In the first of a two-part series in the Scottish Field magazine, James Hunter, a former chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Emeritus Professor of History at the University of the Highlands and Islands, sets out the case for land reform. This Guest Blog is the unedited original manuscript submitted to the magazine. The published version contains minor edits for reasons of space and is available as a pdf here. The article is re-published here by kind permission of Scottish Field and the author.

The case for Land Reform

Professor James Hunter

According to sales particulars issued by selling agents Knight Frank, the new owner of the 28,000-acre Auch and Invermearan Estate in Argyll can look forward to getting a guaranteed £12,000 a week from the taxpayer by way of agricultural subsidies and recurrent forestry grants. (3.8Mb pdf sales brochure)

Long unquestioned, such hand-outs to Scotland’s super-rich lairds (and you have to be super-rich to afford Auch and Invermearan at an asking price of £11.4 million) are starting to attract both media and political attention. Reacting to the Auch and Invermearan figure (incautiously revealed by Knight Frank at a point when social security payments are being capped and jobless young folk forced to live on £56.80 a week), the Daily Record commented: ‘Something is rotten in the landed estates of Scotland.’ Glasgow Labour MP Ian Davidson was equally forceful, labelling landowners, as the Record headlined, Scotland’s ‘greediest benefit claimants’.

Auch and Invermearan Estate for sale at offers over £11,400,000 from Knight Frank

Nor is anger confined to the political left. Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson rages about energy policies that, he says, will soon have netted Scottish landowners a grand total of £1 billion from wind farm developers. ‘Rental payments vary and are top secret,’ Stevenson writes, ‘but, based on estimates, the Duke of Roxburghe could net around £1.5 million a year from 48 120-metre high turbines at Fallago Rig in the beautiful Lammermuir Hills. Sir Alastair Gordon-Cumming could be earning around £435,000 annually from 29 giant turbines on his Altyre Estate near Forres. The Earl of Moray is estimated to receive £2 million a year from 49 turbines at Braes O’Doune near Stirling.’

These sums, Struan Stevenson points out, are coming out of the pockets of hard-pressed electricity consumers whose bills are inflated to finance both the wind farms and hydro schemes proliferating on landed estates. ‘What we are witnessing,’ Stevenson comments, ‘is a dramatic transfer of money from the poor to the rich.’

That might be more acceptable if landowners were as eager to contribute to the UK national exchequer as they are to extract money from it. In fact, the land agents, lawyers and accountants who make a tidy living from helping lairds inflate their demands on the taxpayer are equally ready with advice on how best to shrink the Big House tax bill.

Favourite devices include: concealing ownership details with the help of nominee companies specialising in such services; transferring ownership of Scottish estates to companies and other legal entities registered in offshore tax havens like Grand Cayman, the British Virgin Islands, Panama and Guernsey; vesting ownership in charitable trusts (their membership often limited to a landowner’s relatives and associates) in order to obtain tax exemptions originally intended to assist organisations like Shelter or Save the Children.

Now that Prime Minister David Cameron is urging international action on tax avoidance and is strongly backing  European Union efforts to crack down on what a recent EU Council resolution calls ‘tax fraud, tax evasion and aggressive tax planning’, some circumspection might have been expected on the part of people whose business it is to minimise taxation of landed wealth. But not a bit of it. Turcan Connell, the Edinburgh legal firm favoured by lots of lairds, are as upfront as ever about their extensive presence in low or zero tax Guernsey and about their expertise in ‘the use of companies, trusts, partnerships and offshore structures for capital gains tax planning purposes’.

Maybe Turcan Connell and their clients think crack-downs on excess public spending and tax-dodging will never impact on the extraordinarily generous taxbreaks, agricultural subsidies, forestry planting grants and other disbursements so readily available to owners of broad acres. If so, they are wrong. The House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, chaired by already-mentioned Ian Davidson MP, is mounting an enquiry into what Mr Davidson calls ‘tax avoidance and subsidy milking’ on the ‘great landed estates of Scotland’. This Westminster enquiry, moreover, will be paralleled by two Scottish Government investigations into other aspects of land ownership. An Agricultural Holdings Review will have on its agenda the possibility of Scotland’s thousands of tenant farmers being given an absolute right to buy their farms, and a beefed-up Land Reform Review Group (LRRG) will explore how, perhaps by means of a Land Agency with compulsory purchase powers, community ownership of land can be expanded.

Already 500,000 acres have been acquired by communities. Resulting achievements are spectacular. When, in 2006, the South Uist Estate, then a loss-making sporting property, was bought by its residents, the purchase price was £4.6 million. Six years later, the sporting business was in profit and the estate’s fixed asset value had soared to £24 million. In part, that is down to an £11 million wind farm financed largely from bank borrowings. Even allowing for loan repayments, the wind farm will provide South Uist’s population with revenues of £800,000 annually – revenues that will be transformational in a locality long scarred by disadvantage.

Perhaps forgetting about their own addiction to taxpayer-funded hand-outs, private landowners complain about community ownership’s costs – the taxpayer and the National Lottery between them having allocated some £30 million over twenty years to community land purchase. This is no negligible sum. But neither is it indefensibly large when compared with what privately owned estates take from the public purse  – £30 million being equivalent to spending on UK agricultural subsidies (of which Scottish estates are major beneficiaries) every three days.

Developmentally, moreover, community land trusts are proving a first-class investment. They have unleashed all sorts of entrepreneurial and other energies. They have shown that depopulation can be reversed, businesses created and homes built in localities where these things seemed impossible. Little wonder, then, that Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, announced in June that he wants another 500,000 acres in community control by 2020.

Underpinning that development – just as it underpins the LRRG, the review exploring tenant right to buy possibilities, and the Westminster probe into tax and subsidy arrangements on Scottish estates – is mounting concern, not to say anger, about the implications of Scotland having much the most concentrated land ownership pattern in the developed world. With just 432 owners accounting for half of Scotland’s privately-owned land, land ownership, along with the many developmental opportunities it brings, is confined, or so growing numbers think, to too few people.

Nor are threats to the landed status quo limited to the various enquiries with which landowners will be dealing this winter. A coalition of environmental bodies are calling for a halt to construction of the scenically-scarring tracks sporting estates instal to transport stalkers and shooters (who seem to have forgotten that field sports are meant to be good exercise) on to the hill. Scottish Anglers for Change, meanwhile, urge action to ‘rid the country of the Victorian legacy of fishing right ownership which denies many taxpaying Scots access to their own rivers’.

Whether Anglers for Change will get what they want – river fishings managed, as in North America, by public bodies committed to universal but licensed access – remains to be seen. But given pressures of this sort, on top of those emanating from the Scottish and UK Parliaments, Scotland’s lairds should clearly be making the best of their many unparalleled privileges while they can.

217 Comments

  1. Clear, simple and accurate. There is only one thing for it…. the complete dismantling of Estates in Scotland.
    Community compulsory purchase, ARTB for tenants, TAX laws sorted out.
    To achieve the full potential of the land and the people on it, we must, as a nation do everything we can to transfer ownership from Estates to as many local people as possible.

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    • Yes exactly…and for the tenant farmer I would advocate them joining STAG – check out middle column bottom of page 64 of Scottish Farmer today.

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  2. Superbly written case justifying the reason behind Land Reform. The abhorrent greed of the lairds is at the base of this continued indigenous human right oppression in Scotland. As Julian Casablancas stated, “Greed is the inventor of injustice as well as the current enforcer.” Let’s pray that with much needed Land Reform changes this current enforcement will be banished forever “For the People’s Cause!”

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  3. Jamie Williamson

    Hunter’s Case for land reform
    Jim Hunter pillories those who have chosen to invest in Scotland’s rural economy to provide goods and services that we as a nation require from our rural land. This is not a good basis on which to attract further investment to strengthen and develop our rural economy.
    Professor Hunter suggests that there is something wrong in the 28,300 acre west Highland Auch and Invermearan estate being eligible for as much as £12,000 per week (£624,000 per year) of public funding. He doesn’t explain what this funding is for and why this estate is paid to provide these goods and services.
    Most developed countries support home production of basic necessities such as food and energy. Governments recognise the advantage of our nation providing a proportion of these basic essentials of life. To achieve this European farmers are provided with funds under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to provide certain goods and services. This helps keep the price of food in our shops down whilst still sustaining food production in Europe, maintaining a healthy environment and ensuring a sustainable future.
    Auch and Invermearan estate has made a substantial investment in sheep and cattle production in what is categorised as a less favoured area for agriculture. Their total payment from the various schemes and subsidies in 2011 was stated as £606,909. Whilst some might criticise the amount paid, farming in the west Highlands is still financially marginal, despite this support. As a result sheep are disappearing off our hills and livestock numbers in Scotland are in decline. Livestock farmers in Scotland are amongst the poorest paid businesses providing the basic essentials that we require. In the current economic climate larger livestock units that can take advantage of economies of scale are the most likely to survive. Smaller farm units, including crofts require even greater public support to remain economically viable.
    The Scottish Government wants more forestry. Over the last 200 years our woodland cover has expanded from around 4% of our land area to 18%. The Scottish Government would like a further expansion to 25% woodland cover. Auch and Invermearan estates has obliged by investing in expanding their woodland with the help of government support. They have established 157 acres of young woodland with plans to plant a further 70 acres. As a contribution towards this investment in our future economy they should receive around £95,600 in capital grants plus annual support for maintenance of £13,500. This Estate has plans for further woodland expansion which will contribute to the Scottish Government’s target.
    Is this a good investment by the tax payer? If we want more trees and a forest industry, it is more cost effective to subsidise private sector landowners to establish and manage woodlands and produce wood products than doing this through the Forestry Commission Scotland.
    The Scottish Government wants further investment in renewable energy. Auch and Invermearan estates have responded to this request. They have invested in a biomass heating scheme and a hydro-scheme. They have identified a further 15 locations where further hydro-schemes could be developed on their land holding. To encourage capital investment in renewable energy schemes the UK government provides funding in the form of Feed in Tariffs and Renewable Heat Incentives.
    The Scottish Government wants a strong vibrant rural Highland economy capable of providing the basic requirements of our nation. This can only be achieved by attracting further investment. Higher taxation combined with reduced public support for those who can invest will discourage further investment. Jim Hunter criticises landowners who are investing in what the Scottish Government wants.
    The private sector currently own most of our land and are willing to invest. On balance the private sector are more efficient and cost effective at running businesses and producing goods and services than the public sector. The most successful economies in the developed world are a mix of public sector incentives and constraints that provide a favourable climate for private sector investment targeted at the goods and services that the nation desires.
    Most Community buyouts have required public sector funding to purchase the assets and further public sector funding to invest in infrastructure and productive activities. Where investment has failed to make the landholding financially viable, public sector funding has been required to sustain the enterprise. The South Uist Estate has managed to make their landholding financially viable through investing in a wind farm. Yet Jim Hunter criticises private landowners such as the Duke of Roxburghe, Sir Alistair Gordon-Cumming and the Earl of Moray of doing likewise.
    Some land is owned by charities with tax favourable status, some land is owned by organisations or individuals based outside the UK that may not pay the same taxes as UK residents. This is the same with many assets and businesses in the UK and not confined to investments in Scotland or in land. Tax mitigation or evasion along with the advantages gained will increase as taxes increase. This is an international problem that should be addressed by those who levy taxes. If Jim Hunter is advocating a level playing field in taxation that includes landowners with charitable status and those who reside outside the UK, there will be many landowners who will support him in this view.
    Draconian regulation by the State or the threat of compulsory purchase of assets will discourage private sector investment. The threat of a tenant’s right to buy has already seriously undermined confidence in assets where land use, investment and expertise are shared through tenancy arrangements. As a nation our objective should be to strengthen and improve our economy by attracting further investment; not to threaten investors with confiscation of their investment.
    State control of assets and production proved to be a disaster in Eastern Europe. I hope even the most die hard left wing activists such as Jim Hunter can move on and accept that state or even community control of assets and production is not a panacea to sustaining and improving our rural economy.
    Yours sincerely,
    Jamie Williamson

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  4. Once again the potential curse of compulsory community purchase is raised as the solution. One can understand the anger, indeed justifiable anger, at the iniquities highlighted by James Hunter in his usual sharp incisive writing style, that results in such a proposition being put forward, but the lessons from Fennoscandia, Western Europe, many parts of North America and indeed in the reforms initiated by General MacArthur in Japan, all point to an extensive democratic participatory system of private tenure as being the way to go. Please remember that a State powerful enough to give you everything is also powerful enough to take it all away from you. Expropriation is also expensive and would put vast sums of public money into the hands of the lairds. I want them to pay for their own eradication from the landscape.

    Again I return to the need for the eventual 100% collection of societally created Land Rental Value as the vital kick start mechanism to the process of initiating the move to that position. We get them to pay us, for what we have created. The land cannot be hidden or transferred, there will be no avoidance by trust, charity, or offshore company. Another purpose of LRV is to REPLACE direct taxation. There will be no tax to avoid or evade and no waste in pursuing those who currently do that.
    Anglers for Change, have a point, but it is on a sword with two edges. Universal democratic public access on a responsible basis is not the same as a free for all. The kind of moronic chaos that occurred on the banks of Loch Lomond has now shifted away to other lochs such as Loch Earn. We are still without any equivalent to the Fish and Game Dept. as found in places such as Alaska or Maine and of course the grand farcical oxymoron of national parks that are not owned by the national community( the nation) comes without the normal National Parks and Wildlife Service that is found in normal countries.
    The amounts of money accrued from the acutely suffering electricity by private landowners from having useless windfarms on their land is indeed a shocker, but it is hypocrisy indeed to then go and boast how much the money the same suffering bill payers are providing is helping a post community buy out ‘kibbutz’.

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  5. This is not about public v private ownership, it is about dismantling large estates and giving more people a stake in the land.
    The 600k currently paid to that estate would be better divided among 20 family farmers who would farm the place a whole lot better.
    Landlords have run off with all the land, and are now making off with wads of govt cash.
    Tenant right to buy has nothing to do with state ownership, just wider private ownership.
    What happened to the tenant farmers who were on auch estate before?

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    • that is the basic case I am arguing Hector: metaphorically and, in some cases, literally private landowners per square mile’ as opposed to ‘square miles per private landowner’ as we have at present. We have only 3 basic methods of getting to that position: fiscal measures, eg LRV, direct compulsory expropriation; or a mixture of both.

