Muirburn Code and the Scottish Government making it clear that this is unacceptable. I could go on and on and on. They care not a hoot for the ecology, they will burn, drain, destroy, anything that promotes their selfish need to pursue their ‘sport’.

    • Stuart
      In which case you’d expect pressure from SNH to see the back of them yet they consider them an important part of Scotland’s upland landscape and habitat. Try getting permission to plant on a heather moor.
      So what else? Trees? Woud have my support. Sheep and cows? Fine but means more land claiming subsidy to deliver modest farm output. Re-wilding (whatever that means)? May well expand diversity in some areas, may reduce in others with some wildlife management, but not sure how the sporting sector jobs will be replaced.
      But this is the debate we should be having. You happily decry one use (in terms which seems to be based on the dislike of those that do it as much as anything) without saying what else you’d do and why that would be better. Once we’ve then agreed what, as a nation, those land use priorities are we can decide the most effective way to deliver.

      • the sporting estate is a relatively recent creation in bio-geographical terms and grouse existed for millennia before their institution. One only has to look at the data provided in Mountains and Moorlands by Prof Pearsall in the New Naturalist series in regard to the slaughter of wildlife that ushered them in. Our wildlife does not need them and sporting estates were not created for wildlife benefit, only for the indulgence of a small section of society. SNH are as much use as a chocolate fireguard.
        However the primary concern remains land tenure and we are not going to be deflected from the core issue that determines land use. Nice try though, but we’ve seen through it. I would imagine that the rental value of sporting estates would be quite moderate per unit area, but the cost of owning a large area would be prohibitive and lead to the present tenure system paying for its own demise. However perhaps some might make it in a tax free fiscal system.

      • Glad you mention SNH – another thing that desperately needs reform in line with the post devolution settlement. It is a hang over from the old Scottish Office days and it has a very poor record of actually protecting sensitive habitats – see funicular railway on the single most important area of natural history in the whole of the UK and Ireland as just one example. SNH is part of the problem not the solution.

        As for re-wilding, well, I don’t expect yourself to understand or know a lot about it (which is why we have experts like myself……). Best not to talk about biodiversity unless who actually understand the subject – a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and all that.

        Of course we can, and indeed, must, have multiple land use, and, yes, that includes sporting estates. But you have failed to address so many points – why on earth should estates collect rent for farms, thereby concentrating the wealth from these rents to one source? Why on earth should anybody from Denmark to Saudi Arabia simply be able to buy huge swathes of land without any input from local communities – that is, the people directly affected? Scotland is one of the very few places on earth where this is still possible. Presumably the incomes raised by these foreign owners does not stay in the country? Why should land be bought solely as an investment or to collect subsidies?

        It’s Saturday night, so not inclined to get into a more detailed response with references and citations etc. But seeing as we are on Andy’s blog, the issues ought to be well known to all on this thread.

        • Stuart
          Now I’ve been suitably patronised.
          Personally I think SNH do a reasonable job of finding the balance between ecological and social issues. The funicular brings significant economic benefits to the Speyside area. We could of course export our winter sports activity elsewhere.
          Why on earth shouldn’t someone collect a rent for an asset that someone else wishes to use? Be it house, office, shed, car or farm. It’s a perfectly normal part of all developed economies. It adds flexibility and options to almost all sectors of the economy so why on earth should farming consider itself any different.

          • Ha! Back to square one! So, essentially you are defending massive land holding by a few people. You talk as if there was a level playing field. Tell you what, let us have land reform first (aka leveling out the playing field) and then, yes, we can practice business as per norm.

            You have steadfastly refused to put up any moral defense of the gross inequity in land ownership/tenure/usage. Presumably because you are sharp enough to realise that no such argument exists.

            You position is just classic defense of vested interests.

  46. Andrew

    Come on Andrew .

    What would you have to pay for grade 3.2 land in your area today ?. I cannot make it simpler for you . This is like pulling teeth .

  47. Andrew

    What you are saying about the rent which a tenant farmer is prepared to pay against what the landlord is expecting as a fair return on the value of his land is not correct . As some tenant farmers you have no influence over .
    Landlords continually whined about the poor rent against the value of their land . Were you not at any meetings ?.
    If a landlord mentions value of land against rent what penalties would you impose on the landlord to prevent it happening again ?.

