Monday, 17 February 2014

Lies, damn lies and statistics.

I wanted to update on the farm issues, given that seven months have passed since the meeting with the estate, MP and Scottish Land and Estates.
The main points raised were the farmhouse, roof in particular, a water supply, the replacement of march fences and the land which was taken from us without compensation.

The farm was given a water supply on Christmas Eve last year, a connecting pipe from the supply which feeds the big school (and runs through our farmland) was installed. Good to have a supply but it is fairly intermittent having had a series of bursts in the last few days.

Roof? Surveyors came and surveyed the house last year. Decent, professional fellows who never complained when the hall ceiling fell at their feet. 
Has anything progressed since they submitted their report to the estate?
Have the estate replied to my emails enquiring about progress?

March fences. 
We sent the estate a copy of an estimate from a good fencing contractor. Response?

Land resumption.
The issue was addressed by the estate after ten years of asking them to acknowledge the problem.
The grand sum of £42 was offered. This is supposed to cover our loss of crops, loss of SFP, pheasant damage to crops, rodent and pest (rat and pheasant) damage to stored silage bales, vehicular damage to non land resumption area amongst other issues. Forty two pounds.
Fearing this over-generous compensation, the estate then showed up with the game tenant and hinted strongly that now this 'game strip' was sterile and useless after ten years of bad management, they wanted a fresh two acres from the opposite side of our most productive field. Compensation was not mentioned.
Setting aside the arrogance and entitlement here (for land we still pay full rent yet cannot use), this ruination of what was once excellent, fertile ground illustrates ignorance and sheer greed, greed to whack in crop after crop of kale, year after year, no organic matter, outside contractors to work the land we pay full rent for.
Has the issue been remedied?

Improved communication.
Initially after the meeting, communication with the estate had improved but this appears to have slipped. My emails have not been answered of late.

Overall conclusion of the results from the meeting?
A complete waste of time however it was good PR for SL&E to be seen to have been proactive with a tenant farming family. The trouble is that being seen doing something and actually implementing the issues are very different.

Multiply our problems with similar experienced by tenant farmers all over Scotland and you can just about gauge the frustration and exasperation in our industry. The main question being "How do you get these estates to actually DO something?" "How can SL&E say that millions of pounds of investment is being thrown at farms?" "How can you get the laird to implement his side of the tenancy agreement without having to involve expensive and lengthy legal battles?" (Answer, you can't).
From the Secure 1991 tenant's viewpoint, the 'investments' are non existent unlike the lies and spin which are spread as thickly as the Somme like mud on our farm.

We attended the annual Scottish Tenant Farmers Association dinner in Perth on Friday night, the guest speaker was Professor Jim Hunter.
He proposed a radical change. Do away with the existing, overtly complex and untenable tenancy laws which are only able to be interpreted by a handful of Agricultural lawyers (costing approx £160 per hour.)
Do away with viewing tenant farming as a separate type of farming to, say, crofting, small holding, etc.
Give the tenant (including the Limited Partnerships*) ARTB. - (My personal view would be to concentrate on 1991 Secure tenants only).
Give the land back to the people. 435 individuals own 50% of Scotland. There are approx 5 1/2 million people in our country. 
The statistic speaks for itself. 
Professor Hunter for First Minister with a cabinet of Andy Wightman, Lesley Riddoch, Ron Greer, Rob Gibson, Alastair McIntosh and others who eloquently debate land reform.

We have to undergo months of enquiries, meetings by quangos and from the tenant's point of view, it is beginning to look like The Judean Popular People's Front versus The People's Front of Judea. The reality is that the future of tenant farming lies in the hands of four lawyers (plus one tenant, a new entrant?).
Meanwhile, the land itself suffers from poor management, housing is dire and a stasis befalls the country like a prolonged Bach fugue.
The buzzword is 'vibrant' tenant farming and so help me, I want to slap anyone saying this with the side of a wet fish.

Plain old 'farming' would suffice, whether we are crofters, small holders or whatever. Give us our farms and we will do the rest. We know what is required and see through the lies, damn lies and statistics.
ScotGov, just drop a gear on this, please? The tenants will tell you what you what needs to be done. Just listen to them and implement what they say instead of toadying to the lairds who ruined the land in the first place. 21st Century Scotland is the same for tenants as it was for their Great Grandfathers. 
Are you not ashamed of this statement?

A roof, better living conditions and freedom from feudalism. In Scotland 2014.

* Edited 25th February. My apologies for stating an incorrect type of tenancy.


  1. I am mortified that you have to put up with this G.O.
    Keep us informed as to how things go. You are going to win this battle, just keep going and justice will prevail, albeit, eventually.

  2. My sincere apologies for any embarrassment caused to Professor Jim Hunter as a result of my error in the type of tenancy mentioned.

  3. Highland lassie, thank you for your comment and I will indeed keep you updated. It is very wearing and I am impatient for reform to happen but you are correct, it *will* happen and our lives will improve.