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    • apologies for repetition – they should join STAG and join their colleagues in the greatest tenancy farming challenge in our living memory!

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    • You are correct Hector. Lost farming communities litter our countryside, not because farmers do not want to live and work there but because our land ownership structure does not allow them the freedom required to develop sustainable enterprise there. Communities are built around people dedicated to particular areas, not individuals who visit them occasionally in their leisure time.

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  6. Jamie, you speak a lot of sense but I think you miss the essential point that Jim (I think) is trying to make. Sure, the private sector has a big role but the scale of public investment in places like Auch & Invermearan is substantial. The problem is that it is increasingly being channelled into fewer and fewer hands. All the public investment in this estate is capitalised into the extraordinary land value. The property is already two estates rolled into one.

    This scale of public investment (and the fiscal regime) should be used to EXPAND the opportunities available to the whole of Scottish society to invest in land in urban and rural areas. Note that the farm subsidies – so-called “entitlements” – are not even included in the £11.4 million and are available for separate purchase. As indeed is the consented hydro-electric scheme. No public subsidy should be traded in this way. Imagine if I tried to sell my job-seekers allowance – I’d be charged with fraud. Of course, much of the responsibility for this lies at the door of those who frame public policy but much of that policy has itself been framed under the heavy influence of vested interests. Land reform is part of the solution and that why I and others are pursuing policy changes. Remember that the private ownership of land is a social construct. Land is owned according to a tenure and fiscal regime that belongs to the public. It is broken and we intend to fix it.

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    • Andy, you say that public investment… is increasingly being channelled into fewer and fewer hands. Have you figures to back this up? Does it refer to farming subsidies (absurd as they are), or does it include the obscene wind farm hand-outs and payments under the Regional Development headings?

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      • I have data on CAP payments and I also include renewable energy subsidies in my charge. The hard data remains elusive but industry sources very clear that smaller players are getting squeezed out and there is increasing involvement of hedge funds and offshore capital.

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    • spot on Andy, the selling on/trading in ‘entitlements’ is a sheer utter disgrace.

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    • Andy, you say:-

      “This scale of public investment (and the fiscal regime) should be used to EXPAND the opportunities available to the whole of Scottish society to invest in land …”

      Is the point here not that “investment in land” is not currently identified by the SG as a strategic priority like increasing forestry cover, renewable energy etc. is?

      It seems to me that, once the SG does identify “investment in land by as many people as possible” as a strategic priority, then that will be the time to criticise paying 6 figures to the Invermearan Estates of this world.

      (As I type this, I realise someone’s going to quote back at me the terms of reference to the LRRG and the stuff about increasing the number of stakeholders. Fair enough but the SG also has to get real about how to reconcile (i.e. prioritise between) these sometimes conflicting priorities.)

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  7. Jamie Williamson, you have put forward the perfect argument for ARTB, increase and develop the private sector. The bit where you will not convince the Scottish public or the Gov is where you seem to suggest that it is positive for the super rich to collect these subsidies. We do not need to attract investment to buy our land, we need to attract investment to produce things on it. And the best way to do that nationally is to unleash the imagination and energy of the people who live and work across this land. Young people have to be given hope and aspirations, to be able to look up to community leaders and key players. How on earth can a rural local youngster look up to a Laird? Lord,Lady,Earl,Duke,Duchess,his Grace,Viscount,Baron……time for change, time for modern Scotland to take control.

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  8. hector, you said:-

    “The 600k currently paid to that estate would be better divided among 20 family farmers who would farm the place a whole lot better.”

    Thank you for a nice simple suggestion of an alternative future instead of the usual moaning about the status quo.

    I think I’d like to see some studies to back up the assertion that 20 families would farm the place “a whole lot better”, though. And what do we mean by “better” here? Better food production, better employment opportunities, better climate change mitigation etc? And why just 20 families? That would still be 1,400 acres each, still WAY above the EU average. (Way above the Scottish average, indeed.)

    But thanks anyway for a suggestion which neatly focusses the area of debate.

    I just wish we could have a debate around that proposition without all the unpleasantness. Just because you disagree with what someone’s doing, you don’t have to accuse them of greed, fraud, theft etc., do you?

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    • Neil,
      Both you and Hector might find ‘googling’ Burkelandsfjellet of interest. It is in the Hordaland county of Vestlandet in Norway in a biogeographically similar region to the northern Highlands. The settlement pattern indicates occupied farms and outbuildings owned privately by local permanent residents. There are no lairds. Just an inkling of what we might do with that rather empty landscape of Auch and Invermearan or Suisgill.

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  9. Neil, if you take it from the top, 12 comments, where is the unpleasantness? its a hot subject which is going to bring out hard hitting comments.

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    • SS

      “abhorrent greed of the lairds ” (Raonaid, second comment in the thread)

      But I wasn’t talking about just this thread (as I’m sure you knew) or even just this website, I was referring to the whole issue and the polarised way in which it’s portrayed. The “hard hitting comments” are the easy bits. We need to start looking for workable answers.

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  10. i agree Neil, we do need to start looking for workable answers. I support STAG, with the forward thinking solution of ARTB. applicable to secure tenants and limited partnerships. Bought from lairds at 15 times the rent. (i can explain if anyone wants). Community purchase, with support from affordable housing trusts, We really need rural housing. Also residency criteria with land ownership, if you own or buy a bit of Scotland it would be nice if you had the courtesy to come and live on it.

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    • Once again, I suggest that we take a look at what others have done are doing, to see what we can learn and adapt to on our own situation. We don’t need to invent the wheel from scratch. Very similar bioclimatic, geobotanical , edaphic and topographical factors to those that pertain here and largely determine land capability potential also operate in the coastal mountain areas of SW Norway, especially in the Hordaland, Rogaland and Vest Agder.
      In our study trip we visited land holdings in Rogaland up to 300 Ha ( which was considered very large) and the average holding was 7.5 Ha. There were regional variations, but the vast areas of single ownership found here simply did not exist. Absentee landlordism as we know it, just did occur

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      • Ron, I presume you mean just did not occur.

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        • indeed Tom. I was once out fishing with then Norwegian Consul General at Loch Garry and I asked him if he’d like to try Rannoch at the end of the month. His reply was that he could not make it, as by law, he had to go home and stay on his farm and work it for a statutory amount of time.

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      • just did NOT occur

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  11. SS, that lot is just for starters and already has quite a political head of steam behind it (if not much cash). The REALLY difficult bit (which also requires even more cash) begins with converting Invermearan or Suisgill etc. into 20 farms.

    In that regard, it’s ironic we’re replying here to a guest blog by Jim Hunter because I read up again the other day the bit in his High Mountain Tops book about the experiment of buying Orbost Estate on Skye to convert into small-holdings. That was controversial because – and I hope I’m not misquoting – there was so much consultation that no consensus emerged. JH referred to how relatively easy it was for the post WW1 people back in the days when you didn’t need to have consultations. (And even that wasn’t easy back in these days either, I’ve got a book about that too by Leah Leneman.)

    Mustn’t ramble too much but just shows it’s ever so easy to sit around slagging off abhorently greedy landlords and saying Nae Lairds Required but just an awesome challenge to bring about meaningful change.

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  12. Neil, 1,400 acres is not big amount of hill land . 3,000 is probably the minimum for a family, but with £30k of subsidy , 1,400ac is enough.
    I use the word theft because that is what it is when a landlord takes a tenants improvement and doesnt pay a fair price or any price for it. It has been going on for centuries.

    If tenants had the power to sell their leases for the value of their improvements, with rent set at the unimproved value ,as happens in australia/nz, there would few calls for the right to buy.

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  13. regarding repopulating family farms from large estates. the gov have the farm codes for these units. Slap and ring fence ‘secure tenancies to buy’on them(2013 act style) Everything before that will be granted the ARTB. finance is not a problem, strip down the value of land.

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    • Whatever the nature and size of the holdings, or what type of private tenure might be involved, those holding the deed title of the land should remember, that though it might be their land holding; it is everybody else’s country.

      The subsidies for stock, the grants for forestry, fencing etc, the ROC and Restraint Payments for useless windturbines are all coming from the taxpayer and/or customer, but above all the only value that the land itself has, is derived from society’s desire for it.

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  14. Andrew BruceWootton

    My comments to this article embedded in capitals below:

    According to sales particulars issued by selling agents Knight Frank, the new owner of the 28,000-acre Auch and Invermearan Estate in Argyll can look forward to getting a guaranteed £12,000 a week from the taxpayer by way of agricultural subsidies and recurrent forestry grants. (3.8Mb pdf sales brochure)Long unquestioned, such hand-outs to Scotland’s super-rich lairds WHY USE OUTDATED TERMS THAT PREJUDICE READER OPINIONS? (and you have to be super-rich to afford Auch and Invermearan at an asking price of £11.4 million, NOT NECESSARILY IF THEY REPRESENT A VIABLE GOING CONCERN) are starting to attract both media and political attention. Reacting to the Auch and Invermearan figure (incautiously revealed by Knight Frank at a point when social security payments are being capped and jobless young folk forced to live on £56.80 a week WHERE IS THE RELEVANCE OF THIS LINK? ONE IS PUBLIC SUPPORT TO THE PRIVATE SECTOR TO DELIVER GOVERNMENT POLICY, THE OTHER IS WELFARE TO PROTECT THE VULNERABLE FROM DESTITUTION), the Daily Record commented: ‘Something is rotten in the landed estates of Scotland.’ Glasgow Labour MP Ian Davidson was equally forceful, labelling landowners, as the Record headlined, Scotland’s ‘greediest benefit claimants CLEARLY HE HAS NO UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT’.Auch and Invermearan Estate for sale at offers over £11,400,000 from Knight FrankNor is anger confined to the political left. Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson rages about energy policies that, he says, will soon have netted Scottish landowners a grand total of £1 billion from wind farm developers (IN THAT CASE THE CRITICISM IS AGAINST GOVERNMENT POLICY NOT THOSE WHO LEGITIMATELY REACT TO POLICY AND WORK TO DELIVER GOVERNMENT POLICY) . ‘Rental payments vary and are top secret,’ Stevenson writes, ‘but, based on estimates, the Duke of Roxburghe could net around £1.5 million a year from 48 120-metre high turbines at Fallago Rig in the beautiful Lammermuir Hills. Sir Alastair Gordon-Cumming could be earning around £435,000 annually from 29 giant turbines on his Altyre Estate near Forres. The Earl of Moray is estimated to receive £2 million a year from 49 turbines at Braes O’Doune near Stirling.’These sums, Struan Stevenson points out, are coming out of the pockets of hard-pressed electricity consumers whose bills are inflated to finance both the wind farms and hydro schemes proliferating on landed estates. ‘What we are witnessing,’ Stevenson comments, ‘is a dramatic transfer of money from the poor to the rich (WHAT WE ARE SEEING IS THE DELIVERY OF AN INCENTIVE UNDER CURRENT GOVERNMENT POLICY).’That might be more acceptable if landowners were as eager to contribute to the UK national exchequer as they are to extract money from it. In fact, the land agents, lawyers and accountants who make a tidy living from helping lairds inflate their demands on the taxpayer are equally ready with advice on how best to shrink the Big House tax bill (AGAIN THE TWO ARE NOT LINKED AND IT IS ILLOGICAL AND POTENTIALLY MISLEADING TO DO SO. INVOLVEMENT WITH INCENTIVE SCHEMES IS CREDIBLE AND ARRANGING FOR BUSINESS CONSULTANTS TO ENSURE YOUR COMPANY TAX BILL IS CORRECT IS CREDIBLE, NEITHER ARE CONNECTED AND NEITHER SHOULD BE UP FOR CRITICISM).Favourite devices (OF WHOM AND WHY IS THE AUTHOR SUGGESTING ANY ILLEGAL OR IMMORAL TACTICS ARE MAINSTREAM AMONG LAND BASED SCOTTISH BUSINESSES?) include: concealing ownership details with the help of nominee companies specialising in such services; transferring ownership of Scottish estates to companies and other legal entities registered in offshore tax havens like Grand Cayman, the British Virgin Islands, Panama and Guernsey; vesting ownership in charitable trusts (their membership often limited to a landowner’s relatives and associates) in order to obtain tax exemptions originally intended to assist organisations like Shelter or Save the Children (THE AUTHOR IS EITHER SUGGESTING THAT LAND BASED BUSINESSES SHOULD COME UNDER SOME DISTINCT FISCAL REGULATION FROM ALL OTHER UK BUSINESS OR THAT TAX FRAUD IS RIFE IN THAT SECTOR. MOST ANALYTICAL READERS WOULD REALISE NEITHER IS OR SHOULD BE THE CASE. LAND BASED BUSINESS SHOULD BE TREATED IN KIND AND COME UNDER THE SAME SCRUTINY).Now that Prime Minister David Cameron is urging international action on tax avoidance and is strongly backing European Union efforts to crack down on what a recent EU Council resolution calls ‘tax fraud, tax evasion and aggressive tax planning’, some circumspection might have been expected on the part of people whose business it is to minimise taxation of landed wealth. But not a bit of it. Turcan Connell, the Edinburgh legal firm favoured by lots of lairds (RURAL BUSINESSES), are as upfront as ever about their extensive presence in low or zero tax Guernsey and about their expertise in ‘the use of companies, trusts, partnerships and offshore structures for capital gains tax planning purposes (I THINK THAT IS WHAT YOU CALL MARKETING AND IF THEY ARE COMPLYING WITH THE LAW THEN WHO CAN BLAME THEM IN A COMPETITIVE MARKET) ’.Maybe Turcan Connell and their clients think crack-downs on excess public spending and tax-dodging will never impact on the extraordinarily generous taxbreaks, agricultural subsidies, forestry planting grants and other disbursements so readily available to owners of broad acres (ANY TAX BREAKS APPLY TO ANYONE WHO UNDERTAKES TRADING IN THAT SECTOR, LARGE OR SMALL. THEY ARE DEFINED AND CONTROLLED BY THE GOVERNMENT). If so, they are wrong. The House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, chaired by already-mentioned Ian Davidson MP, is mounting an enquiry into what Mr Davidson calls ‘tax avoidance and subsidy milking’ on the ‘great landed estates of Scotland’. (ANY ENQUIRY INTO COMPLIANCE IN ANY SECTOR SHOULD BE WELCOMED AS THE SIGNIFICANT MAJORITY ABIDE BY THE LAW) This Westminster enquiry, moreover, will be paralleled by two Scottish Government investigations into other aspects of land ownership. An Agricultural Holdings Review will have on its agenda the possibility of Scotland’s thousands of tenant farmers being given an absolute right to buy their farms, and a beefed-up Land Reform Review Group (LRRG) will explore how, perhaps by means of a Land Agency with compulsory purchase powers, community ownership of land can be expanded.Already 500,000 acres have been acquired by communities. Resulting achievements are spectacular (THIS MAY BE THE CASE BUT THE LACK OF INDEPENDENT EVIDENCE OVER SUSTAINABILITY AND RETURN ON INVESTMENT MEANS SUCH STATEMENTS LACK DEPTH. THE TIME HAS COME FOR A FULL PUBLIC REVIEW OF HOW PUBLIC FINANCED COMMUNITY BUY-OUTS HAVE GONE TO SHAPE AND INFORM FURTHER INVESTMENT AND TO ENSURE BEST PRACTICE IS SHARED AROUND THE SECTOR) . When, in 2006, the South Uist Estate, then a loss-making sporting property, was bought by its residents, the purchase price was £4.6 million. Six years later, the sporting business was in profit and the estate’s fixed asset value had soared to £24 million. In part, that is down to an £11 million wind farm financed largely from bank borrowings. Even allowing for loan repayments, the wind farm will provide South Uist’s population with revenues of £800,000 annually – revenues that will be transformational in a locality long scarred by disadvantage.(SOUNDS ENCOURAGING, EMULATING THEIR PRIVATE LAND BASED BUSINESS NEIGHBOURS).Perhaps forgetting about their own addiction to taxpayer-funded hand-outs (DEFINITELY NOT AN ADDICTION BUT A CONTRACT BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND INDUSTRY TO PROVIDE CERTAIN OUTPUTS IN A CERTAIN WAY; EQUALLY AVAILABLE TO SMALL AND LARGE, EQUALLY AVAILABLE TO PRIVATE AND COMMUNITY), private landowners complain about community ownership’s costs – the taxpayer and the National Lottery between them having allocated some £30 million over twenty years to community land purchase. This is no negligible sum. But neither is it indefensibly large when compared with what privately owned estates take from the public purse – £30 million being equivalent to spending on UK agricultural subsidies (THIS IS COMPARING APPLES WITH ORANGES. AGRI SUBSIDIES SUPPORT FARMING ACROSS SCOTLAND, LARGE AND SMALL. PRIVATE ESTATES CAN ONLY CLAIM SUBSIDIES IF THEY TRADE IN-HAND, OTHERWISE THEIR TENANTS RECEIVE THEM. SUBSIDIES LINK TO THE OPERATOR AND NOT TO THE OWNER (of which Scottish estates are major beneficiaries ONLY WHERE THEY ARE ELIGIBLE. THERE IS NOT A SINGLE SUBSIDY THAT IS AIMED EXCLUSIVELY AT ESTATES, QUITE THE REVERSE, UNLIKE PAYMENTS TO COMMUNITY OWNERS OF WHICH THERE ARE MANY QUITE APART FROM THE ORIGINAL PUBLIC FUNDING TO BUY THE ASSET) every three days.Developmentally, moreover, community land trusts are proving a first-class investment. They have unleashed all sorts of entrepreneurial and other energies. They have shown that depopulation can be reversed, businesses created and homes built in localities where these things seemed impossible. Little wonder, then, that Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, announced in June that he wants another 500,000 acres in community control by 2020. (GREAT TO SEE A MODEL THAT IS INCREASINGLY MATURING AND CAN BE A POWERFUL PLAYER PARTICULARLY IN MORE REMOTE AND FRAGILE REGIONS, BUT MORE EVIDENCE NEEDED TO QUANTIFY SUSTAINABILITY, SUCCESS AND FAILURE TO DATE)Underpinning that development – just as it underpins the LRRG, the review exploring tenant right to buy possibilities, and the Westminster probe into tax and subsidy arrangements on Scottish estates – is mounting concern, not to say anger, about the implications of Scotland having much the most concentrated land ownership pattern in the developed world. With just 432 owners accounting for half of Scotland’s privately-owned land, land ownership, along with the many developmental opportunities it brings, is confined, or so growing numbers think, to too few people.Nor are threats to the landed status quo limited to the various enquiries with which landowners will be dealing this winter. A coalition of environmental bodies are calling for a halt to construction of the scenically-scarring tracks sporting estates instal to transport stalkers and shooters (who seem to have forgotten that field sports are meant to be good exercise) on to the hill (NOT A COMMON ISSUE AND THE CONTENT OF CURRENT DEBATE ON REGULATION AND BEST PRACTICE. FOR EVERY INAPPROPRIATE TRACK THERE ARE MANY MORE EXAMPLES OF GOOD MANAGEMENT AND THE UPLANDS SPORTING INDUSTRY PROVIDES ESSENTIAL EMPLOYMENT, HABITAT MANAGEMENT AND TOURISM) . Scottish Anglers for Change, meanwhile, urge action to ‘rid the country of the Victorian legacy of fishing right ownership which denies many taxpaying Scots access to their own rivers’.(WE ARE FORTUNATE TO LIVE IN A COUNTRY WHERE FISHING IS WELL MANAGED THROUGH PRIVATE, PUBLIC AND CLUB MODELS WITH A RANGE OF PRODUCTS FROM WORLD CLASS TO MODEST AND EASY ACCESS INCREASINGLY THROUGH WEB PORTALS THAT PROVIDE PRICE TRANSPARENCY AND EXCELLENT MARKET COMPETITION)Whether Anglers for Change will get what they want – river fishings managed, as in North America, by public bodies committed to universal but licensed access – remains to be seen. But given pressures of this sort, on top of those emanating from the Scottish and UK Parliaments, Scotland’s lairds should clearly be making the best of their many unparalleled privileges while they can.(LAND BASED BUSINESSES WILL CONTINUE TO WORK HARD TO DELIVER JOBS, MANAGE HABITAT, CREATE OPPORTUNITY, DELIVER GOVERNMENT POLICY AND ENGAGE WITH ANY CREDIBLE ENQUIRY INTO THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO SCOTLAND)