    • GD
      There’s a wealth of legislation and case law which makes it clear how rents are set. Plenty of protection.
      As I said above capital values for farmland have probably quadruped in 15 years. Rents have barely kept up with inflation. If landlords are trying to link the two the evidence points to the fact they’re being singularly unsuccessful.

      • My factor told me that rents should keep up with land value. My eyes widened, i jotted it into my note book, then he started to retract. Realising how greedy it must have sounded together with my reaction. The same man has told me several times that the farm rents pay for the running of the Estate. So not only are we paying for the administration which watches over us, but we are paying to run the vast residential letting sector and the Shooting side of things. Perhaps someone could tell me, would most Estates fall apart without the rental money from the farms?

      • any idea of the production cost for making land, did you find that invoice from God or the Big Bang?

  48. Andrew

    As for your reply to SS .

    You are trying to be agent provocateur . There is nothing better for your landowning club (S L and E ) than to create division amongst farmers . You are trying to create division .
    This appears like Big Jessy bullying in the primary school playground .
    You have had over 10 years to help new entrants . What have you achieved ?.

    • well said gentle dove, new entrants are starting to change their view on things. They are beginning to see Estates take in-hand more and more units. They also understand that a Conditional Right To Buy is only ever going to affect 91 acts. The Factors scare story is falling apart.

    • GD
      I made it clear they were’t my views but those expressed by farmers I met as part of the process.
      In England and Wales the amount of let land has stabalised, indeed it rose materially after their reforms in 1995. CAAV data presented, I think last year, indicated that of new lettings (when did we last get one of those in Scotland) 20% went to new entrants. Increase supply and you will increase opportunity. Everything in Scotland in legislative terms has counted against increased supply in the last 15 years.
      We have let one new farm in the past 15 years and that was to an equine business.

  49. Here is proof of landlord theft of improvements, i cant upload it, so i have just retyped it.

    COURT OF SESSION, feb 3 1822 second division, lord pitmailly.

    Tack–Landlord and tenant.
    Thomson having built some houses on a farm of which he was tenant, he insisted, at the end of his lease, that he had the option either to remove them or put them into repair, and he proposed to carry them off.
    This was resisted by Oliphant, the proprieter, and in action in an inferior court, Thomson was ordained to leave them in repair. But the lord ordinary, in an advocation,,held, “that the advocator(the tenant) is entitled to his option of either removing the houses which were built by him on the farm, without any obligation to do so in his lease, and of restoring the ground to its previous state, or of paying to the puruer £15;7;4 as necessary, in order to put those houses in good condition”. The court so far altered this interlocutor as to find, that while the tenant was not bound to put the houses in repair, he was not entitled to remove them.
    ————————————————————————————————————-
    Not satisfied with stealing these houses, the landlord sought to make the outgoing tenant put them into repair before he left.
    This is not an isolated case and there are many others of a similiar nature, and you can bet that for every tenant that went to court,a hundred others thought better of it.
    This case probably cost the tenant more than the value of the houses.

  50. Hector,
    theft similar to this is happening today on Scottish Estates. I know of a tenant who was threatened with eviction through undergrazing. The tenant left the holding being seriously under compensated for central heating installed in the house and for march fencing.
    The march fencing is an issue where tenants continually get ripped off. My factor managed to get me to replace march fences, completely at my own cost, and refuses to compensate me. A big rent jump and land court put me back in my place, i just have to forget about it.

    • SS
      The land court put you back in your place? So you were wrong in law? Or is the law wrong? In which case how because the Ld Ct isn’t there to maintain some sort of social order, it maintains the law as produced by government?

  51. Andrew

    Come on Andrew , you will need to do better than that .

    Will you please answer the questions that I asked you .
    They are very important .

  52. I think one needs to be carefull in reading too much in what happened back in the nineteenth century between landlord and tenant as there will always be good and bad examples on which one can draw conclusions . As an example my great great grandfather was a tenant farmer of the Earl of Kintore and he kept a diary of his life around the beginning of the 19th century and I quote a couple of examples .” Mr Low seeing what I was doing in putting the Braes above the road in cultivation , was for Lord Kintore to give me assistance ,but his death put a stop to it, and in place of help,I had rent put upon the Braes in the new Lease”
    On the other side of the coin he says”the appearance of the Earl of Kintore was a great blessing to his tenants in the way of improvements “This example of course refers to the NE of Scotland which had many landlords who were land improvers building many new villages on their estates . Of course there were many landlords in other parts of Scotland who were absolutely ruthless in the way they treated their tenants but we should not condem all landlord / tenant relationships during these times.

