I wanted to write about the constraints on our family and families like ours who, despite The Abolition of Feudal Tenure (Scotland) 2000, are still bound by certain rules, terminology and burdens due to our ancient leases.
I have undertaken discussions with many people from all over the world, many who cannot understand how some parts of Scotland are still living under positively medieval rules, feudal 'superiors', etc.
Why do we continue to allow this to happen?
Our family are still bound by a lease, written in 1890 and where the new tenant farmer was unrepresented by a lawyer but which bound all the generations to a set of rules. Many of these rules contravene modern human rights, the tenant farmer being used like a pack horse.
Talking of pack horse, here is an extract from our lease. Remember, we are still bound by this lease.
"...it being understood that in the event of the Landlord wishing to use wood grown in his own plantations the foregoing obligation to perform cartage shall include cartage of rough timber from any of his plantations to any sawmill he may consider suitable, besides cartage of such wood to the farm when sawn;
And the tenant binds himself and his successors in this Lease, if and when called on, in the first place, to do yearly free of charge - five- days' carting of peats by one pair of horses and one man from any part of the ******** Estate to ****** *****; and in the second place, to cart yearly, free of charge, eight tons of any substance from Perth Railway Station or any place not farther (sic) by highway from the Farm than the Station to (names landlord's houses) or any place not farther by highway from the Farm than the nearest of those Houses, or instead of such cartage to perform yearly free of charge - five days' work of any kind by -one- man with suitable carts or ploughs, or other implements, at any place not farther by highway from the Farm than the said Station, it being agreed that the Landlord shall fix the places from and to the said tons of substance or any of the same are to be carted, and whether work is to be performed instead of any of such cartage, and, if so, where and what kind;"
Sorry about the lack of paragraphs but the lease is written in one solid lump.
Carting, horses and freebie work aside (and I can assure you that we will all be washing our hair that week), it beggars belief that our family is legally bound by the above in 2012.
This community has slowly been dying for years.
The church was the first to go; a previous landowner built a shiny new church but the deal was that the community change from Free Church to Church of Scotland....
The community dismantled the shiny new church, sold the stone and continued to worship in the manner they were accustomed to.
There are so many empty houses here - they are falling into severe decay, some are dangerous. They have the potential to house several families which in turn would ensure the local primary school had a healthy population: As it is, the school has a stay of execution for five more years....
There is little here. One pub closed, the other, which is leased from the Estate by an excellent chef, is only open on certain days.
There are plans for new houses to be built - 'eco' houses. These expensive houses will be fed by the wonderful water supply we have here which is 'organic' to say the least. Organic as defined by the dictionary...
If our family wish to diversify, we must ask the landowner's permission.
If the permission is granted, we would invest our own money yet have to pay a percentage to the landowner, simply because he is the landowner.
Sadly, the area we had hoped to use as diversification - a wonderful area untouched by machine and rich in flora and fauna, has been let out to the shooting tenant despite the fact that we also pay rent for the same area.
We had hoped to diversify in a low impact way; small scale camping, sharing the beautiful location with people who wanted to see nature as it was intended, peace and quiet...
No point in that when it is littered by shotgun cartridges and the peace shattered by shoots.
Plus, there is the issue of the water and public safety.
So, diversification is made difficult.
Many tenant farmers are horrified at the Scottish government's complete lack of support.
We are very fortunate to have amazing support from people like Andy Wightman, who works tirelessly for Land Reform and change.
Change which has been long overdue, possible for at least three hundred years but forgive me if I'm a few hundred years out.
Lesley Riddoch, journalist and broadcaster, has written about how the Scandinavian system would work here; the Scandinavians who have a common sense and fair system for their farmers, or Scottish communities who have successfully bought out the land from useless landowners and who have transformed their communities into places they are proud of rather than the neglected, run down places the absentee landowners created.
We urgently need to get out of this fugue.
Our buildings are falling down and antiquated; due to the landowner's refusal to invest.
It is far too costly to take the landowners to court to enforce their legal obligations. They just get off with it.
Tenants like us are expected to live in decaying farms, decaying houses. Those of us who have no intention on leaving should be given the chance to own our farms so we can invest in handing something worthwhile over to our children.
When our situation raised awareness in August last year, I was informed by several sources that I had been discredited to the press, that I owned several properties around Scotland (!).
For the record, my Dad bequeathed me a 1/4 share of a 2 bedroomed flat in a backwater Angus village.
I was informed by the solicitors who were dealing with the estate that there was nothing left of my share as their fees took the lot.....
Furthermore, I was insulted by the insinuation that the farm cottage, owned by my husband, was automatically mine.
His family worked for it, built it and therefore it belongs to them, not me. There are women who do not assume automatic ownership of possessions after they get a ring on their finger.
The modest rent pays for the upkeep of the stock.
What that had to do with our farmhouse is beyond my ken.
Dear God, do you think we really want to live like this, tolerating these conditions? I, for one, want my family and families like us, to be treated humanely. It is not asking for much.
It is time to truly end feudalism, to reform, to open up the land to others.
The feudal hangover simply does not work for communities or individual farmers. The existing system merely serves a select few and despite the protestations, the communities see very little, if any, investment as a result.
I am ready for change.
Are you ready to walk with me?