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  15. Its rude to shout!!!

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    • ‘Its rude to shout!!!’ – oh, come on, regardless of what he said it’s just a way to mark up comments

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  16. At the risk of simplifying a complex debate, the essence of this piece and subsequent comments seems to be:
    1. Large amounts of public money are being spent to support land management under current landownership patterns;
    2. The question is not whether this delivers public benefit, but whether increased public benefit could be delivered under another model;
    3. Those who fund this support, ie all taxpaying citizens, have a legitimate interest in how this money is spent;
    4. It is surely for them to choose the sort of model they wish to fund. If the consensus is that a diversified landscape with numerous independent smaller businesses & family holdings is preferable to fewer, larger ones, then policy & incentives should reflect this, and stimulate a process of gradual change.

    This is not a blame-game or a personal attack on individuals. Many of the mechanisms which have distorted the current situation were originally well-intentioned. However unintended consequences, and a lack of ongoing awareness of how these and other factors have cumulatively distorted landownership and management to favour large-scale enterprises, have led to where we are today.

    As always there is common ground – most landowners and most landreformers agree that private ownership is of vital importance. What the former have yet to demonstrate, is why something which all agree to be a good thing in principle, is better reserved for a minority rather than the majority.

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    • Well expressed thoughts Jamie. I agree that this is really about what kind of private ownership we might have, but right now the present form is linked to the land monopoly form of capitalism behind the strategic national economy . I have proffered, along with others, that LRV collection would change both quite dramatically without massive State expropriation. There may be specific exceptions from this and though not a supporter of national parks, if we are going to have them, then they should owned by the national community.
      I am fully supportive of individual private landownership, but currently not enough people are involved in the process.

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    • Good straightforward thinking in your posting Jamie. The debate cannot be over simplified as it needs to be simplified back to basics with a degree of common sense applied rather than convoluted justification for either few, large, or many, smaller landowners.
      Landowners need to ask themselves the simple questions;
      1. Would they like to be a tenant under the circumstances they expect tenants to live and work?
      2. Is there a reason why tenants or anyone else might not enjoy the natural freedom of being master of their own home and livelihood, as they themselves enjoy?
      3. Is enjoyment of such freedom improved or lessened by having tenants on their land.
      4. Would the land be better appreciated and cared for if more people cared for it as they do?

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      • Andrew BruceWootton

        1. Yes on the estates I know. Can’t speak for them all.
        2. Hopefully they will grow their business under lease and then move on to their own holding leaving the let holding for the next new entrant. That’s the way let property should work in a property owning society.
        3. Certainly fortunate that some who own land are prepared to give possession over under lease for a period of time. Rural estates let land as a business service, as we do let housing. Quite understand the ambition to own though and I know many tenant farmers who have moved on to own which is great.
        4. I have known some very competent tenant farmers and some very competent owner occupiers and some terrible tenant farmers and terrible owner occupiers and then there is everyone in the middle. It’s more a state of mind and personal approach to life.

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        • Andrew, as you are best known as a representative of an estate rather than a landowner, I understand your guarded responses.
          1. From your answer, I presume you are unaware of the circumstances on many estates.
          2. Did not answer the question, so here are some others.
          2.1 Why should tenants regard their homes and livelihood as temporary while a landowner need not?
          2.2 Is this temporary factor good or bad for family, land, community or rural infrastructure?
          3. Did not answer question.
          3.3 Would landowner prefer to have or not to have tenant farmers on their land?
          4. Perhaps the question was unclear.
          4.1 On the whole, is land and property better cared for when tenanted or owner occupied?

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    • Andrew BruceWootton

      Jamie,

      1. public money is being paid to Europe to fund the common agricultural policy CAP which applies subsidy to European farmers to grow food viably and to agreed standards at a price citizens can afford. It is not being paid to maintain any land ownership pattern (in fact it protects the small and otherwise unviable).
      2. more decision making about how that money is spent is being devolved to member states which is good to one extent but it assumes the member state has a vision for how it wants its farming industry to compete within the European and international market. Social engineering should not be at the top of the priority list.
      3. definitely. The CAP is a complex nightmare fully understood by only a few people.
      4. farming is a tough business and making money is hard so do not tempt politicians to use subsidy as a political tool. It is an agricultural support payment and any member state discretion should be used to support the productivity and efficiency of its industry as a main priority. Many farms in Scotland are large businesses, pulling in much more subsidy than most Lords and Dukes in hand units. Changing subsidy entitlement based on turnover or scale will hit many commercial farms and only a few of the so called ‘lairds’.

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  17. I am a farm tenant on an estate who used to employ two full-time estate workers who carried out maintenance . Once they left , their houses have been let out to people who do not work on the estate and the farm tenants are obliged to do estate work now . The landlord appears to want the tenants to leave their farms which their family has farmed for generations .

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  18. The subsidy element is an important part of this arguement, and Tom Gray has been putting forward the answer for years, ie capping of subsidy to any one individual. That would have maintained a far greater number of farmers in the countryside than we have today. And it is not too late to start it. Landlords have wasted no time in grabbing as much of this cash as possible by eviction or special clauses in leases to force tenants to hand over entitlements at waygo. And windfarm cash has added fuel to the fire.
    SGRPD also can be blamed, for effectively barring short lease tenants from benefitting from agri environment schemes , while still extracting modulation cash from them. A classic case of robin hood in reverse.
    Similiarly , small farmers are effectively excluded from SRDP cash as the costs of having to employ a consultant are cash flow negative and hard to justify on small schemes.
    But fundamentally, people MUST have a right to reside in the countryside, with either perpetual leases or freehold property, and not at the whim of the laird.

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  19. Andrew Bruce,
    there are estates which let land on short lets, and also claim the environmental grants and schemes on the let ground. The Estate i am on has three separate subsidy schemes on the 1 unit while they let the tenant work the land and pay rent. They also let a farm (but only 1/2 on the IACS) keeping the poorer half for shooting and trading naked acres. So you are incorrect to claim that estates must farm in hand to collect the subs.
    Sorry if this is not constructive but people must not be allowed to post up blatant nonsense.

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    • Andrew BruceWootton

      Slurry, I was referring to land farmed under lease in which case it is the person who has possession of the land at 15th May and who submits IACS for the holding who claims the subsidy and that is always the farmer. I am aware there are farms managed under contract which is different. Certainly many farm owners have kept away from leases recently due to threats over right to buy and there are tax advantages to contract over lease. But most non owner-occupied farm land is still managed under lease and so to that extent I am correct.
      Many new entrants are content to farm under contract as they don’t have subsidy entitlement and there are other farmer friendly uses for them.

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  20. hebrideanfarmer

    The comments of Bruce Wooton continue to worry me.
    I worry because they include errors.
    The estate I am on claims environmental subsidies, and specific compensation payments (that were originally prescribed for livestock holders as compensation) This same estate does not “Farm” nor do they employ one single farm worker. What I’m trying to demonstrate here is that Bruce Wooton’s thinking is flawed, inaccurate and misleading.
    Now this is where I become worried, as here we have a chap who has actually accepted a post as adviser to the Land Reform Review Group.
    Am I the only person who thinks that advisers to this government appointed committee should produce accurate information?
    So those who are reading these comments, please be advised to question the accuracy of certain commentators.
    All these details have been reported to the LRRG group, and my name and address has been given so that the accuracy can be verified. So too will my evidence be submitted to the SAC , and reference will be made to inaccuracies from “advisors” such as we have seen above.

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  21. Anent Andrew B W’s comment: Andrew, I’ve had my say on the substantive issues and won’t add more. But I’m curious as to why you think (and you made the same point on Twitter the other day) that the word ‘laird’ is an ‘outdated’ term which is intended to foster ‘prejudice’. Laird is a good Scots word that’s been in use for centuries and, in itself, is in no way pejorative. Lairds may be good, bad or indifferent – but none of these qualities is, as it were, built into the term. Among the landlords I know personally, I can think of one in particular who’s proud to describe himself (as any Scot in his position surely should be) as the ‘Laird of ——‘ Indeed the gentleman in question would much prefer to be thought of as a laird than a landlord. And he can’t alone in this – at least I hope not. Oh, and by the way, if Jamie W thinks I’m a ‘die-hard’ leftist, he hasn’t been out and about much in truly leftist circles. I’ve nothing against private property in land. I simply want more people to possess such property. By way of illustrating, for Jamie’s benefit, what a truly radical approach to land reform looks like, here’s the opening sentence of Lenin’s Decree on Land as issued shortly after the Bolshevik Party’s coming to power in Petrograd in 1917: ‘‘Landed proprietorship is abolished forthwith without compensation.’ That’s to be really leftist. To write mildly reformist articles for Scottish Field is to be pretty milk-and-water, even Tory, by comparison.