    • So your grandfather was rented on his own improvements.
      Tenants capital becomes landlords capital at a stroke of the factors pen.

    • The only way to make all landlords into good landlords is to alter the law to bring the miscreants into line.

      • or create a situation where there are far fewer landlords and far more outright individual owners in the first place

  53. Andrew

    With your reply to Carol earlier in blog. ” at the risk of further controversy why should cheap food not come from a restructuring of agriculture that favoured larger , dare I say , more productive businesses . I await the backlash .”
    Although you will now claim your comment was in jest , maybe it was in earnest in the ratio 1 to 99 .
    Now what would that achieve ?. Bigger rents to landlords and little or no chance for new entrants .
    Maybe that is fulfilling a landlord’s dream ?.

  54. Andrew, you asked for evidence, and there it is.
    Those houses stolen from the tenant will still be there and still gathering rent. How much rent will they have collected since 1822 for a zero investment?
    No doubt mr thomson also poured a fortune into drainage etc.
    Landlords cannot claim the capital value of farms as their own as they didnt create it and
    ARTB when it comes is merely returning stolen property to tenants.

    • I agree with Rod’s comment above. It’s one thing to have an awareness of history but to imagine you can prove a universal truth by plucking out one case in the 1820s as the evidential basis for making policy in the 2010s is just a joke!

      I’m sure with little difficulty I could find another case from the same era in which the landlord paid for all the improvements and thus “proves” completely the opposite. So that would get us to deuce and maybe in the next set would could do the 1830s.

      For heavens sake …

  55. There are hundreds of such cases. I did not say there was only one.
    Another case had the tenant bound to build a new steading for £1100. The landlord bound himself to repay the cash at the leases end, but the tenant went bankrupt, unsurprisingly , and the landlord refused to pay BACK anything to the trustees as the tenant had “violated” the contract.
    Result; landlord aquires new steading free of charge.
    Tenant ; bankrupt and emigrates.

  56. If i were to offer a little advice to some of the Larger Landowners, i would suggest to them that they allow 91 act tenants (with following family)to purchase their farms. This would allow Lairds to leave a real legacy for the communities they love. The debate is flowing back and forth between land use or land ownership. But really what it comes down to is power, the lack of it which the community suffers from and the fear of loosing it which the Laird suffers from. An absentee Laird will rub shoulders with some powerful people and the status which vast land ownership provides is of extreme personal importance. To loose any of the Estate would be seen as moving down the social order. Also on a local scale when the Laird visits the Estate, a certain level of respect is given to him. If this structure was to change then the Laird is challenged with an unknown outcome, this could be terrifying. In some cases these men have grown up listening to their fathers and grandfathers talk of the Estate and anything other than its continuation is unthinkable. Moving forward with a consideration of economics, Political climate, fairness and to generate a modern type of respect from local people, then to sell strategically would be very prudent. These thoughts of mine are relevant to an Estate where entirely every square inch of several parishes, can be owned by one family.

    • at one time being a slave owner had status and a sense of permanence.

      • yes Ron, the times are changing, land reform is being discussed everywhere. Yet this video clip is determined to try and force the ‘LAND USE’ agenda. Anyone reading half the posts on here would think that it is just about freedom of cropping, or vacant possession.

      • The arguements over the abolition of slavery are an interesting parallel, they raged for 50 years, and when it was abolished, full compensation was paid, not to the slaves, but to the slave owners.
        Millions of pounds were paid from the british exchequer to slave owners.

  57. It also appears that Andrew is deeply dismayed that this issue has re-opened .
    I wonder why ?.

    • He has been very quiet recently, probably because he knows ‘his tea is oot’

      • He’s been quiet because I don’t have all day Sunday to spend passing the time of day with you folks entertaining though that is. However now is the time to draw this to a close. We’re going round in circles. I can only repeat that a reform process which seems more focussed on certain people being deprived of property they own than on what we should be doing with our land seems to me to be deeply flawed.
        I bid you all good wishes and a good night. We will no doubt communicate on related matters elsewhere on this blog.

