Monday, 17 June 2013

Clearance by drought?

The water has been turned off again, this time for four days now. - the usual; no written warning, nothing...

We have a handful of cattle in the shed, one or two calves being hand reared some cattle ready for market. All of them need water so The Farmer and I are back to lugging 25 liter containers of water from the temporary house and up to the farm.

The last time that the water was turned off with no warning came right in the middle of calving so water was imperative, clean water very important.

During winter, our water went off - not through freezing but was switched off. Our MP demanded the estate provide water and a bowser appeared for the cattle - none for us - the bowser was then removed the following day and a limited supply of water reached the cow sheds. It went off again soon after and it was easier to lug containers than to get the estate to either explain why the supply was off or even contact us.

Our 1890 lease forbids us from providing our own water supply. We are wholly dependent on the laird providing the farm with water. We are forbidden from digging a well or sinking a bore hole.

I know that certain land agents read this blog so this part is for your eyes in particular.

The same land agents who ordered someone to do this......

There is now, in formal international human rights law, an acknowledged human right to water and sanitation. In 28 July 2010, following many years of discussion, debate, and negotiation, 122 countries formally acknowledged the "right to water" in a General Assembly (GA) resolution (A/64/292, based on draft resolution A/64/L.63/Rev.1).[1] Two months later, on September 24, 2010, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a binding resolution recognizing that the human right to water and sanitation are a part of the right to an adequate standard of living.[2]
That resolution, in part:
"Affirms that the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation is derived from the right to an adequate standard of living and inextricably related to the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, as well as the right to life and human dignity"
The human right to water places certain responsibilities upon governments to ensure that people can enjoy "sufficient, safe, accessible and affordable water, without discrimination" (cf. GC 15, below). Most especially, governments are expected to take reasonable steps to avoid a contaminated water supply and to ensure there are no water access distinctions amongst citizens.
"Without discrimination". Read on.....
"It is now time to consider access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right, defined as the right to equal and non-discriminatory access to a sufficient amount of safe drinking water for personal and domestic uses—drinking, personal sanitation, washing of clothes, food preparation and personal and household hygiene—to sustain life and health. States should prioritize these personal and domestic uses over other water uses and should take steps to ensure that this sufficient amount is of good quality, affordable for all and can be collected within a reasonable distance from a person's home." 

I will remind the laird or the land agents who run the estate that we are humans. Our livestock rely on us, our crops are managed by us.
We have dignity and will not be forced from our farm through harassment and bullying.

If we were given the absolute right to own our farm then we would be free of the constraints and whims of the landowner who seems hellbent on Clearance by drought using terms set in 1890.

Urgent reform NOW, Mr Lochhead. We thirst for it.

Update:21st June 2013

Estate plumbers arrived first thing this morning without warning that they were going to dig our hay field up and stop our water supply again.
Water is off (it would be once a digger smashed its way through it) and we have been informed by the plumber that the situation is ongoing, they will keep digging through our fields, the estate never asked them to inform us of the work and they 'did not even know who people are'.

Just to note that this farm has been inhabited by my husband's family since 1890.

27th June 2013 : I received a phone call from Environmental health yesterday. The result of the sample taken from our water supply shows an e Coli count of 8 and a total coliforms of 11. Chemical analysis will take longer and I will publish the results when they arrive.
As a result of the water taken from our farm water supply and used to top up the local village supply after the pipe was left open for four days, this has led to the entire community being put at risk. Boil water notices have been issued but people were drinking this water without realising how dangerous it was.
I will reiterate that the landowners charge households on the estate, the council rate for water.


  1. Complain to the UN! Get the Nigerian Blue Berets over to install a water supply!! WHOO!!! :)

  2. Sarah, it would be easier getting the UN to assist than get the estate to answer a letter or heavens forbid, see for themselves.....

  3. Can you get your MP involved again? Can we start a campaign on twitter and get everyone to harass your MP? There must be something we can do to help. I can't keep reading your blog and NOT do something to help. It makes me ashamed to be a Scot that you have to live in such conditions.

  4. Many thanks, Suzanne.

    Our MP is in the process of trying to communicate with the estate and I am unable to comment on his progress as it is still ongoing but I think the only solution is if we were given complete freedom from feudal ownership and that the Scottish Government should allow us the absolute right to buy our own farms and soon.

    I would appreciate if you wrote to Richard Lochhead to ask for the right to be given to Scotland's Secure (1991) tenants to buy and manage their own farms as a matter of urgency.

    I discovered yesterday that the neighbouring village was also left without water and fail to understand why we (the community) have to pay the landowner full council water rates yet do not receive decent water.
    It would seem that another 'leak' has been discovered right in the middle of our hay field so no doubt that will be dug up and the crop ruined by heavy digging equipment.

    Richard Lochhead has the power and authority to change our lives but he must begin the process soon and not dither.

  5. I will. I'll also see if I can rally any other Scottish Bloggers to do the same.

  6. We really do appreciate your support. There are many Secure tenants who are afraid to speak out (or without broadband connection) and your support for them is invaluable.
    Our government have not listened to us and have tried to sweep the issues under the table but they MUST now listen and act.