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    • I just wondered, Jim, have you no more substantive reply to the issues raised by Andrew? For instance a more general assessment of evidence to quantify sustainability and success of community buy-outs? Not just one that happens to rely on the obscene, and in the long term unsustainable, windfarm hand-outs? And whether publicly financed community buy-outs have indeed attracted further private investment, or whether the opposite is the case? I am open to be convinced but going by the experience not just in my neck of the woods (Assynt and Coigach) I am rather sceptical.

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    • Andrew BruceWootton

      Jim, probably just a bit old fashioned to my ear. I understand you are not using it negatively so apologies – I won’t mention it again! Andrew

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  22. Is this the same Bruce Wooton who took part in The Scotsman blog on 29th June 2013 headed ” Call for decisive action on right to buy” . He tried to compare Scotland with South Africa . After passing comment he denied taking part in blog . What kind of man is this . Looks like he is a bit dodgy ??? .

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    • Andrew BruceWootton

      I do recall making the point that SA, as I understand, have worked hard on land reform but have stepped back from going down an absolute right of transfer route. No other connection was intended.

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  23. Yes, the only payment the russians made for land was a small lead one in the back of the head.That was truly leftist.

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  24. As to landlords claiming subsidies, they get a fortune indirectly through rent.
    From 1998 to 2006, SAC figures clearly showed that most scottish farms produced no surplus to pay a rent even with subsidies.
    But rent was still charged and even increased, with precious few miniscule reductions.
    So where did this rent that was paid come from? Out of the tenants capital of course. And if it didnt come from capital, it certainly came from subsidy.
    And thanks to the unbelievable moonzie decision, landlords are free to crank up the rent irrespective of the productivity of the farm, totally at odds with the 2003 act and basic reality.
    And lairds wonder why the peasants are revolting.

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    • Are they? I mean, apart from the few who do so by writing on this blog?

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    • Andrew BruceWootton

      Mmm this is where titles do matter. Laird vs peasant. The farmers I have ever worked with on estates don’t think of themselves as peasants and nor have I of them. Most tenant farmers I know are fairly modern businessmen.
      Moonzie and the rent review working group have clarified the law and it will now take some time to settle down again but I don’t think you will find any significant change as the outcomes have largely taken us back to where we were before. And the TFF have developed excellent dispute resolution guidance so any one facing a problem will have options that don’t involve expensive lawyer fees.

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  25. RL
    Scottish Tennants Action Group (STAG), recently formed by a group of like-minded tenant farmers due to lack of appropriate representation of their concerns in land reform debate.

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  26. There are even less anti reformists writing on this blog.

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  27. Auch & Invermeran provides a very good case study actually. The tenants are based in an Oxfordshire Business Park and all connected with the current owner of the estate. They have earned £2.3 million in farm subsidies over the past seven years. I note that they are not parting with the “entitlements” unless they are paid additional monies. Having acquired the estate for £5.8 million in 2006 and developed renewable energy (subsidised by the taxpayer) as well as earning £696.909 per annum in farm subsidies, the owner has generated a return on capital of approaching 15%. I don’t understand why the Scottish Government is content to provide such largesse when it would be better invested in resident farmers and owners whose activities will benefit the local community rather than absentee companies in Oxfordshire.

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  28. To Jamie McIntyre, ref your post August 17, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Thank you, sir, for that game changer of a comment. It deserves to be liked, favourited, re-tweeted and have a hand-clapping smiley all at once.

    What was most important about it to me was how noticeable it was that, if you strip out the accusations of greed, theft, fraud and corruption, the dubious statistics, selective quotations and irrelevant comparisons and generally slagging people off, then the real issues emerge, as you clearly expressed them, blinking in the light like they’ve been kept hostage.

    I don’t know who you are Jamie, but I would say you urgently need to be made a special adviser to the LRRG.

    There is just one thing I would respond to your post on. You said: “What the former [landowners] have yet to demonstrate, is why something which all agree to be a good thing in principle, is better reserved for a minority rather than the majority.” What I would say is that land reformers have yet to demonstrate the converse is true. (Or perhaps I should say that, if they have, I missed it amongst all the abuse and accusations.)

    But that minor quibble apart, thanks again for focussing so neatly upon what the real issue is.

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    • Correction Neil, I would say you missed it because you only see and read what your closed mind is able to read, a closed mind being the ultimate narrow mind.

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      • What an extraordinary thing for a politician to say!

        I understand you’re an SNP councillor. I thought the point was to win people over to one’s cause. Not to be offenive and alienate people you assume (closed mind?) are not 100% onside.

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        • Neil
          If you had an open mind to these matters you would not be dwelling on negativity, as indeed you do yet again in opening your reply.

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    • Neil,
      I still keenly awaiting your thoughts( and indeed Hector’s) on the view of the strath portayed when you google ‘Burkelandsfjellet, Hordaland’ and click on to the thumbnail to enlarge it—tens of farms, dozens of farms, scores of farms ? This is a non-laird situation and if you click on to any of the other municipalities on the site, you can get examples of other non- laird situations. Have you found laird-situations elsewhere in NW Europe as an example of a template we might adapt to our own situation? Do you think that the outright owners of houses and land in Burkelandsfjellet have got it wrong and they should hand over their property to a non resident laird and his coterie so that they can go for the Suisgill-Auch-type option?

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    • Thanks Neil for your comments, though I won’t hold my breath waiting for a call from the LRRG 😉

      Your comment about selective quotes, accusations of theft etc seems to me to be directed at some of the landreformers’ comments. It is only fair to point out that similar behaviour is equally prevalent amongst some of the landowning interests, indeed it seems to be a typical tactic to divert attention from the real issues which some of us are genuinely keen to get to the bottom of.

      A perfect example of this unfortunately is Andrew B-W’s reply to my comment above. I chose my words very carefully indeed, to try and focus on the core issues, but Andrew has chosen to respond to points which I didn’t in fact make.

      I am not going to critique his response line-by-line but will simply address his first answer to my point (1) to illustrate what I mean. I said:

      “Large amounts of public money are being spent to support land management under current landownership patterns”

      To which he responded:

      “Public money is being paid to Europe to fund the common agricultural policy CAP which applies subsidy to European farmers to grow food viably and to agreed standards at a price citizens can afford. It is not being paid to maintain any land ownership pattern (in fact it protects the small and otherwise unviable)”

      So a comment about public funding in general (including tax reliefs) has been narrowed down to focus exclusively on CAP – diverting attention from the principle involved.

      Furthermore, he misrepresents me: money being spent to “support land management under current ownership patterns”, which is what I actually said, is not the same as “to maintain any land ownership pattern” which is what he accuses me of saying.

      These are complex issues but if we are going to make progress ALL participants in the debate need to refrain from simply repeating stock arguments irrespective of the points actually being made. And I do believe it would help us all to get back to some basic principles – and as you have said yourself before, think about a vision for the future. The need for change must surely be accepted, because few people, given the chance to flesh out such a vision, would come up with the status quo.

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      • Actually, I quite like the status quo. I am saying this as a crofter who has also some tenanted land. A crofter has a pretty good deal since the 1976 Act. Whenever I tell people from abroad how it works they can’t believe what a favoured position crofters find themselves in these days. there is nothing like it anywhere else in Europe, as far as I know. As to the tenanted land, I fear that the insecurity thrown up by another bought of review of the law may endanger my good relationship with the landlord. This has not always been good: there was some trouble in the past but it was resolved by a Land Court arbitration in our favour. So it’s not like that a tenant is the poor peasant without any rights.

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      • Andrew BruceWootton

        Jamie I am not accusing you of anything, misrepresenting what you write or injecting stock answers. Your analytical points should be welcomed. I was taking your points down a level in detail and examining what the current main drivers are and the impacts of adjusting them from an objective perspective.
        I also think it is important, as a step prior to yours that we establish if there is a problem with current land ownership patterns based on evidence and if so what it is so any remedy can be proportionate and applicable with as little collateral damage as possible.
        I also fully agree any change to land use support should be under a clear national vision for objectives and that vision is a bit opaque at the moment.
        My response to yours made the point that current public spending on land management is dominated by the CAP which is complex, shrinking and already split to provide support to farming, animal welfare and environmental protection. Increasing its obligations to incentivise land ownership will have an impact to the other current beneficiaries.
        Peace man.

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  29. Neil, your starting to run out of gas! Jamie’s post is ok, slight issue with point 2. But it is hardly a game changer, in fact it is basically an attempt at summing up. A tactic i have witnessed at many meetings where there are two or three sides to a debate and someone has no view either way, sometimes down to a lack of understanding. Fair enough, we are all here to contribute and learn, it is worth remembering that the so called accusations of theft, irrelevant comparisons, slagging off, are all part of the debate, and where they should be challenged then lets do it. However, you Neil, seem to be asking for all this to stop. i know you don’t like it and you would love to have a blog as popular as this ( you thank posts when really that should be for Andy to do)
    As long as we don’t become vulgar or use excessive bad language(all filtered anyway) then lets get stuck in, put our points down and thrash it out.

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    • SS – horses for courses. It’s not so much about my personal sensibilities – who gives a stuff about them but it’s pragmatic politics as well. The hurling of accusations around happens to get up my nose and alienate me from the cause. I’m surely not the only one like that. What was significant about JMcI’s comment was that it dramatically re-engaged me with the issue. You talked in rather derogatory tones (at least that how it seemed to me) about a “tactic” but the point was it worked! For me anyway and there might be others like me. The abuse hurling appeals to some people, obviously, but shouldn’t you be thinking about casting the net wider?

      As you rightly say, this is not a public bulletin board but Andy’s blog. In that regard, I’ll quote what he said on page 5 of his book:-

      “Above all, I want to see a more informed level of debate about such matters and look forward to engaging with those who take a different view”

      I’m not sure the endless accusations add up to that “more informed level of debate”.

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  30. Can I respectfully urge that everyone takes time out to view this short film. Then give some thought as to how everyone’s future time and energy could be used more productively than presently, to ensure that Scotland and it’s people NEVER witness or become a part of such a future.

    http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/without_saying_a_word_this_6_minute_short_film_will_make_you_speechless/

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    • What an excellent piece of metaphorical satire on the way the political class treat the voters.

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    • Sorry Daye, no can do as my computer rejected it stating it to be from an untrustworthy source.
      Haven’t a clue what its about but I sure as hell know where we need to be going.

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      • it was a horror movie about factory farming, but the metaphors and analogies could lend themselves to the way lairds treat tenant farmers or tenants on 6 months leases in estate houses with leaky roofs.

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        • Ron, I like your analogy. Not all food production is a horror story, nor is all the tenant farming scene, however a movie on our landlord tenant system could most certainly through up some unpalatable truths.

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          • Interesting you concede “not all” Tom. Your letter in the Scottish Farmer praises and portrays your Arab friends the Al Tajirs as an example of the type of entrepreneurial “family” farming that Scotland needs. I understand that they have large numbers of tenants on their several estates. You must know many of their tenants. I wonder what they thought of your letter. Importing the American grain hungry beef lot concept and the “production” of Kobi beef is held by you to be worthy of praise. Will the produce from said beef lot all be destined for Halal slaughter and will consumers be made aware if it is? You yourself must be aware that not all share your enthusiasm for either beef lots, as a method of production, or that particular method of slaughter, nor would they share your idea that the wealthy Al Tajirs represent a “typical” farming family.

          • Daye, I must say after a prolonged deafening silence since my response to your similar suggestion in a previous blog, that is an astonishing interpretation of the facts.
            Let me help you by printing below exactly what was I said in the relevant part of letter published in the Scottish Farmer, August 3:
            “On Sunday I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Highland Wagyu open day at Quoiggs Beef lot at Greenloaning. With Wagyu cattle turning the perceived ideal shape of Scottish beef cattle into reverse, this enterprise is arguably the most ambitious to be unfolded into the Scottish beef industry since the introduction of Charolais cattle some 50 years ago. That said, if it is half as successful as Highland Spring Water a few miles along the road, then we all have much to learn and I will not venture to predict the outcome.
            To me, the most noteable feature of the day was the obvious and unbridled enthusiasm for their project of our hosts, Mohsin and Martine Al-Tajir. They demonstrated exactly the energy that will keep farming alive in our hills and uplands. Enthusiasts with fondness for animals and determination to be successful in development of their aspirations on their own patch of Scotland. Similar aspiration is shared by all, and aspiring farmers. However, many are limited to the landlord tenant system or simply lack opportunity. Unlocking freedoms and opportunities must be prioritised!”
            My ‘praise’ as you put it refers to “enthusiasts with fondness etc.”, a quality of humankind, not how it is necessarily expressed, in this case or any other.
            Frankly, your suggestions are scurrilous and yet further example of your commonplace diversionary tactic.

          • Daye, since your response seems to be lost somewhere in this lengthy blog (is that another of your diversionary tactics?) and your interpretation quite bizarre and inaccurate, I’ll post the entire letter below and let others make up their own mind. Just a pity you had not been invited to the event, run by Shorthorn Cattle Society btw. One can be fortunate to be invited to visit something for the enlightenment one gains from the experience without necessarily approving or not of what you learn.