        • aye, you have had the sense to know your ‘tea is oot’ and not to dig the hole any deeper. Thank you for all you have done to prove why we need land tenure reform. I hope your fellow SLAE members appreciate your work.

  58. £20 million was paid out to 3000 slave owners as compensation after 1833, equivalent to £1.8 billion today.

  59. Ron,
    I could have wept when I saw your pictures above from Hordaland:
    http://www.westcoastpeaks.com/Peaks/burkelandsfjellet.html

    It looks just like the Highlands of Scotland except…..it’s alive! People are living and prospering in beautiful surroundings. There are nice houses and trees and parklands everywhere. A mountainous terrain with people in it is such a beautiful thing. I haven’t realised that’s why I found Switzerland or the French Alps or Dolomites so lovely compared to Scotland…it’s the presence of people that brings the place alive. Oh let’s please get rid of this parasitic, mono-owner-death-grip on our country and bring the place to life. All we need is people free to put down roots on their own soil.

    • Wul, please also try googling ‘ Bulandet, youtube ‘ for an inkling of what might be possible for the Outer Hebrides. My heart has been breaking for 40 years every time I come back from Norway to the Victorian-Edwardian nightmare world that is rural Scotland. Several Scandinavian bio-geographers have pointed out that northern and central Scotland should be categorised as being in the same bioclimatic zone and eco region as the Vestlandet counties of southwest Norway, such are the close bio-climatic, geo-botanical and phyto-geographical affinities. All this gives the lie to the propaganda of the ‘feudal mafiosi’ that no other form of cultural landscape is possible in the Highlands apart from that based on the sporting estate model.
      The differences in these two parts of the Caledonide mountain chain are not due to the basic set of environmental conditions, but down to what people have done in terms of socio-economic and political activity. Yes we can!

    • WUL: I forgot to say that you should pass on that website to others , so that more people will realise what can be done, but I daresay you are already doing that!

      • Ron
        Paradise indeed. When I was last there and spent a day with a farmer I was struck by the existence of clearly un-farmed holdings and his account of the financial difficulties of farming in Western Norway. Despite the second highest subsidy rates in the world (I think Japan may outdo them) farmers were still struggling. Yes the landscape was glorious, and most farms appeared well maintained, and of course there was the impact of all those immaculate second homes it still seemed a pretty tough existence as a farmer. I do not profess to be an expert on the country and my experience is limited but the commentary I received from that Norwegian farmer I think perhaps some caution in the portrayal of the rural idyll.

        • Andrew, better a struggling farmer, than what Scotland has alongside her major northern roads; MAMBO. (Miles And Miles Of Bu**er All)

  60. What about giving all tenant farmers the right to apply for crofting tenure on the farmhouse, steading and 50 surrounding acres?

    • Hector, a croft is a tiny piece of land entirely surrounded by messy, complicated legislation. By all means let’s have a modern vibrant new form of outright smallholding ownership, but please do not curse the rest of Scotland with crofting.

      • Ron, Croft legislation may be a nightmare, but crofters cannot be evicted or rent-evicted. Farm tenants can only dream of such protection from the landlords greed.
        Just watched a programme about all the family businesses of shops and cafes being driven out of mayfair by ridiculous rent rises.

        • no landowner can evict another outright landowner. The Mayfair problem has its roots in monopolisation of land rental values, we need to socialise them

  61. Andrew

    You might at least have had the courtesy to answer my questions .
    What is the price of 3.1 and 3.2 land in your area ?.
    During a rent review , Is a landlord able to apply pressure on the farm tenant by using the value of land as a lever for an increase ?.

    • Fiona
      A return only to point out I answered that question 2 days ago in response to Fergus.
      And the answer is a firm NO. It’s irrelevant.

  62. The price of land may be irrelevant in law, as it should be, but it doesnt stop land agents referring to it constantly in the press to soften up tenants and mislead landlords into believing it is relevant and a reason for an rent increase.

  63. Andrew

    What action is taken against the landlord or factor if the price of farmland or farmhouse is used as a lever to increase the rent ?.

