The Farmer recently engaged in a conversation with another farmer and invariably, news, gossip, who had died, etc was swapped. The other farmer told my husband that someone he knew was thinking of passing his farm to one of his several daughters (assignation) and there was some consternation over 'a lassie taking over'.
I have strong feelings about this and the way the existing tenancy laws appear archaic where women and tenancy are concerned.
Heaven forbid but should a female partner of a tenant farmer become widowed, she has to prove that she is experienced enough to continue running the farm. All aspects are taken into consideration (including financial) yet, in my opinion, excluded are the day to day roles a tenant's wife undertakes.
Can you calf a cow, plough a field, step into the farmer's wellies should he be taken ill? Can you do the books, order in supplies, fix a broken tractor? Can you run the farmhouse, do a decent job of raising children, feed cattle, worm and dose sheep, work out a crop rotation, do soil analysis, shoo the ducks out of the house, keep on top of the ever changing bureaucracy, hold down a part time job/ full time job, mend fences, patch wellies, lamb a ewe, ad infinitum....?
Well, yes you can and you do. Half the time nobody sees your work but then, you are not looking for acknowledgement, you are merely doing what is required.
If you are bequeathed a large estate of many thousands of acres which encompass many tenants and houses, are you required to prove your worth? I don't believe that you are but with the laws of primogeniture being the way they are in Scotland, the odds will be that the new laird of an estate is male and therefore does not have to prove anything to anyone of his 'competence' in running an estate. Does he have to show how much money he has to anyone? No.
Very different for, e.g. a newly widowed tenant with say, less than 500 acres to run and the pressure on her to prove her ability.
I know a couple of female tenants and one of them is the absolute top in her field. Her stock is superb, highly acclaimed and she is very well respected for her knowledge and ability; yet this is a fairly unusual situation in farming, tenant farming especially.
I also know of another tenant farmer's wife who was tragically widowed young and who not only lost her much loved husband but her home and business too due to her inexperience in farming. This woman held and holds down a highly professional job outwith the farm and no doubt contributed hugely to the farm income yet these issues are not considered.
There appears to be a call for new entrants to farming and it will be very encouraging to see young women and men starting out in our profession but surely the restrictive views of assignation must be considered and changed? Can you imagine how difficult it must be for someone who has just lost a partner/ the father of their children/ workmate to go through the ordeal of proving they are worthy and capable of running the farm whilst grieving and adjusting to their loss?
Certain large estate agents, who appear to run estates, are not known for their humanity but rather their fondness for money and subsidies. Often, the human factor is ignored and the monumental task of a lone widow having to stand her case to these people is too much to cope with so farms are lost, tenancies are lost.
What other industry would you have to prove your ability and finances after the death of a partner when all along you have been the invisible 'orraperson'? **
I am also unable to find out where a same sex partner stands in the assignation laws? Would a man have to prove his worth, ability and finances if he wished to continue the tenancy on the death of his husband? I don't know the answer to that question but feel this is an area which has been ignored.
I propose that these issues could be avoidable through introducing agriculture and agricultural law as part of the National Curriculum. For those who wish to farm after us, make things easier for them by enlightenment, education, hands on experience beginning at an 'O' level basis (or whatever O levels are called these days). If people have to prove they are worth (and please realise how demeaning this is) then help acknowledge their work in the first place, all aspects of their work.
This goes for lairds too. If the widowed tenant has to prove her/his ability then so must the new laird - after all, his actions have the ability to change lives - he has the land and the power.
The French addressed 'Liberte,egalite,fraternite ou la mort' circa 1763.
Prove your worth, Scotland and show us what equality really means - we will do the rest.
**orraperson - Jill/Jack of all trades