            ” The tenanted sector has created much debate over recent weeks, yet I cannot help wondering why we insist on having it in this day and age. Get rid of it!
            Land is too important to tolerate second rate tenure arrangements! Farming is too important! It is already over regulated, capital intensive and challenging without being further burdened with the uncertainties of a landlord tenant system, in any shape or form. SLand E want a tenancy sector with freedom of contract while STFA also insist we need the sector, but with regulation, meanwhile the TFF has come up with a new fangled, albeit less fangled, rent agreement procedure.
            The big question, rarely considered, or perhaps deliberately avoided, is why do we have a tenanted sector in the first place?
            Make no mistake, we do not have this sector because Scotland needs it, as suggested by chairman of SLand E, Luke Borwick a few weeks ago. Its a chicken and egg situation. Our tenanted sector is a historic relic. Estate owners are still sitting on large chunks of land in need of the sector to exploit the basic home and livelihood needs and aspirations of others if the landowners cannot make more profitable use of the land by other means. Some are stuck with secure tenants and happy with that arrangement, others would prefer a less binding arrangement. For tenants, we are talking home and livelihood here, families in a natural balanced lifestyle creating family home and a food producing enterprise on their own patch of rural Scotland, yet meanwhile a landowner holds some sort of power over their needs. I firmly believe the tenanted sector is soul-destroying for both landlord and tenant, a hindrance rather than a help, and should be removed from our farming structure at earliest opportunity. If we really believe food production is a key industry and our countryside a key asset, then surely all land should be owner occupied.
            On Sunday I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Highland Wagyu open day at Quoiggs Beef lot at Greenloaning. With Wagyu cattle turning the perceived ideal shape of Scottish beef cattle into reverse, this enterprise is arguably the most ambitious to be unfolded into the Scottish beef industry since the introduction of Charolais cattle some 50 years ago. That said, if it is half as successful as Highland Spring Water a few miles along the road, then we all have much to learn and I will not venture to predict the outcome.
            To me, the most noteable feature of the day was the obvious and unbridled enthusiasm for their project of our hosts, Mohsin and Martine Al-Tajir. They demonstrated exactly the energy that will keep farming alive in our hills and uplands. Enthusiasts with fondness for animals and determination to be successful in development of their aspirations on their own patch of Scotland. Similar aspiration is shared by all, and aspiring farmers. However, many are limited to the landlord tenant system or simply lack opportunity. Unlocking freedoms and opportunities must be prioritised!
            In stark contrast, a call was made last week for support for big suckled calf producers trying to create efficiencies through economies of scale. When farming is what you like doing, the cheapest and most sustainable input to your own enterprise is your own time. With acute awareness, Alex Murray and William Forbes wrote recently of our large tracts of uninhabited and non-productive hills and glens. Harvesting enthusiasm by maximising opportunity for families to be enterprising in our countryside will sustain beef production, not through economies of scale of individual farms but the economy of numbers of individual farmers within farming communities working with one another. If we fail to maintain integrated rural communities but make them dependent on single ‘economy of scale’ enterprises then failure in that sector destroys the entire community. It has happened before through misguided support and will happen again. We’d do well to remember that thanks to capital grant and headage support schemes, many large suckled calf producers developed in the 1970s. As a result of rising input costs many were gone by the ’90s. Meanwhile strictly family worked enterprises kept the beef industry alive. Scotland is not a vast, sparsely populated and relatively flat farmland. Relative to Australia, and other extensive beef producing countries, our livestock will only be sustainable in family owned and worked farms, diversified and intimate with the land in a relatively densely populated small country adjacent to an even more densely populated neighbour and continent. They might well do big beef production in quite different far off places but that does not make such enterprise appropriate in Scotland.
            Fiscal and support structures to give our youngsters freedom and opportunity to be enterprising in our countryside will repopulate our glens and produce again from their environs.
            So what’s the problem? Oh yes, perversely, it is lack of available land.
            Land value taxation and strict capping of subsidies would provide it. ”

            Tom Gray

    • Andrew BruceWootton

      Daye, not pleasant and those able to afford welfare friendly meat should be morally bound to buy it but this clip is relevant in that it shows 3 product classes that are not currently supported by the CAP; chicken, milk and pig. I don’t want to extend this debate into the pros and cons of Agri support but one justification is that cross compliance on animal welfare does avoid industry getting pushed into the far end of factory farming and that includes the larger, more commercial units.
      It would be interesting to see NFUS stats on their membership profile but an important component will be large family units who over generations have developed quite large enterprises.

      Reply

      • Actually dairy ,chicken and pig farming are supported indirectly by the CAP by the vast amount of cheap grain produced under the subsidy regime.
        Without cheap grain, milk,chickens and pigs would be very expensive.
        When i say cheap, in 1983 250 tons of wheat bought a cottage.
        today it is 1600 tons. Wheat should £1,000/ton.
        Anyway this is a distraction from land reform.

        Reply

  31. The word theft is used because that is what it is.
    It may be “legal”, but it is theft nonetheless.
    The act of prescription was the biggest act of theft in our history, after the aristocracy backed John Knox under the guise of supporting the reformation.
    The people backed knox to get the church off their back, but all they got was a change of landlord to the aristocracy which was far from good. Correct me if am wrong, but thats how i understand it.
    I visted a mill yesterday, built by a tenant farmer 200 years ago, built at a cost of over £1,000 over 200 years ago. He also drained and limed the farm, at a cost of £2,000.
    After the catastrophic harvest of 1816, he ran out of cash and was made bankrupt, ending his days as pauper. Yet his landlord was left with these assets free of charge, as there was no compensation for improvements (and still isnt). If they had been on the asset side of his balance sheet, instead of a cash loss he would not have been bankrupt.
    £3,000 IN 1816 was equal to the capital value of the farm, around £2million in todays money.
    THEFT.

    Reply

  32. A b w
    But hold on Andrew , you claimed the following week in the scotsman it wisnae you . It wis him ower there. So, are there two Andrew Bruce wootons ????. Not a common name . If so , will the real Bruce wooton step forward and state his case about South Africa .

    Reply

    • Andrew BruceWootton

      Honest mistake, my memory didn’t click because the context of my remark was not in keeping with yours.

      Reply

  33. That film fairly put me off my bacon and eggs.
    Thats why we need lots of family farmers to prevent giant agri business from taking over.

    Reply

  34. Daye, a shocking clip right enough. The worst bit for me was the chickens being gobbled up by the harvester, then rammed into plastic cages. It reminded me of a clip where pheasants were being mass produced for the shooting industry, some of you may have seen it, it concludes with a shot of a digger in a forest burying hundred of shot pheasants. At least the chicken farmer can have the slight wobbly excuse that it is for food production, rather than for fun.

    Reply

    • There are those viewing this thread who might regard the view of the strath in Burkelandsfjellet, Hordaland as a ‘horror clip’. In our area we used to be able to buy the shot tame pheasants for a pittance at the end of each episode of the avian holocaust season, so at least they went as food—a case of ‘a pheasant to the ‘pehsint’ as Bertie might have said to Jeeves?

      Reply

  35. Hector, could this be called collateral gain for the landowner from that loathsome word churn in the tenanted sector? Yes same today, hike up the rents soon as a pound is made, keep them poor, no chance of moving on to pie-in-the-sky owner occupation elsewhere, as ABW would have it. Move out virtually penniless with RSABI for comfort and anouther bout of collateral gain to the laird., or is that word allowed? Who knows? who cares?

    Reply

  36. Daye, thanks for posting that wee movie – I just watched it with my wee boy and we talked about how lucky we are to have a muckle garden, to grow much of our own food and to have access to fine local produce including venison from our local estate. Sadly the movie doesn’t just show the future but the reality of food production and consumption for many people in contemporary Scotland. Do you think maintaining the status quo in land use will lead to more efficient, healthier and sustainable food production?

    Reply

    • Pops,
      You might find googling ‘A Farm for The Future’, a programme originally put out in the BBC Horizon slot, of interest. It’s significance was raised in this blog in an earlier thread. It is presented by a farmer’s daughter and not ‘a brown rice and sandal romanticist’

      Reply

    • It could do Pops, but it would require regulation or dare I say incentives for farmers and land owners. For years Local Authorities ignored demands for allotments, till we discovered that there was a law stating that they had a statutory duty to provide if people asked for them. I attended a meeting years ago in Dunblane organised by SAGS and attended by Roseanna Cunninghame. We brought the situation to her attention and to her eternal credit she took up the cause. With her support Scotland now has the Grow Your Own Group with a legal framework which encompasses everything from allotment growing to meantime modular growing. All over Scotland there are growing initiatives. Virtually every primary school has some form of growing area and many even have their own little orchards. Andy’s latest posting about the success of Berwick in stewarding its common good shows what can be done.

      Reply

  37. Hector/Neil.
    Further to the Burkelandsfjellet photo and all it implies about how many private holdings might be possible in Highland straths, I suggest taking a look at Vedafellet, Hordaland with its classic example of a private Norwegian small holding( NOT a croft) with its inmark( private), utmark( communally utilised by legal agreement with others in the community of outright private local owners) and the skog, a privately owned( by the sheep.cattle farmer) area of forest which may be managed by a voluntary business partnership of other outright private loca lowners.
    http://www,westcoastpeaks.com/Peaks/vedafjellet.html

    Reply

  38. Its always amusing to hear lairds trying to classify tenanted land as “private” property.
    How can land occupied by a tenant be private to the landowner?
    Is is surely a business arrangement for the landlord, and the land is then “private” to the tenant.

    Reply

  39. Neil,
    Haven’t heard from you for a while, perhaps you are finding the comparisons with the landscapes shown in the Scottish estate agents sales brochures on Auch-Invermearan and Suisgill and those in the Hordaland area, very absorbing?

    Reply

  40. the estates round here have padlocked gates with signs warning “stalking” contact the janitor(factor). Tourists really dislike this and i recon more revenue is turned away than a few people paying for shooting a stag. And even then the money just goes into the millionaires pocket.
    i would suggest wide and open knowledge that stalking is only on Tuesdays for example, ticket available at post office. If you need a guide? here is a phone number. The rest of the time the hill is open for wildlife enjoyment by ramblers and walkers.

    Reply

  41. Well , A B W , the simple fact that I am trying to put to you is that Britain in the late 19 th century did not show much interest around Pretoria until there were large amounts of valuable minerals found . The military was sent in to ensure that the valuable minerals fell into Britain’s coffers . It was Britain who benefitted . The local Pretorians did not .
    S L & E continually say that land reform should be about use and management rather than ownership . My question is ‘ Who owned the land 30 miles from Pretoria in the late 19 th century and who got the reward from the minerals ?. Use and management seem to be conveniently pushed to the side when one has bigger interests of personal gain .

    Reply

  42. As i said before, if the lairds say ownership is unimportant, let the tenants buy the land!!!!!!!

    Reply

  43. Hector, is there anything preventing a tenant to buy his farm? I suppose all he’s got to do is to make an offer to the owner that would tempt the owner to sell, just like in any business transaction, be it a management buy-out or an acquisition of previously rented premises. I owned a couple of flats with the same families living in them since over fifty years. I offered them the flats for sale below market rate. They didn’t want them, so I sold them to another landlord. They obviously preferred to be tenants. I really can’t see the problem. Ownership might be important to some people or farmers, in particular if they want to use their land as collateral for a loan. For others, the idea to be beholden to RBOS is far more abhorrent than remaining as tenants.

    Reply

  44. I have offered to buy before, but we didnt even get as far as discussing price. It was “against estate policy” yet a well heeled neighbour bought land from underneath my feet.
    Ihave heard even the crown estate do not lower themselves to sell to tenants as a matter of policy.
    If you wear a pair of pink cords and a cravatt, and have the correct number of plumbs in your gob, they fall over themselves.
    Apart from that problem, the valuation is always difficuilt as the tenants usually have a substantial investment in the property already which the factors will deny or dispute.
    They will also dispute the normal 50% discount with a secure tenant in place.
    It is easy to make a deal with normal people, but the aristocracy are far from that.
    As to being beholden to the banks, if you cant pay your rent, you are out, yet if you cant make a mortgage payment, the bank will negotiate and reafinance or allow arrears till better times.

    Reply

  45. well said Hector.
    reiner, if a tenant asks to buy the farm they are told “it is not in the interest of the estate”
    you need to understand, the upper class do not like doing business with tenants, they are of course happy to let us improve their asset over hundreds of years and let us pay them for the privilege.
    Reiner when you compare flats and houses with land and agriculture you are missing the vital fact… when you farm you improve the land, you have to, that is how you farm, that is how you survive, then as a tenant you pay rent on your constant improvement of the landlords asset. That does not happen when you rent a home, no domestic tenant makes their living from specifically improving the landlords house/flat

    Reply

  46. My wife tells me of a cousin of her’s in Wales whose family had a farm. They let it to a tenant because their was no-one willing within the family to continue working the land. In the next generation, however, there was a young aspiring young farmer. But now they couldn’t get the tenant out because they couldn’t afford compensation mpayments for all the imrovements the tenant had made. Is that not a reality, too?

    Reply

  47. so they want to get the tenant out? bit of a shame for him/her. This clearly demonstrates the weakness in the tenant/landlord system. They, the owners should not have agreed to the tenants improvements if they could not afford to cover them at waygo. It is also unfair to expect to be able to hold onto ground and let it out, then if the time comes remove the tenant to allow a different path to be taken. Yes i agree this is reality, but what it also shows is that there is an element of expectation in favour of ownership. Who were all those folk saying its whats ‘done’ with the land not who ‘owns’ it?
    if the cousins had sought advice from a factor/ land agent they would have been told to let the ground seasonally, that way eviction is easier.(assuming welsh law is similar)

    Reply

  48. oh, forgot to say, i feel a bit of rent racking about to take place

    Reply

  49. The land will have increased in value due to the improvements, so what is the problem?
    A bank will be pleased to provide a mortgage against the land to pay for the improvements.
    You are obviously not scottish, a scottish landlowner would employ a devious factor/lawyer to sicken the tenant or devalue the improvements or acquire them by stealth.
    IT happens all the time here. Thats why we dont like them.

    Reply

    • Under LRV, the tenant or owner will pay no tax on improvements to buildings, labour expended, value added sales or increased production.( including writing a £50million movie franchise based on a Harry Potter type novels. )The increase in site desirability ( LRV) however derives from the community and the owner will not get it as it will go to public revenue to REPLACE taxation. Any attempt to rack the LRV up will be a waste of time as it will just go into the public purse.

      Reply

    • Is that intrinsic to the Scottish character?

      Reply

      • Reiner, it is intrinsic to the character of the aristocracy and their lackeys, not to your ordinary scot.
        The landlords have gotten away with this behaviour for so long that they think it is “normal” to acquire the assets of others less fortuneate than themselves for nothing.

        Reply

  50. This question is for hector, of course. As to LRV, I can’t get my head round it.

    Reply

    • Reiner: I recommend that you google ‘stolen land, stolen lives and the great con trick of debt, youtube’ In the meantime:

      Property is not a single entity; the bricks and mortar( or other man made ‘improvements’) and the land these stand upon.

      Land being made either by God or the Big Bang had no production costs and because of this fact has no capital value. Neither of these creative agencies issued invoices to mankind for the land.

      The only value land has is derived from the community/society via its desire for it. So we need a term to describe that desirability factor. I prefer Land Rental Value, some use Site Value Rating and others the dreadfully inaccurate and pejorative term Land Value Tax. You have been a landlord in Scotland for sometime and presumably you are familiar with the differences in the quality of life and facilities in places like Blackhill/ Saughton compared to Bearsden/ Morningside. So you will appreciate this example.