  64. Fiona,
    No action will be taken. Because it ‘didn’t happen’. Verbally during the rent review it was said but never committed to writing so it will be completely denied. Just the same way that a factor will VERBALLY ask for more rent on a tenants improvement. Or “if you agree to the rent demand now we will replace the march fence” Or the best of all, which i have in writing, and i am shocked and kind of defeating my own argument but reinforcing the FEAR factor, is “Agree to this now because if we end up in the land court the Estate will seek a higher rent than is being currently asked for”. This debate should not be called Land Reform it should be called Power Reform. I live in a sterile backwater, where no one in my community has the ability to make any decisions.

    • Hector / Fiona / SS
      If you have a legal question you ask your solicitor, if an accounting question your accountant. If you have a rent / property question employ a rural practice surveyor to advise. Can be as simple as a quick consultation on rent levels to full representation. Rates a lot cheaper than either lawyers or accountants.

  65. Andrew, what a weird reply…. i have not come on here for advice. Ok, i throw the odd question out there, but we are debating. Your comment comes across a bit terminal, and promotes remote advice. My relationship with my landlord will only deteriorate if i hire in help. Is this the future? two parties doing the talking who don’t know the farm and would probably meet somewhere near London? As for the advice on rates, i can ill afford any more money being siphoned out of the farm or out of the parish for that matter.

    • SS
      Over years of discussing this matter in the TFF etc one thing is clear and that is lots of parties don’t understand the law as regards rent reviews (and I don’t mean everyone before all on this blog take offence) and don’t have access to the valuation information which would inform their position in any discussions with their landlord – who may well be represented by an advisor. The sensible decision is therefore the obtain that advice. It will probably save you money in a better rent settlement. I have no objections at all to tenants being represented at meetings over rent – so not at all clear why your landlord would take a huff – and I’m clear that those tenants strike a better deal than those that aren’t represented. Its not necessary to turn this into an arms race it’s just sensible and normal business practice. Most of our commercial tenants would employ an advisor for rent discussions.

  66. Hector

    I don’t doubt you could find 100s of cases of hard done by tenants. I expect I could find 100s of cases that appear to prove the opposite. But so what? Policy should be made on the basis of righting what is wrong *today* with a view to improving the future, not throwing babies out with bath water to right what was wrong 200 years ago by way of revenge.

    Here’s a not too fanciful scenario:-

    1815 – Whiteriggs Farm on the estate of Lord Cruelheart is still occupied by multiple tenants who farm it runrig infield-outfield. Along comes Farmer Hardarse who says to Lord C “If you sling these deadbeat loser peasants out, I’ll pay you five times as much rent.” 2015 – The Cruelhearts are long gone and their estate owned by someone new but the Hardarses are still the tenants of Whiteriggs under a 91 Act tenancy and clamouring for ARTB.

    You said above hector “ARTB when it comes is merely returning stolen property to tenants”. How does that work when the Hardarses are equally culpable in the theft of Whiteriggs from the pre-improvement multiple tenants whose ancestors reclaimed it from a state of nature?

    • It is highly unlikely that the run rig tenants ancestors could be found, and at the end of the day, mr hardarse would not have issued the notices to quit.
      Their cothouses would have disappeared long ago, leaving no trace.
      However, mr hardarse will have unvested heavily in the buildings and drainage of the farm in the “improvement” phase that i am interested in.
      When the cruelhearts sold out, they should have pointed out to the new owners that mr hardarse had a considerable capital stake in his farm, but probably didnt, so sowing the myth in the new owners mind that they owned outright everything they saw before them.
      As i said previously, the law on improvement compensation introduced in 1883 was not retrospective, which the house of lords conveniently added. This meant that all the great improvements carried out before 1900 were uncompensatable.
      By that time most of the sitting tenants who did the work on arable farms had been driven into bankruptcy by rentracking, which totally wiped out their capital investment in the landlords eyes and in the landlord –written laws eyes.
      If that was the whole story,it is bad enough, but improvements still go “missing” on a regular basis, despite all attempt in law to stop it.