    My daughter told me last night that "We are normal people who do not live a normal life" - Her words were so true, all we want is a normal life in 21st century Scotland.

  7. Dear Gentle Otter

    If your landlord is cutting off water intentionally then you need to tell your MSP and Scottish Land and Estates and if your agent is a surveyor then also the RICS. They will want to know.

    However if the problem might not be intentional and could possibly be a large problem of trying to maintain large private water supplies (which can be tricky) then the problem still needs to be sorted but along different lines.

    Any tenant in Scotland cannot and should not use oppression as a reason not to speak up for their interests. Everyone representing agents and landlords in Scotland are acutely aware of how a few bad apples can ruin the rest. In this case if the problem is not intentional there could be assistance through the local authority and your MSP will very likely be able to assist as well. As a tenant you will have rights to grants and other support that are independent of your land lord. If it is intentional then the solution will be swift in taking effect.

    Regardless of your circumstances, asking for a right to buy across Scotland to resolve this issue is a blunt tool. Taking away rights of ownership on a national scale is wrong for a western society and it removes any remaining confidence for owners to let land. Far better to focus on getting getting stability back in the market which requires the relationship between tenant and land lord to be equal, courteous and respectful.

  8. Dear Gentle Otter,
    From what you report this sounds like a difficult situation and quite an unpleasant one for you and your family. I am very willing to try and help sort this out. You may be aware, certainly your MSP will be, of the 1980 Water Scotland Act which covers the right to be supplied with water and then the 2006 Private Water Supply (PWS) Regulations which then strengthened duties on PWS suppliers. Certainly any agents retained by the landowner involved will be. As you have already contacted your MP (or was it MSP?), I would be very prepared to contact them to liaise with the estate and assist in resolving this - or if you prefer your MP/MSP can contact me as CEO of Scottish Land & Estates at my email address below. We represent landowners and farmers across Scotland are very willingly to intervene when problems arise. I would of course welcome you contacting me direct too so I can better understand the situation. It may be that the estate are undertaking maintenance work on the supply and hence the interruption, but due notice and provision of alternate supply should be provided. This really is about the private water supply regulations and legislation and not agricultural holdings legislation and so I would suggest that remedy lies in the PWS regulations. If you would like help to resolve this situation, which I would hope you do, please either contact me direct at or ask your MP/MSP to do so. Also, have you contacted the Local Authority on this matter as yet ?
    I hope to hear from you.
    Douglas McAdam, CEO, Scottish Land & Estates.

  9. Mr Wootton, Thank you for your input.

    For your information, our MSP has been less than helpful, Environmental Health have been contacted but as far as determining who the agent is for the estate...not so easy to find out who gave the order to cut our water pipe, why and why no notice.

    You are entitled to your opinion on the Secure tenant's right to buy just as we are and I must disagree with your comment on oppression. Very few people in this community are willing to speak out against the way the land is managed here and you must ask yourself why they refuse to talk the land agents who run this estate.

    In my experience, I have found certain estate agents (from this estate) evasive, disingenuous, dismissive, patronising,rude, arrogant and very difficult to contact unless through a lawyer or MP.

    I am well aware of the various agencies, etc to contact but thank you for your information.

  10. Dear Mr McAdam,

    Thank you for your comment and I shall pass the issues raised to our MP.

  11. Mr McAdam,

    Whist the issues which have arisen on the farm in the last few weeks are indeed private water issues, this blog illustrates the myriad of problems our family have encountered as a direct result of the estate who own our farm.

    We have asked for a roof on for our farmhouse, proof of land resumption ie land taken from us with no documentation, no compensation, rent reduction etc. We have asked for clean water and an electrical supply to our farmhouse. We have asked for sound march fences.
    The estate demanded a bank letter for proof that we had £50,000 to spend on the renovation of their farmhouse.
    Shooting has taken place close to where our children were playing, shoots have taken place on standing crops.
    Our family have been treated in a shocking manner by this estate.

    There are few secure tenants left on this estate, the others refuse to speak out through fear of eviction yet you only have to see the state of the houses,farm houses and farm buildings which have been left to fall into decay.
    Some farmers have taken the landowners to court, won their cases yet the estate refuses to repair the buildings. This would appear to me to be a blatant disregard of law.

    I am glad you have been made aware of what is happening here as we are finding the harassment and pressure very difficult to cope with and I welcome you to our farm to come and see for yourself, the conditions we are expected to live in.

  12. Hi gentle otter
    trying to get in contact with you to offer some help
    email me at

  13. Gentle Otter,
    Your MP's office has made contact this afternoon.
    Thank you for your invitation, I would be very happy to visit you on your farm. Please do make contact with me direct
    Best regards

  14. Thanks for sharing your story and the farm you have is really beautiful and worth watching. I will try to share it on my blog:

  15. Lee John, I love your sheds but you are a bit far away for easy transportation. Will leave your comment up for the benefit for the NZ readers;)

  16. Drought makes all the farms clear and but when the season shifts, it makes all the thing well.
    farm sheds nz