Monday, 29 July 2013

The STAG roars

I have not blogged for a while as it has been a busy time on the farm, gathering in hay, cleaning out sheds, shearing (which took place a few weeks ago) plus the myriad of other jobs which needed doing.

We almost got away for a short break but the steering damper decided to break only a few miles from home so there was no alternative to return and the upside was the comforts of our own beds and The Farmer thrilled to be home again.

We caught up on reading the news, catching up on emails and proper time to read the Scottish Farmer which was sporting this advert...

Yes, of course we got in touch and offered our support for the Absolute Right to Buy our own farms.
The STFA (Scottish Tenant Farmer's Association) have sat on the fence re this issue and have been rather irritating in their blindness that the majority of Secure Tenant farmers (people like us who have farmed the land for generations) DO want the ARTB.
I cold called a selection of tenant farmers across Scotland - quite daunting but interesting and once they ascertained who I was, where we lived, who your father was, etc, every single one of them wanted to buy their own farm and be freed from the constraints of a tenancy.

The feedback received brought up several issues - from the farmer who felt he had bought his farm several times over to the farmers who had invested their own money in sheds, ditches, drainage yet their rents were raised and their improvements undervalued.
Several farmers objected strongly to the 'Laird's cut' whereby a percentage of a diversification project eg tourist accommodation, etc has to go to the landowner simply for being the landowner. No input just output at the tenants expense.
Or the farmers who asked their landowners for a tiny piece of land to build a modest house for the next generation yet who are still awaiting, months later, a reply from their absentee landowner in London. That in itself shows how communities are kept to a minimum population due to the sheer rudeness of a non reply to the farmer's request for a few square yards of the farm they have worked for generations.
How degrading and frustrating for that family.

There was one overwhelming response from every single one - "Please don't give my name out". These men and women who are not afraid of hard work or the unexpected knocks life can bring, the harsh conditions in winter or a poor summer, none of them were willing to go public with their names. Many were in the middle of rent reviews and one or two genuinely worried about being evicted if they spoke out.
In Scotland, in 2013.

Why do we want the right to buy our farm?

Well, for one, we would have a wind and watertight home. We have a meeting on Wednesday with our MP, the CEO of the Scottish Land and Estates plus a representative from our own estate.
I really want to know why things got so bad.
We have already met with the estate representative but she had to take our issues to a nameless and faceless board for discussion. Needless to say, the tenant is not included in any part of the discussion, has no place at the table with the decision makers.
Also needless to say, they have not come back with a decision although it has been three weeks if you ignore the first request for a new roof in 1976 then all other requests in between.

We have been airing the house and trying to dry it out over the last few weeks which were hot and dry - it is pouring rain now and the rainwater is lying in pools inside the farmhouse. All our efforts have been undone in a single day and I feel so demoralised as a result.

We would have the right to a peaceful home life without the shooting which can take place at random - I want to write during the shooting season but there are course shoots throughout the year so you never quite know when one will take place and where. That makes things awkward if the tenant wishes to invite tourists to the area for peace and quiet plus has the potential to affect income.
The new shooting tenant seems like a decent man but the laws he adheres to have not been reformed since around 1890 and seem very pro shooter and very anti anyone else.

I could write for a week on the benefits of owning our own farm, in fact, I cannot think of a single reason against. This brilliant paper  written by Professor James Hunter, Andy Wightman, Peter Peacock and Michael Foxley, outlines the need for Scottish land reform and the benefits, not only for the tenant farmers but for all of us.

Can I ask you, please support STAG. Help us to realise our aim to be independent and free from the constraints set by landowners who own us and to bring Scotland forward into the 21st Century.

Thank you.


  1. Have sent email to STAG and wishing you every good wish for Wednesday.

  2. Thank you very much, Rosie!
    It means a lot to have support and thank you for your good wishes for Wednesday.

  3. Yes, hope the meeting goes well.

  4. Do you really have to wait for the outcome of a meeting to find out whether you are going to have your roof repaired after all these years of it leaking ??
    Do you really have to suffer guns going off at random around your home ??
    Do you really not have any say in decisions taken by the estate about the farm you have farmed for decades??
    Well I happen to know that the answer to all that is YES. Yes you really do have to wait,Yes you really do have to suffer the guns, and Yes you really are excluded from estate decisions.
    What kind of Scotland is this, and it seems a mystery to those in power why Scotland has such social problems.
    I wish you power Gentle Otter, and the absolute right to buy the farm you have lived and worked on for a lifetime.
    Power to STAG, indigenous to Scotland, yet still persecuted by the lairds.