Scotland

Arran farm sale as John Paterson prepares for eviction

farm sale sign

John Paterson is one of a group of tenant farmers in Scotland facing eviction from their homes following a ruling by the UK Supreme Court. It overruled a law passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2003 which granted the farmers a secure tenancy, after finding it breached their landlords' human rights. The BBC's Scotland editor, Sarah Smith, went to meet Mr Paterson as he prepared to leave his home on Arran for the last time.

John Paterson says that watching all the farming equipment he has collected over the last 22 years being sold off at auction was the worst day of his life. Everything from tractors and quad bikes to spades and pitchforks went under the hammer this week.

It all had to be sold because the Paterson family are being evicted from Glenree farm, on the Isle of Arran, after more than two decades. When they leave next week they won't have anywhere to keep all the farm machinery it has taken two decades to collect.

For most of that time Mr Paterson believed the family could stay at Glenree indefinitely. He planned to eventually pass the tenancy to his seven-year-old son.

Image caption John and Ian Paterson are seeking compensation for their eviction

Although the family originally only signed a 10-year lease, a law passed by the Scottish government in 2003 appeared to convert that into a secure and lasting tenancy. That's why the family invested time and money into improving the farm.

Mr Paterson told me: "We built sheds, we put up hedging, fencing ...you name it we did it. All which the landlord will now gain from. I thought we'd be here at Glenree for my lifetime, my brother's lifetime, my son's lifetime, for generations."

The problem is that the land reform legislation passed in 2003, granting secure tenancies to farmers like Mr Paterson, was found to be flawed.

The supreme court has ruled that the law breached the human rights of landowners who didn't want permanent tenants on their land. Eviction notices inevitably followed.

Image caption The Paterson's farming equipment went under the hammer ahead of their eviction

That's why the Patersons say they don't blame their landlord for this situation.

They blame the Scottish government. Both the Labour/ Lib Dem administration in 2003 who passed the original, faulty legislation. And the current SNP administration who promised compensation which has not yet appeared.

Petitions supporting the Paterson family have gathered thousands of signatures.

There have been several large protests outside the Scottish Parliament.

Campaigners want to highlight what they see as broken promises from the Scottish government who offered both mediation and compensation to the eight families affected by its legislative mess.

Andy Wightman, the well-known land reform campaigner who now sits in the Scottish Parliament as a Green MSP, told me: "We are asking the government to fulfil obligations that it gave two years ago to provide mediation and compensation to tenant farmers affected by this ruling who face losing their farms.

"They have failed to deliver on that commitment. We are merely asking they fulfil their promises."

Image caption Their have been protests in support of the Patersons outside the Scottish Parliament

The tenant farmers are now asking the courts to enforce those promises. They are suing the Scottish government for compensation. A judgement is expected in the Court of Session in the coming weeks

The Scottish government say they can't discuss the details of live court actions.

In a statement they said: "We remain committed to facilitating and funding mediation between tenant farmers and their landlords, in the interests of supporting the sustainability and productivity of the holdings and to maintain a strong rural economy."

At Glenree farm on Arran, the Paterson family may receive some compensation from their landlord for improvements they've made to the farm. They have found a temporary house on the island to move into - but say they don't know how they will now make a living

Six more families across Scotland will suffer the same experience over the next couple of years.

If the courts rule in their favour they may receive financial compensation from the Scottish government.

But the legal action cannot keep the Patersons at Glenree. They will have to find somewhere else to start again.

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