The emergency resolution highlighted the case of Alison and David Telfer – two tenant farmers who have lived and worked at Cleuchfoot farm, owned by Buccleuch Estates, for 20 years.
The Telfers are facing removal because of the earlier-than-expected sale of their farm in order to make way for trees. The Duke of Buccleuch aims to profit from the receipt of lucrative forestry grants at the expense of his tenants.
SNP party member and former MSP Rob Gibson spoke on the resolution, referencing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s concern for the Telfer’s case.
Ms Sturgeon expressed her concern for the Telfers in response to a question posed by Ms McAlpine during First Minister’s Questions.
Mr Gibson, in his speech to conference, said:
“We welcome our party leader’s commitment to human rights of small tenants such as David and Alison Telfer. But, we want to see the full powers used by the radical Land Reform Act we passed in 2016. The Scottish Land commission was appointed by Parliament to step up the scrutiny of huge private kingdoms like the Duke of Buccleuch’s ¼ million acres
“I’m calling for the Scottish Land Commission and the Tenant Farming Commissioner to press the public interest; to ensure the Duke of Buccleuch’s land managers conduct structured, thorough and open engagement with local communities affected as the Land Reform Act lays down.”
Ms McAlpine, in response to her resolution passing, said:
“The Telfer’s case is in the public interest. I am heartened that this resolution was passed with unanimity. Buccleuch Estates should take note – we are keeping a close eye on them.
“We are seeing new lowland clearances in southern Scotland. We must not give grants that incentivise the removal of tenants. Buccleuch’s wealth rose by £11 million last year alone. This sale may be legal but it is not moral.
“The Duke has a responsibility to engage with the people he is affecting. The Telfers deserve better and the community at large deserves better too.”
The disposal of Cleuchfoot farm is part of a restructuring of the Duke of Buccleuch’s estate. The sale is part of the larger sell-off of the so-called Evertown Portfolio – a 9,000-acre rural estate in Dumfriesshire.
The Evertown Portfolio is being marketed by Buccleuch Estates in its entirety for over £19.5 million or in 18 individual lots including the Telfer’s farm.
EMERGENCY RES. 6: BUCCLEUCH ESTATES
Conference welcomes the FM’s concern for tenants of Buccleuch estates threatened with loss of their homes and farms in a drive for new forestry plantings.
Conference Calls on the Scottish Land Commission to press Buccleuch to conduct structured, thorough and open engagement with the community on their Eskdale plan
Conference believes that public grants should never be given when they incentivise the removal of tenants, even when this removal is legal due to a lease not bring renewed.
Joan McAlpine MSP
Annandale and Eskdale Branch
Cromarty Firth Branch
Rob Gibson’s Speech to Conference, in full:
In response to a question to the First Minister by Joan McAlpine, our FM has expressed her concern in the strongest terms, at FMQs, about threats to small farm tenants on Buccleuch Estates in a 9,000 acre block put up for sale. A sale that threatens the loss of fragile hill farm businesses and their local communities in the area.
Conference, we welcome our party leader’s commitment to human rights of small tenants such as David and Alison Telfer. But, we want to see the full powers used by the radical Land Reform Act we passed in 2016. The Scottish Land commission was appointed by Parliament to step up the scrutiny of huge private kingdoms like the Duke of Buccleuch’s ¼ million acres.
Already the Duke’s agents are selling 9,000 acres in order to increase estate revenues. This could at best spread landownership – But – small farmers can’t afford to buy, and it seeks to create larger blocks of plantation forestry that attract big grants, either for his own land or for large corporate buyers to tap public grants. These grants are aimed to help Scotland reach the admirable target of 25% land use in forestry and woodland in ten years.
NOT at the expense of vulnerable small tenant farmers and the fragile communities they live in.
So, I’m calling for the Scottish Land Commission and the Tenant Farming Commissioner to press the public interest; to ensure the Duke of Buccleuch’s land managers conduct structured, thorough and open engagement with local communities affected as the Land Reform Act lays down.
The Land Commission needs to give urgent and sustained attention to make sure our Ministers get every help to protect tenants.
The Land Commission is making great progress to offer solutions to a long list of land issues – bearing in mind the limited powers of the Scottish Parliament.
But conference. Before we can curb the size of huge estates and their expensive lawyers –
Before we can double the land in community ownership to one million acres,
The spotlight must be shone on huge estates like Buccleuch to the light of public scrutiny.
Conference, the Scottish people are suffering unnecessarily because of the power of huge landed estates.
We’re putting the Duke of Buccleuch on notice!