      • I’m surprised by that response hector for a couple of reasons. For one, you said above “The land was broken in from its raw “state of nature” by farm tenants, not the lairds, yet now the lairds claim ownership of fertile drained fields when all they really can lay claim to is bog, rock and briar, worth perhaps ten percent of vacant value.” Surely the people who reclaimed the land from nature were the original run-rig folk, not the 18/19th century improvers (although they of course added considerably to what had gone before)?

        Second, you say it would be too hard to find their descendants yet when Andrew Howard made effectively that point above (February 12, 2015 at 12:23 pm), you retorted “Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

        You appear to be contradicting yourself so let’s refine my scenario a bit. The Hardarses did indeed invest heavily in the buildings and drainage etc. and generally carried out the great pre-1900 improvements you’re interested in but got slung out in, say, 1875 with no compensation. The farm was let to a new family and they are still in occupation today under a 91 Act tenancy and clamouring for ARTB.

        How does giving the new family ARTB “merely return stolen property” when it wasn’t stolen from them?

        • Neil, I am glad you are coming round to my way of thinking. It matters not who is tenant of the stolen improvements, they were still stolen.
          A stolen car can be traded several times after being nicked, but that doesnt stop the police returning it to its rightful owner when found.
          Farms which have been sold since 1900 will no longer be tenanted, so there is no point in discussing them, but those farms still let under 91 act tenancies can have no landlord claim for compensation when ARTB come in.
          Pre 1800 improvements are relevant, but would be very hard to prove at this distance.

          • “A stolen car can be traded several times after being nicked, but that doesnt stop the police returning it to its rightful owner when found.”

            Indeed. But what you’re proposing is that the current possessor of the car gets to keep it!

  67. Andrew, i recognise the model you are explaining. It fits a large farm(s), NFU supporting, commercially driven, agri-biz style. And this suits your position especially where it projects an Estate with a more forward looking attitude. I dare say your Estate has more opportunity than some of the run down Estates. So therefore it would definitely be more fitting and progressive to have professional representation at rent review, i total see that. BUT! this is not how things are done on a poorly run Estate. So once again we come right back to the beginning again. Well run Estate looks safe… happy tenants! Badly run Estate, unsafe… unhappy tenants= CRTB.
    Please comment Andrew, but please don’t give us the ‘good Estate’ answer. Do you agree that Scotland would be better placed if bad Landlords, lost perhaps just a wee bit of power?

    • I realise the question was directed at Andrew rather than me, but is the problem you’re identifying SS not more equitably solved by judicious application of a combination of the “ministerial intervention” proposed in the LR consultation and ARTB as sanction in the AHLRG report? Rather than indiscriminate ARTB for all?

      • Well Said. This is what I am really hoping for, a really good independant Tenant Farming Commissioner with teeth through law to guide the land agents and their employers when they overstep the mark or do not fulfil their obligations.

        • And so am I for two reasons. It will be a tool for dealing with genuinely bad practice and secondly it will pull the rug from under those politicking about bad practice where is does not exist. Remember one thing and that is that the government will have to sort out the interplay of the commissioner and the courts. This should be perfectly possible.

    • SS
      I am fully supportive of the idea of a tenant farming commissioner and indeed when on the TFF I fully supported the idea of an Office for Tenant Farming. Similar ideas. I am not here to support poor practice. As Neil says below concentrate effort on sorting out miscreants not bring forward measures that also affect those doing a good job. As it happens the principles behind the CRTB (forced sale because of neglect) sort of already exist in little used provisions of the 48/49 legislation. I have no issue with it.

  68. No neil, you got that the wrong way round.
    The landlords currently possess the stolen items, Artb will relieve them of that burden.

    • … and awards the stolen items to the current posessor (who bought them round the back of a pub at night in cash from a junkie at a fraction of their value). So the police aren’t going to return them to their rightful owner after all. You’ve just contracted yourself again!

  69. Andrew

    What is the definition of neglect ?. What triggers R T B ?.

    • Fiona
      Not known yet but likely to be based on failure to discharge responsibilities under the Act. No idea about definition for Land Reform proposals.

  70. Neil

    This situation with the stolen car .
    The person who drives the car could pay the going rate and these funds could go to good causes Ie hospitals and schools .