      A landlord/ developer builds two absolutely physically identical houses in two identical areas of land; one is built in Bearsden/Morningside and the other in Blackhill/Saughton. Since the houses are absolutely identical in all physical aspects, they should attract the same rent, but you as an active landlord will not need to call Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot to tell you that they won’t. The house in Bearsden/ Morningside will attract the greater rent and since the houses are identical then that difference has got something to do with where the house is situated —and that situation consists of land! In an instant of time the Land Rental Value has been separated from the bricks and mortar rental value.

      With LRV the income you make from the bricks and mortar value will go to you, entirely free of income tax and the government stops stealing from you via income tax. On the otherhand the LRV stops going unjustfiably into your pocket as this was created by society and not you.

      Reply

  51. I didn’t read all the comments; got the gist though. I would propose that we do not use compulsory purchase orders but we could have a “use it or lose it rule”. The reasons why so much of our once common land is in private ownership are literally history but that history cannot fail to affect us today. We have a real problem with hoarding not just of but especially land. It is finite and it is needed to feed, clothe, heat our population. CAP subsidies were changed years ago (remember the butter mountains) away from the production of food and they are not really helping the small holders and tenant farmers at all for which they were supposedly designed. The largest net recipient are the royals then the duke of Westminster. I’m not jealous or lefty but if the land owners/bankers will not put the land to good use then they must be forced to sell to someone who is. Owning land must come with a responsibility attached. I am sure they could make money doing it as some are. If they want to own Britain for the time they are in this world then they must show some loyalty to its population. Dam the rivers, harness the wind, the tide and the heat from our earth. Farm responsibly and have a care for those who are to follow. As spidey says great power, great resonsiblah blah. You get my point.

    I am genuinly upset that when this country needs them the Royals are silent. They could do alot and unlike the government are actually in a position to help.

    Reply

    • David, your comment is another one I would “re-tweet” and I think the key point of it was “if the land owners/bankers will not put the land to good use then they must be forced to sell to someone who is”.

      The issue is that there’s no commonly agreed position on what “good use” is.

      The current owners of Auch & Invermearan Estate are receiving £600k+ a year from Govt/EU so they can be forgiven for thinking they must be doing something right or they wouldn’t be getting all that public dosh.

      Lots of people who comment on this blog think what they’re doing is pants. They might be right. They might be wrong. You might be right. I might be right. The Prince of Wales might be wrong. But we need to agree through the normal democratic process (in which I think the royals have only a very marginal role, with respect!) what the “good use” of land you spoke of is and then see whether the current set up in terms of ownership, subsidies, tax etc. are delivering that.

      Which prompts me to remark that that Lib Dem conference motion completely misses the point with its combination of mother and apple pie platitudes then moving to micro-management irrelevancies like Crown Rights (which they obviously didn’t know what they are) instead of focussing clearly on something like “Conference believes the best use of land is [whatever], notes that current subsidies/taxes etc. don’t deliver that … etc.”

      Reply

      • I can understand your thread of thought. Part of the argument put forward by the present incumbents of estates like Suisgill and Auch-Invermearan is that the way the land is owned and managed at present is the only option that the landscape offers, given its basic set of geo-climatic and biological parameters. The examples shown in http://www.westcoastpeaks.com/Peaks/orratuva.html show that this is palpably not the case ( the view of Iseggene from Orratuva showing a site nearer the sea but 250 feet higher in altitude that Dalwhinnie is especially challenging).

        Reply

  52. The point would be if they cant make a commercial success without subsidy (and without ruining the environment!) then up for auction it goes. It will find its own natural price level. In the case of Auch & Invemearan the piece stated a price for the land of of 11.4 million. Without subsidy they would possibly have paid to much! Sod subsidies says the law of unintended consequences. I might be up for governments/unions building some infrastructure for them if it gives us what we need. I dont understand what benefit high land prices provide to anybody (accept the sellers of course).

    Reply

    • David,
      Perhaps you can take on the implications of the prospects of the landscapes shown in the Caledonide mountain zone in http://www.westcoastpeaks.com/Peaks/orratuva.html in a manner that neither Hector and Neil either cannot or will not do? I don’t know your background, so I hope I’m not telling granny how to suck eggs by saying that the basic bioclimatic and geobotanical parameters in this area of coastal Norway are very similar indeed to much of north-central Scotland. Fundamental features such as mean annual temperature, temperature lapse rate per altitude, mean annual windspeed, precipitation and day degree temperature sums above 5.6C and 10 Celsius.( critical for grass growing and tree growing potential) are substantially the same. Prior to disturbance and indeed to this day the soil-vegetation complex( the primal basic resource) was similar to the boreo-nemoral forest, shrub, heath and grass communities found in the Highlands. The landscapes shown are not primal undisturbed ones, but are cultural landscapes, as are those in the so-called last unspoiled wilderness of the Highlands ( pause, while I laugh and vomit at the same time).

      If you compare these range of photos with those shown in the advertising literature for Auch-Invermearan or Suisgill estates, it is not difficult to see that the cultural landscape outcomes , given the basic environmental similarities, are very different. It is no secret that I would prefer to see one more like the Norwegian pertain in Scotland in terms of land tenure and use, but it is also no secret that without a range of local and national government fiscal support mechanisms such a cultural environment would not exist.
      So I ask rhetorically, should we have such fiscal support mechanisms at all and if so to whom, what and why should they be directed?

      Reply

      • Ron – for the record – I did look at that link but it seemed to be mostly about mountaineering so instead I found the place on Google Earth and am going for a slow virtual drive up the valley in the Google Streetview car but as I have only a very slow internet connection, this takes time. From what I’ve seen so far, though, it reminds me a bit of Loch Broom and the approach to Ullapool.

        There is no doubt that Norway appears to be more uniformly densely populated compared with Scotland’s areas of emptiness with occasional pockets of population, particularly in the crofting areas. This is, of course, due to Sc and No’s different histories. The question always in my mind, though, is can Norway be reproduced in Scotland and, if it can, how do you achieve it? Fiscal stimuli alone will not work overnight (and possibly cause a lengthy transition phase with some negative effects) and doing it by central planning – physically carving up these big estates into smaller units – is likely to involve all sorts of controversies for e.g. fewer 3k acre hill farms or more crofts and/or what mix of these? I’d love to know more about Orbost where Jim Hunter’s book hinted there were controversies of that sort. What lessons were learnt before embarking on this on a much larger scale?

        The fact it might be difficult is not, of course, a reason for not doing something but these are the sorts of issues that need to be gone into very thoroughly, IMO.

        Norway not in the EU of course, so do they have Norway Govt. funded agriculture and forestry grants?

        Reply

        • Neil,
          The point is the landscape they were walking through and key components within it and if you are into to google streetview, that’s fair enough. My professional and vocational background would of course lead me to focus on those components in a manner different from those with other backgrounds.

          I don’t think a blanket copy of Norway is the way forward, but taking their example( including the mistakes) into our future perspectives for change would be helpful. It destroys entirely the ‘we dinnae hae–so we cannae dae’ argument in terms of the landscape and socio-economic potential.

          It has taken Norway more than a century to get to this position, from the days when places like Lyngdal suffered mass emigration on a scale approaching the clearances, and much of the coastal counties were deforested. It is no overnight Nirvana, not by a long chalk. ‘Revolution’ or ‘evolution’? Well, I would prefer to see the latter initiated first, through fiscal measures, both carrot and stick, then reappraise the need for more direct measures as we see how that unfolds.

          Yes, the Norwegian farm/forest subsidies are substantial with a profound effect, but on the other hand there is very little unemployment and there is a much more powerful system of local government.

          Reply

  53. Well said david, high land prices benefit no one except the sellers.
    Same with high house prices.
    The shift to area basis of subsidy away from historic is going to make things worse.

    Reply

    • nothing wrong with high prices( hopefully one day income tax free) for bricks and mortar created by the private hand of man and further upgrading it to the highest quality product that he can get the best price for in the market for such a product. However getting societally created Land Rental Value for the other component of the duality of ‘property'( we wrongly conflate it into one), LAND for doing nothing is an entirely different prospect.

      Reply

      • And land doing nothing is exactly what you’ll get if subsidy continues to be based on historic basis.

        Reply

        • reallly? the min stocking rate is next to nothing, and stock numbers will crash, businesses will fail, but lairds will be quaffing the champagne.

          Reply

          • To Tom Gray, “They demonstrated exactly the energy that will keep farming alive in our hills and uplands. ( Were not many tenants moved out to ensure the purity of Highland Spring)? Enthusiasts with fondness for animals and determination to be successful in development of their aspirations on their own patch of Scotland. Similar aspiration is shared by all, and aspiring farmers. However, many are limited to the landlord tenant system”…. “their own patch of Scotland”. That is an extraordinarily benign and misleading description of their several estates amounting to vast acres and many tenancies which according to you are “limited to the landlord tenant system”. All this owned by one foreign family. What is it beyond Quoigg beef lots that makes them the exception to your stated loathing of landlords and the tenancy system? You’re on record as supporting the call for ARTB. It begs the question, would you seek to purchase an Al Tajir tenancy under ARTB or would you choose to continue as a tenant of a landlord you clearly admire? Enlighten me Tom. What is it about these particular foreign landowners that is acceptable to you whilst all others are not?

    • Well Hector if we go back to headage payments, please can we just stick a £50 note up the bum of a plastic sheep and pay people to put plastic sheep out on the hill at morning and take them down again at night, so the hills don’t have to be grazed and burned to a friggin frazzle and we don’t have the sheer utter nonsense of paying people public subsidy on one side of a forest fence to graze the landscape to threadbare carpet level, whilst paying the same people a public subsidy on the other side to re-establish native trees?

      Reply

  54. Ron, i am not sure where you are coming from, i never said anything about headage payments, and i know enough about norway to accept your points without arguement. As to LRV, you are preaching to the converted.
    The new acreage based sfp is going to hand the lairds a klondyke , and we shouldnt be surprised since they have lobbied incessantly for it since the sfp left them clutching air.

    Reply

    • Hector
      Well, I’m glad you have now said as much and it will assist me in not misunderstanding your posts. What historic level and method of subsidy would you suggest? I agree that the SFP area payment is another stitch up job by the ‘lairdopoly’

      Reply

    • The area basis has been pushed as the direction of travel from Brussels since the beginning of CAP reform and decoupling. Scotland is one of the last few countries to adapt to area payments. Scotland chose the historical reference because we are so heavily biased towards livestock production. The Jim Walkers, George Lyons, John Camerons et al were instrumental in ensuring Scotland’s historic basis. They’re still pushing it, thank goodness George Milne and sheep producers are being more circumspect before leaping into all that again which would be to the detriment of new entrants. They were shafted in this programme and farming has stagnated, they must not be sidelined again.

      Reply

      • Daye, yet again you are on the wrong end of the stick.
        New entrants were not shafted by sfp, they were shafted by a lack of a new entrant provision. That was the only fault of the system, apart from a £100k cap
        And george milne rejected headage, not historic payments.
        And are we not still heavily biased to livestock production?
        Farming has stagnated yes, but the change to area will make it worse, except if you are a landlord who will be coining it in.

        Reply

        • Same difference, they were shafted and it wasn’t the only fault. The biggest fault was the lack of active farmer provision and the ability to trade entitlements between different land capabilities. I’m surrounded by inactive farmers collecting subsidy simply by dint of purchasing a few naked acres. George hasn’t as you say “rejected” he is wisely waiting to see more detail before making a decision. Entitlements will no longer be able to be traded outwith their land capability.

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  55. The new sfp should have been rebased on 2011, with a young farmer category award of sfp, and a cap of 100,000 euros. Job done.
    Any claims made on land where tenant evicted to be void.

    Reply

  56. Where is A B W with his ‘ comparables ‘ of Scotland with South Africa ?? . Selective memory kicked in again ?? .

    Reply

  57. All we ever hear about is inactive farmers.
    What about all the inactive landlords? Who have hoovered up the majority of subsidies since WW2?
    Including all the capital grants?
    The only slipper farmers i know were forcibly evicted, so the sfp is their only way to live.

    Reply

    • Hector, if landlords didn’t actively farm and many didn’t and don’t, then they didn’t and don’t get entitlements to qualify for subsidy. The only inactive landlords that get farm subsidies are those that bought entitlements. They are no different to all the other farmers, tenants, yes and even the likes of Rangers Football Club who invested and operated within a flawed system. You may not know many slipper farmers but every other farmer throughout Scotland knows which ones are slipper farmers in their own area and they’re certainly not all “evicted” tenants. If we want Scottish Farming plc to thrive and survive, a whole suite of measures need to be put in place including sorting out farm subsidies. Those new starts who are just managing to survive without subsidy should be an example to all still wholly dependent on public subsidy, and easing their pain by clinging on to the historic system will only compound stagnation in the sector.

      Reply

      • And what about the rent based on public subsidy since ww2?
        Before subsidies, rents were £1 or £2 per acre in 1945.
        Now they are £50 plus and landlord investment has been near zero, so thats £48 per acre of pure profit to the laird courtesy of the taxpayer.

        Reply

        • Hector you could build a 4 bedroom house in 1950 for £1000. You’d struggle to put up a 12 x 12 field shelter for that sum in 2013.

          Reply

    • Hector,
      They should try living on the dole like other people who lose their jobs at the whim of others ( any of them getting less on SFP than dole money ? —-and if they are, then they must have other income sources) We need a radical rethink of first the why behind subsidies, then the what and after that, the how. The EU system was devised to assist contintental farming and tenure systems with a more extensive landownership basis than the unusually high concentration in so few private hands that pertains in Scotland and it would be no good going down the Norwegian route either, because their system too( with all its own problems) is geared to extensive small scale ownership. So the onus comes back to us to change the nature of tenure in Scotland.

      Reply

      • Absolutely right ron, CAP is designed for a landlord free continental europe.
        Thats why it is so damaging here in our feudal timewarp.

        Reply

        • Hector, tenant farming is absolutely common practice in the former GDR where so-called “Wiedereinrichter” work on land that they rent from pre-GDR owners who were given it back after unification.

