Friday, 18 May 2012

Wha's like us?

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with some other tenant farmers as I am interested in hearing their opinions.

There is a growing dissent and concern amongst this forgotten sector of agriculture, the feeling that they have been thrown on the heap and ignored. They feel demoralised by two recent land court cases which went against the tenants plus they felt betrayed when the Absolute Right to Buy was shelved.

The accent tends to lean toward the new entrants these days and admirably so but many existing tenants feel that their problems are addressed in a dismissive manner or a daunting manner.
Daunting in the prospect of having to go to the land court to resolve issues.

The cost of going to court is enormous and it is well known that some wealthy landowners try to prolong cases in order to bring the cost up; I will not beat about the bush here, they are looking to bankrupt some of the tenants. "The rottweilers" as they are known.
The wealthy landowners have the means, the Q.C.s, the motive and the will to get the tenant out.
There is the added worry of trying to fight the case, run the farm, cope with all the paperwork that farming generates as well as the everyday problems which arise when you are hands on farming.

There appears to be a common complaint against the agents who seemingly run estates these days. I have yet to hear one decent word about these people as their manner is increasingly inhuman and arrogant. I would say that there is no respect whatsoever for these agents and vice versa is most definitely the case.

Tenant farmers tend to be a fairly tacit group of people and although this may be construed as an awfully broad generalisation, they are not usually known for protests, strikes or loud protestations. Probably because they are out working all hours of the day and night. They are in remote areas, possibly without broadband connection or mobile phone range.

Now here is the crunch. Why are most of them afraid of talking out, even if they did have access to internet, etc?
Why are they feeling threatened yet find themselves in a position where the law is prohibitively expensive? Where is the fairness in that?
Why are they afraid and who are they afraid of?

The answer is simple. They are afraid of losing their farms and afraid of the bullying tactics of landlord's agents.

The sleekit wee nyaff who is supposed to liase with us has had some pretty warped ideas in the short time he has been with the estate. How strange to blame our family for leaving gates open so our cattle escape. Who did he think was going to have to find them, round the cattle up, check that they were all there and that none were injured?
Who was going to get the vet out if they were injured and who was going to pay the vet?

Why would tyremarks from several 4x4s appear in our grazing field at the same time as we attended a farm roup along the road?

The refusal to give notice when shoots take place right beside the house.

Other tenant farmers have had barn roofs removed and no new barn provided. One neighbour had to rent a barn miles away, at a greatly inflated rent. Another ex tenant narrowly missed being shot when a 'careless' shot or two was fired as she hung out her washing...
Some tenants have already lost their farms.

Sometimes the police refuse to come out if an incident occurs on a farm. We were told that it was an 'estate matter' when an illegal shoot took place beside our house.
Tenants feel increasingly isolated and therefore become vulnerable.

There are so many other examples of astonishing bullying taking place and you would not be wrong in thinking that you were in Zimbabwe instead of Scotland in 2012.
An entire culture is under threat, a unique culture like the crofters. What some of us are experiencing is akin to a form of ethnic cleansing, we are seen as being inferiors or 'owned' by faceless large landowners.
Our family (under our farm name) are owned by the landowner's trustees and a grandchild, if my memory serves correctly.

Tenant farmers are indebted to people like Andy Wightman who is not afraid to speak out for them and has written a book "The Poor Had No Lawyers" which accurately illustrates the history and the present for Scottish tenant farmers.
There are so few books about us, so little in the media about us (I wonder why that is!) so those who speak out for a tacit culture are thought of very highly indeed.
Here is a man speaking up for those who are too afraid to speak.

Some still have no lawyers.

Some are still bound by agreements made 125 years ago without personal legal representation in 1890.

Yet this stubborn denial by the Scottish government that feudalism still exists?

The catch 22 is that it is cost prohibitive to exhaust legal issues in the land court then escalate them to the European Court of Human Rights.

Your average tenant farmer, therefore, has to bite their tongue and just keep working for the landowner. In one fell swoop, a culture is oppressed, allowed to slowly die out and the land grabbed back.

Eugenics at it's finest.

Wha's like us?

Damn few - and they're a' deid.


  1. And soon to die out if this continues....
    Just what does it take to get some attention being paid to your cause?

  2. Bar the odds of a comet or hurricane landing on the landowner's meeting with Alex Salmond on 29th May, I don't know. There certainly is not much of it mentioned in the press and even if it was, some of the articles are not open for comment.

  3. Wouldn't it be entertaining if the sleazy ultra right wing Tory/Labour administration in East Lothian were to compliment their "Right-to-Buy" policies with support for tenant farmers & Farm Labourers with real "Right-to-buy policies on land, farm buildings and their homes?

  4. Cyril, Wouldn't it also be entertaining if Alex Salmond told the landowners (at his meeting with them on 29th May..... "You have all taken so very much from this country. What do you intend in giving back?

    I agree that the real 'Right to Buy' for tenant farmers must be addressed soon and land reform discussed as a matter of urgency.