  71. Andrew

    With land values so high and getting higher ” quadrupled ” recently , land is outperforming everything else and for some reason not being taxed .
    Landowner with 1,000 acres has an asset of an eye watering £6 ,ooo , ooo .and rising !! .
    Very noticeable that both N F u and landlords do not want valuations of land within land reform .
    Could have been the same person that wrote it ?.
    Yes , we are all in this together .
    Or are we ?.

    • Fergus
      It is taxed if you sell it subject to relief if you buy another trading asset. Have you heard me defend these values? It’s clearly over priced driven by the pressures I mentioned earlier in the blog. However taxing it ala LVT will depend on it’s ability to pay from income generated. As, for most farmers, surplus income is in fact public funding (CAP) one wonders if Peter would be being robbed to pay Paul?

      • no LVT is being proposed, just the collection of land rental value. If LVR were brought in the nominal purchase price of land( it has no capital value) will go down and any sale will not attract a tax

    • no tax on land is required, and there is no capital value to tax, we just have to collect the societally created rental value to replace income tax, rates, council tax etc.

  72. The runrig tenants had occupation rights since time immemorial, clearing them was a different form of skulduggery.

  73. Andrew

    Maybe Peter robbed Paul in the first place ?.
    at the moment too much land is owned by too few . In a fairer agricultural society many more people are needing to own their farms .

    • Fiona
      That’s an opinion – no one has pointed to any evidence that it will make our agricultural system, as a whole, any more productive. Even if everyone owns their own farms the system will still not be “fair” as all farms are different; productivity; value etc. Unless of course you intend to limit acreage; limit value that can be owned; productive capacity that can be owned etc. In which case good luck selling that to NFUS members and the banks etc etc.

      • No one needs to point to it, just drive around a tenanted estate and then do the same in an owner occupied area, the difference in investment and productivity is staggering.
        Feudal agriculture can never match the output of owner occupiers, and they cannot access the many different income streams and grants without the laird either stopping it or demanding too big a share,rendering it stillborn.

        • A senior cabinet member said the same thing to me 10 years ago and then proceeded to quote an example by way of illustration a marvellous example of what a farmer could do because he owned his farm. It was one of our tenants!

          • But Andrew you are an old fashioned estate where you care about how the estate and everything on it looks according to my old college friend and so the distinction between owned and tenanted is blurred. He also says you would not have to look too far away to see examples of what Hector quoted.

            Perhaps if every estate was to follow your lead then there would be no need for this online debate.

          • Like all businesses there are some areas where we could brush up but we try. On your latter point I think we find an area of agreement – if perhaps not our lead – it’s certainly clear that there are areas where things aren’t done as they ought. In a tenanted farming sense I hope the proposed Commissioner will shine some daylight onto those areas and encourage some change.

      • But I think Fiona does right to move the debate away from the treacherous territory of “ARTB merely returns stolen property, er, lets the people currently in possession of stolen property keep it.”

        • Tenants do not “possess stolen property”, the laird possesses it, and said tenants pay rent on the stolen property.
          The irish land act of 1873 decreed that all improvements were the property of the tenant, unless the laird could prove otherwise.
          The tory govt in westminster recognised the scale of the theft in this act, which is sorely needed in scotland now.

  74. Andrew
    You can be quoted as saying this morning at 11 .01 to me
    ” Have you heard me defend these values?. It’s clearly overpriced driven by the pressure I mentioned earlier in the blog ”

    How can you state that , yet in your answer in the same blog with your answer to Hector 12/2/15 you can be quoted again as saying about a farm tenant wishing to buy his farm “. Oh and I don’t accept 50% is a fair price ” .
    If that is not hypocritical , what is ?.

    • Fergus
      It’s in no way inconsistent. The point I was making in referring to Hector’s discount was that I didn’t necessarily accept 50% of VP would be a fair price particularly if the sale was forced. I made no commentary on the actual value – simply the % of it to be paid.

  75. Andrew

    Que ?.

  76. Neil

    I think it was my comment you are trying to refer to .
    The driver did not know the car had been stolen and was paying an annual payment to the thief .
    The original owners have got a new car through insurance and all identity marks have been taken off the. Stolen car .
    At least the occupiers of the farm have paid for it with a fair price and there is money raised for schools and hospitals .

  77. Fergus

    I agree with Neil . That is a good idea . At least the community benefits from this .
    Why has anyone not thought of this before ?.