          Reply

  58. Tom Gray; “Daye, since your response seems to be lost somewhere in this lengthy blog (is that another of your diversionary tactics?)” Both of your recent lengthy responses to me seem to be be missing the “Reply” facility. As an SNP Councillor for Perth & Kinrosss, an owner occupier farmer, and a tenant, can the good people in your constituency and other areas of P&K, count on your support to progress the community ownership of Perth City Hall and their vision to create a permanent Market Place within the building?

    Reply

  59. Daye, “the only inactive landlords that get farm subsidies are those that bought entitlements” You are totally wrong with this statement. And i wont try to rubbish it by demanding ‘where is your evidence’? There are 2 Large estates that i know which have gobbled up family farms, cows and sheep included, where now the stock are long gone. Totally Inactive, yet coining it in with SFP.
    As for new entrants not receiving SFP, well the truth is their SFP is their job outside agriculture which they cant afford to leave due to no security, because the lairds want shorter and shorter tenancies, before long they will have a 1month tenancy!
    The subsidy system is not great but that is not the problem we face, its the subsidy being brought into rent demands which is a greater threat. Basically tenant farming in Scotland with reliance on subsidy, cannot support family life AND the propping up of estates running costs. Landlord….Farming….Tenant = a recipe for melt down.

    Reply

    • SS, I’m not doubting your story about the estates gobbling up the family farms but what I don’t understand (and I’m not doubting you, I’m trying to understand) is where the estates got the SFP entitlements to match with the eligible hectares of the land they took back in hand unless they bought them? The only other mechanism (except purchase) I can think of is that the estate had an inhand farming operation on the basis of which they got their initial award of SFPEs back in 2005, then they sold that land and, in quick succession before they lost them due to “use it or lose it” (the “use” element meaning little more than having the eligible hectares, I grant you), transferred the entitlements to the land they had taken back in hand?

      As I imagine Andy must be within a hair’s breadth of warning us for going too far off topic again, if you prefer, you can e-mail me at my name run together as one word followed by figures eight four at hotmail dot com.

      Reply

    • Don’t disagree with some of that, and I clearly inferred that there were many facets to the failure. Of course new entrants have to have a job outside farming, in fact it is a strict condition for applicants to FCS New Entrant farms. It is the norm for most family farmers in Europe to part time farm as well as join co operatives. Neither of these is presently embraced by Scottish farmers, but the decreasing subsidies might force them to. Until we follow the example of other European farmers, the pain will continue for both tenants and owner occupiers alike. The prediction is that full time farming for all but large units will not be viable. The New Entrants therefor have a head start and many would be happy to see an end to Direct Payments if only to allow them to at least operate on a level playing field.

      Reply

  60. Neil, these estates i refer to ended tenancies on family farms in the days of suckler cow premium, sheep annual premium, beef special etc.. Then the change to SFP with reference years, the estates that i know then got clear of all cattle and sheep off Three family farms, but they still kept a small number of sheep and cattle on a separate hill to qualify for LFA payment over the whole estate, and i am talking about 10’s of thousands of acres.
    all practice of slipper farming and trading entitlements is a poor show, but what i find a real abuse of the system is where estates base rent increases on sub. They are taxing tenants on something which they have not provided. Just as terrible as basing rent increases on open market value. i like to say to the factor, well just give me a couple of years to block all the ditches, lift all the field drains, flood half the farm, re-plant all the rashes and rough scrub, extract all fertiliser and lime, roll all the boulders back into the field, rip up all the fences, destroy the tracks, flatten the steading, rip some slates off the house roof. AND then we will see what the open market value is.

    Reply

    • SS – I had not realised you were talking about things happening *before* the SFP regime came in.

      Basing rent on market demand or productive capacity is another issue. That’s just something that’s got to be faced up to and decided if there is going to be a change. There are arguments both ways. The decision has to be in the best interests of society as a whole, not just the vested interests of tenants. Or landlords.

      As for your thing about blocking the drains etc., that’s just ridiculous at any level. And I know that you’re clever enough to know that it is as well.

      Reply

  61. Paying rent on your own improvements is the oldest ripoff/ theft in history.
    The Irish outlawed it in 1873, why are we still waiting?
    Stolen tenants improvements paid for all the grand houses in scotland, except those built on drugs or slavery.

    Reply

  62. Neil, before SFP or not! i was picking Daye up on her claim about estates and inactivity. My point about blocking drains etc was an illustration (agree ridiculous) to show how rents are mostly made up of tenants improvements. As for a positive solution, implement ARTB.

    Reply

    • Inactivity is not confined to estates it is the outcome of bad subsidy design. Blocking up drains was forced on many estates, farmers and tenants by the Lib/Lab administration and the environmental lobby led by , SNH and LINK members. The compensation paid was not commensurate with the loss in socio economic terms and was universally hailed at the time and over recent years as the second Highland Clearances. Look to what’s happening in Islay and other islands with geese pressure, all driven by the environmental lobby. That’s not the fault of estate owners or those who manage the land. To lay the blame for blocking drains at the door of the estates is misguided. They were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t because ill judged EU headage payments were indeed at the time, damaging the environment. Those environmental gains had a societal price and hill farming was the scapegoat and ultimate victim. ARTB won’t solve the problem of a badly designed and badly targeted subsidy system. Whoever owns the land is merely a tool for delivery of EU directives and one size fits all measures. You need to be aware of the continued build up of pressure from those who want see our our hills and straths “rewilded” to become a playground for English visitors and a carbon gain for the UK to balance against the carbon loss produced in the heavily populated and carbon wasteful south. There is a small chance this time that measures in Scotland can be better tailored because, Regions will for the first time, have more devolved control and be able to tailor design of the measures to achieve better outcomes for us.

      Reply

  63. Daye
    A R T B would give the present tenant farmer FREEDOM from the constant rent demands from his landlord . Have you ever feared the ‘. Knock on the door ‘ ??

    Reply

    • Yes it would but how could the public be assured that that individual tenant would be the best applicant for receipt of a farm bought with public money. Community buyouts are subject to evaluation. Any tenant receiving public money to buy through ARTB would then be subject to EU and local evaluations which would probably include comparators of local housing rents.

      In answer to “knock on the door” question, no, my rent was agreed and paid by DD and I was lucky enough not to suffer such a situation. During FMD we requested a rent moratorium which was granted without question as with many other tenant’s requests, and again, more recently in response to the recent extreme weather challenges, but I do appreciate that this is not entirely universal. Accusations are easy, getting the facts of the accusations into the public domain is the answer, allowing the community/government to judge what is a fair and appropriate local rent? That has potential to backfire for some tenants with fair landlords who look longterm. Like social housing there is a massive shortage of supply for those who can not afford to buy, leaving only those with a degree of wealth to access. If public money is used, as with FCS Starter Farms to provide opportunities, there is still competition of a different sort. Applicants have to demonstrate a range of skills, including evidence of alternative employment. I hear in Norway, that potential farmers go through an interview process at local level and those with best potential get to run the farm.

      Reply

      • hebrideanfarmer

        I think you may be well advised not to make assumptions about how tenants will pay for their farms when they get the ARTB. I have already had a meeting with my bank manager, and he assured me that he would be delighted to offer me a mortgage to buy my farm…given that I will be buying a farm classed as having a “sitting tenant” Just the same as the laird bought it with a sitting tenant.
        And yes Daye, you are off on a “DT tangent” Where did the ” comparators of local housing rents. ” come from when taking about agricultural rents ?

        Reply

  64. Yet another Daye Tucker Tangent.
    We are talking about tenants improvements, not environmental payments.
    The fact is, well over half the value of tenanted farms has been created by generations of tenants, and ARTB will merely enshrine that in law, once the landlord -made- law has been overturned.
    In any case, no one was forced to block a drain, they were paid to do it.

    Reply

    • The two are intertwined in the context of drainage as the example you set. Certainly on my farm, the investment in drainage was made over the generations by the wealthy landowners. In more recent times, the government provided drainage subsidies and many areas of boggy moor were reclaimed much to the fury of environmentalists who immediately demanded that the grips be blocked. Maintenance of drains was either the landlord’s responsibility or the tenant’s depending on what agreement they came to before signing lease/tenancy agreement. However, you rightly quoted drainage as tenants improvements, and assuming it was the tenants who undertook the drainage, not the landowner, if that drainage work undertaken by tenants is then blocked for an environmental outcome, it would only seem fair that the tenant gets compensation or a rent decrease for loss of land. How am I going off at a tangent? Surely it was cogent to the point you are trying to make.

      Unless tenants have an agreement with their landlord to undertake environmental schemes then yes, they can be victim through a landowner’s actions to implement environmental schemes, to losing “productive” ground, leading to lowering of their stocking rates, leading to lower direct payments and in some cases costs of purchasing entitlements, entitlements which for many assured them of 20% on their investment without having to actively farm. Undeniably not a good situation for the tenant unless they had the finances to invest in entitlements. Are you saying that this is universal throughout Scotland or a situation that you and others are personally experiencing? Does the public have access to data on how many such situations exist and who bought and benefited from the investment in entitlements?

      Reply

    • I’m assuming you mean the landowner was paid to do it? Were any rents reduced accordingly? How did FCS tackle the issue of blocking grips on their stewarded public land which had supported many hill farms? How many tenancies were ended on FCS public land overseen by Scottish Ministers particularly in Dumfries and Galloway? Your assumption that “the landlord -made- law” is outdated. EU and government policy has driven the shape of the landscape since CAP began.

      Reply

  65. N o one is asking for public money, the banks will lend with relish for ARTB

    Reply

    • Is that the same banks that are busy calling in loans from our farmers and asset stripping to shore up their own Deposits deficits to comply with Westminster demands? 8.5% in a climate of global commodity volatility, market pressures, extreme weather events. Brave man, most tenants I know have opted for their landlord, but they do have good working relationships, where both parties appreciate what each brings to the table.

      Reply

    • hebrideanfarmer

      Hear! Hear! Hector.

      Reply

  66. What proof do you have that landlords did the draining?
    Some landlords in later years supplied materials, but not labour for installation, which is half the cost.
    Even where a new steading was built by a laird, the tenant would have been forced to cart the stone, about a third of the whole cost, and forced to pay back capital and interest.
    And would recieve nothing at waygo. Very fair.

    Reply

    • All landlord tenant relationships are individual and you consistently quote bad examples of relations. It’s no wonder you are so angry. Re proof of investment. Depends on timescale. Here it was the Irish who came over in the late 1800s who built our farm’s drainage systems, much of which still function well. There was no history of tenancy on my farm until the late seventies early eighties, memory isn’t good, although some other farms on the estate were tenanted. The whole estate is broken up now into owner occupier farms and private dwellings.

      Certainly the tenant before us “maintained” the drains to an extent and took advantage of the last government grants but we had a lot of work to do and undo when we came in. As you know, it’s expensive and ongoing. Due to climate change, the original clay drains struggle to cope with the monsoon like levels of rainfalls we now experience and the income from farming without a subsidy doesn’t allow for the investment required.

      It’s a catch 22, if farming isn’t viable without subsidy, no matter the recipient, investment is curtailed that’s business. If a wealthy landlord able to transfer funds from a healthy high earning business elsewhere is investing in his farm property that is good, if he’s not then that is bad. It’s bad for Scotland plc, it’s bad globally. At a time when sustainable food production is so vital it is shameful.

      Reply

  67. I used to think like you until i started discovering the real history of scottish farming, the tenants who did the work and who then got short shift.
    I have examples of massive investment by tenants, which are the tip of the iceberg, as most cases would never got to court.
    If that wernt bad enough, those practises still go on.

    Reply

    • I live in the present not the past but I’m well aware that injustices are present in every walk of life including presently. Perhaps you only meet farmers who suffer injustice at the hands of their landlord. I don’t, many of my tenant colleagues are working to survive the bank borrowing partly made worse by global pressures and partly because in times of plenty and less extreme weather, they over geared on machinery. In my area it was larger machinery, the impact of which is now causing compaction and more expense to put right. Few if any have invested in fixed assets which they could not take with them should they ever decide to branch out into ownership. In fact our ex Regional Chair constantly warned only to invest in movable equipment.

      With the new arbitration system coming into place the expensive horrors of the land court can be avoided and tenants can take their case to court. But even then it won’t solve all the problems because we are dealing with human nature and there will always be greed.

      Reply

  68. Daye

    Do you know of any landlord locally to you who has evicted tenants on the estate and the in-hand farms have been improved by the landlord ? .

    Reply

    • I know of one tenant who’s lease wasn’t renewed in the seventies, his land certainly wasn’t “improved”, it was always rushy bog on the flat and is even worse now in spite of large amounts spent trying to drain it. Other than the farmer prior to us who only B&Bd cattle for the mart and who went bankrupt over the BSE crisis, I can’t think of any in my area. Most is positive round me, very good relationships although it’s only human nature to strive and want more. But round me the landowners are, dare I say it, the old families who’ve had the farms in their families for hundreds of years and some of the tenants are 5th generation so will be securely there for many to come hopefully. But realistic prices for their produce needs to come sooner rather than later.

      Reply

  69. Daye
    But what about your big local landlord ? Are the in-hand farms being well farmed ?

    Reply

    • Pleased to say, on my North side very well, but it’s better ground and first rate, not old farmers. All visible from the main road. On my South East the ground is very poor and wet and only recently, say the last five years is there evidence of mega investment in drainage and it is all farmed in hand, the next generation has taken over and London earned money is being spent, there’s even a field being ploughed on the more fertile south facing ground. In the seventies some of that ground grew fruit, great fertile soils, south facing. Further on to the East there’s been a lot of investment in infrastructure by the very wealthy landlord and that one too is very well farmed but mega livestock numbers mega rented ground all over Scotland. Fuel costs must be massive. In general, the better ground is better farmed, there’s some cracking tenant farms in the county. On the other hand there is a perfect example about 25 miles North of years of neglect. Tom Gray highlighted some investment in the in hand farm. Good to hear and time will tell, although he didn’t mention if the tenant farms enjoyed any investment.

      Reply

      • Daye, what kind of a nation are we when we have mega wealthy lairds and London money coming into improve the land? This is unsustainable, and to put reliance on the super rich is daft. This is not allowing for local generated wealth, hard work and efficient family farms to lead the way. I get worried when you ‘appear’ to hold this type of land/money relationship with such high regard.

        Reply

  70. Daye, you have clearly been told by SLAE to steer this down the subsidy road. It is true the system needs fixed, but the blog is about the super rich land gobbiling absentee tax dodgers. They need to be sorted out, and one of the best ways to do this, which fits in nicely with the governments wish to see a fairer pattern of ownership is to implement the ARTB. Remember this is an OPPORTUNITY to buy. A movement which will strengthen communities and no doubt strengthen the relationship between remaining tenants and landlords. Also worth noting, several surveys have been done, NFU, STFA etc even smaller local ones. and the overriding vast majority of tenants in Scotland are NOT HAPPY WITH THE LANDLORD TENANT SYSTEM. Daye, the tenants you meet and talk to know you are part of SLAE, they will smile at you and say how great things are, it is fake.

    Reply

    • I have been told no such thing. We all want “tax dodgers” sorted out absentee or otherwise and the sooner the better. ARTB is an undemocratic way of going about a fairer, more efficient system of land use in Scotland. It is undemocratic and illegal under ECHR rules except under certain circumstances, but you already know that. Scotland has a proceeds of crime fund, but I doubt that we in Scotland will see Westminster return any to Scotland if and when it can be proven that financial fraud has been committed.

      For a lucky few, just like the sale of council houses, ARTB is an opportunity to buy, but it creates a situation of injustice for others regardless of their record as landlords.

      Lastly, you are in no position to make a judgement on whether my farming colleagues are happy with the system. I was asked a direct question. Some are, some are not, but all share the same opinion on banks. You insult and disrespect their intelligence but more importantly their right to have a different opinion on ARTB from your own.

      Reply

      • hebrideanfarmer

        There isn’t a farmer alive that would claim that a farming unit is more successful rented as opposed to tenanted. There are only a handful of lairds in Scotland, so in my mind there is a great democratic case for the ARTB. So many tenant farmers would flourish and would outnumber the small number of lairds that would wither. Ultimate democracy.
        You talk about “Land Use ” again Daye…..Determined as you are, I will say again, if you want a debate on land use carry on in another blog, this blog is about Land Reform.
        I understand you support Scottish farmers being independent, then let all Scottish farmers be independent from a laird who is halting economic progress, by perpetuating an outdated feudal system. (and don’t even think of coming back to me saying that the feudal system has gone ! )

        Reply

        • It was tenanted up until the seventies, and that is exactly the ground I described as “On my South East the ground is very poor and wet and only recently, say the last five years is there evidence of mega investment in drainage and it is all farmed in hand, the next generation has taken over and London earned money is being spent, there’s even a field being ploughed on the more fertile south facing ground.” Even when the tenant was farming it the fields were full of rushes.

          Reply

  71. Daye, then you are also in no position to make judgements claiming tenants are happy. i am not suggesting they have any view on ARTB, what i am trying to tell you, is that nobody reading this forum is going to believe your comments about tenants. Its basically like asking a factor are his tenants happy?
    To stick to the topic, you say Daye “WE all want tax dodgers sorted out absentee or otherwise”. How would you sort out absentee tax dodgers then?

    Reply

    • hebrideanfarmer

      Well said Slurry Stirrer.

      Reply

    • I didn’t say that “tenants” were happy. That is a gross misinterpretation and you have taken my answer to Gentle Dove out of context. However, as you have taken on the role of judge and jury on what everybody reading this forum is going to believe, there is little point in continuing the discourse with me or indeed anyone else who’s comments you choose to distort.

      Reply

  72. Daye
    You had a soil meeting several weeks ago . As we passed by Strathblane towards your farm , some people said that the ground around the distillery was tenanted several years ago . They could not believe that the estate used to be well cared for by the tenant farmers . This ground is close to your farm so you must know it .

    Reply

  73. It’s just occurred to me that the picture illustrating the Jim Hunter article at the top of this blog is somewhere in the Outer Hebrides, the area where land has effectively already been “reformed” – security of tenure for crofters in 1886, ARTB for crofters in 1976 and absolute crofting community right to buy in 2003. And yet what does the picture depict but an abandoned derelict croft house. Why is that?

    Reply

  74. Daye, i didnt think you would fancy answering the question. Come on answer the question about how we are going to sort out tax dodging mega rich lairds? don’t end it by saying i am not behaving properly, start answering some questions.

    Reply

    • Well said SS.
      I gave up on this otherwise useful blog some time ago due to personal distorted facts and diversion.
      You’ve been stuffing your twopence worth into a bottomless slot machine all day, you then ask one straightforward question in return and are rewarded with yet another divertionary move.
      Then lo and behold Neil comes back with another negative comment.
      You’d have had a more productive day stirring your slurry with a budgie tail feather.
      Good night.

      Reply

    • Fair enough, but I thought that was self evident. Hasn’t Andy brought it to the attention of SAC and ask them to investigate. They in turn have called for evidence which I’m sure you will have responded to. The Committee have further sought and got an assurance from David Cameron that tax matters highlighted will be investigated. Now you already knew that, or did you not?

      Reply

    • Tax dodging is part of what you get with using tax as the basis of public revenue, the other is less of the activity or item being taxed being produced. Collecting the FULL annual land rental value to REPLACE direct taxation on labour/bricks&mortar, cannot possibly lead to less land being produced. Since land cannot be hidden or transferred and over the centuries the ‘lairdopoly’ in Scotland has defined its territorial boundaries very tightly, LRV collection offers specific unavoidability.

      Reply

      • Ron, as far as I can make out, the present UK tax receipts for the year are 469 777 million pounds and the UK’s land area is 60197341 acres. If you get rid of all other taxation, that makes 7803 pounds per acre. Quite a sum, don’t you think so? Then you get into all that business of valuation, i.e. one acre in Edinburgh New Town vs. the vast acreages of hill land that are never used at all (and more often than not belong to large estates). I suppose farm land might end up in the middle, i.e. 7803 pouns per acre. Would you be willing to pay that much?

        Reply

        • the ‘land’ also includes the marine continental shelf, every thing to the centre of the earth below it and all above to Orion. Scotland has 30% of the land and less than 10% of the population, so has a very favourable population to resource ratio. Before I retired I was paying a 4 figure sum for my council tax per year in any case plus the standard rate of tax in a below average wage job. So that would be about £3,000+ per year. If I had one quarter of an acre at £ 7,800 pa I’d be paying less than £2000 pa or at half an acre , less than £4,000 and facing no income tax for increasing, my income through hard work, promotion or entrepeneurial flair.
          The whole of the UK was assessed for land rental values just before WW1 and it took, less than 18 months, So with modern computer and satellite technology?
          Right now the nondoms are paying no tax, but taking the LRV. Scotland has 50% of its private land owned by 432 people. The other half may take a wee bit longer.

          Reply

  75. Yes Neil, good question. possibly due to the fact that these areas were swarming with houses, and now although there could be a healthy crofting population, it is no where near as high. So there is no demand to renovate this type of house, also it is attractive to go for new build.

    Reply

  76. Daye, You mention that ARTB would be an injustice to landlords, well the current system is an injustice to tenants, and we aim to change it.

    Reply

    • Try to look beyond “landlords” to the bigger picture. A small farmer, owner occupier or heaven forfend, a tenant, with a field close to a town or village could find himself a victim to ARTB. It is entirely possible that the particular field sought by the community for genuine reasons is key to the viability of his farm business.

      Reply

      • hebrideanfarmer

        If that particular ground was taken for the community for genuine reasons, that is, to be in the best interest of the community as a whole, then so be it. Tenant’s have had a great deal of experience in this. Ground being taken back (resumed) whether they agree to it or not. There is certainly a clause in my lease that allows this very practice. I would be able to accept it better if it was for the community interest though.

        Reply

        • I can understand that. Was there a clause which stated a rent reduction or compensation in the event of such a change? Did you negotiate your lease before accepting it? Or was it a take it or leave it situation?

          Reply

  77. Daye
    You know full well that this good ground was well farmed by previous tenants . The laird managed to terminate the tenancies to take the land back in hand . It is now not being properly farmed .

    Reply

    • Yes they are all back in hand and have been for well over a decade. It depends which farm and which tenant. Each one was different. Also depends how far back in time you are going. I only remember from the sixties and yes the Westerton was farmed very well, the best of all the farms, and it had good soil. They were the first in the area to have a farm shop and grow pick your own fruit. We all missed it when they gave up. The Lettre was a well renowned hill sheep farm. No one was evicted from either though. Old age and ill health were the cause and in the case of the Westerton I got it direct from them that they stopped the farm shop and fruit because it wasn’t making enough money. Probably ahead of their time, they would make a bomb nowadays and be well supported. As for Burnfoot, the best of farmers would struggle there and Baptiston, I don’t remember ever thinking as I passed it, “that’s a great farm”. But pre the 60s they may well have been well farmed. They are all contract farmed for sheep and let out on a seasonal grass let basis. The ground round here struggles to carry cattle nowadays. But you’re right there’s bound to be someone out there that has enough capital to invest in the sort of courts, infrastructure and soil renovation that are mandatory for farming here, if only the farms would come up for sale. How would you “properly” farm one of them, bearing in mind the small acreage of each unit?

      Reply

  78. Negotiate a lease?
    You are joking?
    Take or leave it is the answer.
    AND DONT EXPECT THE LAIRD TO KEEP HIS SIDE.
    If the tenant breaches the lease, he will be evicted, yet unless you have a spare £50k for the land court, the landlord can do as he pleases.

    Reply

    • Not joking, during a conversation with a farmer from the Borders, he told me that the terms of renewal had not been acceptable to him. So he told the land agent to think again. The land agent did think again to the extent that within 5 mins, new terms were agreed! Clearly the agent didn’t want to lose a good and valued tenant.

      Re the land court, that is no longer the only option, but you knew that.

      Reply

  79. What a great opportunity we have here to feed information and facts into the government, in order for them to investigate the practice of tax avoidance. There is definitely a strong link to be made between this and land reform. Prof Hunter with his knowledge has shown this perfectly.
    If we look at this from the top.Q: land needs to have a fairer distribution of ownership because of 432 people own 50%.? A: what section of people can be enhanced encouraged to become owners.
    Q: how can we discourage/prevent tax avoidance? A: legislation change to expose ownership and collect tax.
    the fall out from these two questions is going to affect people who work on the land, so hopefully it will be positive. Does anyone agree with me that prof Hunter should be taken straight into Hollyrood and told to draft the solution right away? am i naive, is he already in close consultation?

    Reply

  80. Daye
    Sounds like another fairy story !! ?? .

    Reply

  81. gentle dove, you are right, a fairy story to try and divert from the real issue.

    Reply

    • Without commentators that balance and share alternative views and experiences, the debate is diminished and meaningless. Once more, can I plead, as Andy has done for respectful, polite exchanges of views. Closing down the debate and discussion on land reform serves no purpose.

      Reply

  82. Daye
    So I take it that you agree that the farms in question would be farmed better if they were owner/occupied by working farmers ? .

    Reply

    • Gentle Dove, happy to answer but don’t want to risk incurring further wrath and being accused of going off topic unless provided with an assurance that our discussion is within the rules. You can always PM me on Facebook, or if passing my way again, you’d be made welcome at the farm.

      Reply

  83. Daye , its entirely different to negotiate a renewal than it is when you are new to the place.
    This is where inexperienced young farmers get minced.
    Most leases are on a take it or leave it basis, as there is generally a queue of eager applicants waiting to sign their lives away to enrich the big hoose..

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    • I well understand that Hector. Negotiating a renewal does indeed give more power to a much valued, high quality, experienced tenant who has proven him or herself. The new, inexperienced, applicant for a tenancy situation involves a degree of risk for both parties unless both come with outside recommendations. Trusted, word of mouth recommendations might still provide an inexperienced but potentially capable tenant with bargaining power and if the tenant has done their homework, they won’t risk applying for any relationship that could result in them signing their life away.

      But I’m guessing the more important point behind your comment is that you wish rid of all tenancy opportunities rather than risk potential enrichment of the “big house”. Can you clarify, in terms of Land Reform, do you come down on the side of no tenancies only owner occupied farms? Is this a simple basic question that should be collated with others and eventually put to a national vote as we move forward?

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  84. Daye, what do you mean “they wouldnt risk it”
    Farming opportunities have always been few and far between, and you have to take risks, or they will pass you by.
    My point is that landlords have no need to keep to the terms of any agreement, as once the tenant has been there a few years, invested his cash,worked every available hour etc, and the deal has not been kept, he has no recourse.
    That is why we need ARTB to give tenants a stick to wield.
    All 91 act tenants should have the right buy, and the right to assign, which will equalise the power ratio.

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  85. exactly Hector. i like the idea of 100% owner occupation and residency. The beauty of owner occupation with residency, spread out across the dismantled estates is that all income is focused back into the community for a ‘wider’ range of people. No land is lost in any way, not even the stupid phrase “land lost from the tenancy pool” land can always be let no matter who owns it. Even better is that really big farms can sell off bits to create new units. We have to do something radical, tenants human rights are being breached living under such a massive and powerful landed system.
    What would also help BALANCE the debate, is if tenant farmers could employ a few people to spend time going through all blogs and ridiculing anybody who continually tries to deviate off subject.

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  86. “if the tenant has done their homework, they won’t risk applying for any relationship that could result in them signing their life away.” Self explanatory. Business decision. Works both ways. Use of judgement. A lease is a legally binding document. Weak leases can lead to abuse by either party. A good tenant would be wasting their time and their investment with a bad landlord and vice versa. Do not all tenants presently have the pre emptive right to buy if there is a willing seller and the tenant has given notice of intent. Don’t 91 Act tenants have the right to assign down to grand children? I’m sure I read somewhere that a retiring farmer somewhere in the Western Isles had passed his tenancy on to his nephew, perhaps with the agreement of the landowner? I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m mistaken.

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  87. Pre emptive has not worked, the interesting thing is though, that the government have thought it is basically a good idea that tenants could become owner occupiers. So now it is time for an upgrade, all the experts, professors etc think it is good, tenants fancy it big time. Absentee lairds hate it, so what? they don’t live here and it is usually not their primary source of income. so bring it on, lets make history, there is nothing to fear.

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  88. “A good tenant wasting his time and investment with a bad landlord and vice versa”
    You are having a laugh.
    How does the young farmer know that the landlord is bad? Especially as these types will select a tenant from a distance, unversed in their badness.?
    Whats this vice versa? what landlord investment? they dont know the meaning of the word.
    The only bad tenant is one who doesnt pay his rent, and you get evicted for that.

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  89. Daye
    Sorry Daye .
    your argument is not good . What is happening on the local estate along the road from you is a classic example of what is going on in Scotland . You tried to cover up what has gone on , but you have been found out .

    Reply

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