Tag Archives: Richard Lochhead MSP

Fair trade: Northern Irish, Scottish and now English/Welsh food producers are lobbying politicians.

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Farmers For Action are holding an ‘all-sector’ march in London on Wednesday 23 March 2016 to represent the farming industry – with pig farmers, horticulturists, dairy farmers and other food producers.

david handley 5Spokesman David Handley says “we are still in conversation with processors and retailers alike and are delivering a very strong message most of what we are having to do in respect of London has been brought about by them and obviously the lack of any leadership from the current government”.

Regular readers will know about the negotiations undertaken by Farmers for Action in Northern Ireland, which include a recent meeting with Jim Allister and other MLAS.

On Thursday, the Scottish Farmer reports, political leaders were speaking – and listening we hope – to farmers and crofters at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh highlighting the importance of farming to the rural economy and to the whole nation.

fdf scots demoA crowd of more than two hundred heard from NFU president Allan Bowie, before being addressed by the Deputy First Minister, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Scottish Conservative leader, Scottish Liberal Democrats leader and Scottish Labour spokesperson. Bowie said:

“The unanimous message given by Scotland’s leading politicians to farmers today is that they recognise that farming matters and that the rural community matters. We want those words to translate into actions and when party manifestos emerge in the next few weeks, issues relevant to farming, food and the rural economy must be front and centre.

“But politicians must also address our dysfunctional supply chain. At a time when Scotland’s food and drink sector is growing in value, returns to the farm gate have fallen two years in a row and are set to fall again. For the farming community standing here today, we want to be part of the Scotland food and drink industry success story but the fact we are continually failing to get a fair margin needs to be addressed.

“The Scottish public want us to keep producing food, supporting local economies and delivering the fantastic landscape that Scotland enjoys. It is now up to Scottish Government to meet its own deadlines on delivering vital support and all political parties to ensure their manifestos will take the Scottish rural economy forward.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney came out on to the Holyrood courtyard to tell the farmers that he was “acutely aware” of the crisis facing the industry. “This is the right place to express your views. We hear you loud and clear,” he said.

“While we have robust political debate inside the chamber, all political parties agree that food production in this country is an absolute priority,” said Richard Lochhead, minister for rural affairs. “Helping out our food producers in their hour of need, whether that’s because of the issues we’ve had with payments or the weather, or because of low market prices, we have to do what we can to make sure that the skills you represent and the jobs you sustain and the support you give to Scotland is maintained going forward.”

Good words. But many are asking when British people will be able to put fairly traded milk in their Fairtrade coffee after a fairly traded breakfast.

 

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We can’t eat money – food security requires that the government acts to ensure fair trade and a fair deal for tenant farmers

In 2012, farmer Andrew Riddell mounted a legal challenge after being given notice to quit by millionaire landowner Alastair Salvesen. Shortly after losing the case, he collected one final harvest before he was due to be evicted from the farm his family had tended for more than 100 years, and killed himself.

milk farmers leaveAs farmers leave the land in droves (Dec 2014 figures, left) over 20,000 people have now signed a petition on behalf of another Scottish tenant farmer, Andrew Stoddart and his family, who will be made homeless in under a fortnight.

Mr Stoddart believes he is being forced from the farm so the factor and owner can make a higher profit. Provost Ludociv Broun-Lindsay, a Conservative on East Lothian Council, was listed as the owner of the Colstoun Mains in the council’s register of interests and the factor, Sir Francis Ogilvie who succeeded his father as the 14th Baronet of Inverquharity, is managing the estate.

This threat follows a ten year saga in which Mr Stoddart’s right to have his rent reviewed in the Land Court (2003) was legally challenged by his landlord, but granted by a Court of Session ruling in 2010. A 20% reduction in rent was agreed but only ‘signed off’ in 2013.

scot farmers andrew stoddartIn 1993, his bid for the ‘desolate wasteland’ farm and farmhouse — was accepted. A letter from Mr Stoddart (right) sets out in detail the costly improvements he made. During his 22-year period living on the estate, he built a grain store and drying system worth over half a million pounds, a new grain store with new grain handling system and neglect to drains, fences and hedges was rectified. Around 100 acres was drained with pipe and gravel backfill entirely at his expense. Grass and livestock have enhanced the soil fertility and the farm viability.

However, no compensation will necessarily be granted for this work, and limited tenant rights mean that Stoddart has few legal avenues available. He said “It’s bad enough to be put out of your farm but to lose that amount of money is shocking. Landlords shouldn’t be able to do this in this day and age. It’s the kind of thing that went on 100 years ago”.

He is reported to have kept his bargain to the letter, while the landlord inexplicably refused to let him into the farmhouse, despite receiving rent for it starting in 1993.

scot farmer francis ogilvieThe factor, Sir Francis Ogilvie (left), is – according to Mr Stoddart – refusing to repay his share of the building and grain handling system and the rent paid for the farmhouse that the family never slept a night in: “He also claimed, on national TV, that I am leaving voluntarily, conveniently forgetting the Land Court order they obtained to evict me . . . and that an offer was made to settle all claims; yes that’s true, but there was a zero missing off the end!”

scot farmer edThe editor of the Scottish Farmer demands that the Holyrood government takes up this issue and immediately intervenes in the scandal that will see Andrew Stoddart (and possibly numerous others) evicted from his tenanted farm through no fault of his own.

Professor Sayer: “The political power of the wealthy is a threat”

why we cant afford rich coverProfessor Andrew Sayer (social theory and political economy, Lancaster University), speaking to a gathering in Settle, said:

‘We cannot continue to provide the rich and super-rich with unearned income.

“Their political power is a threat to democracy, and their excessive consumption and dependence on never-ending growth are unsustainable.’

He has expanded on this statement in his book Why We Can’t Afford The Rich, which won the 2015 British Academy Peter Townsend prize.

Lesley Riddoch in the Scotsman records that the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003 – “defective” and rushed legislation – allowed any limited partnership tenant farmers facing early eviction to “upgrade” to secure tenant status. However, she reports that the night before it came into force, landowners caused factors to issue 300 eviction notices, battling through snowdrifts to deliver them before midnight. The act was later ruled unlawful, breaching the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Scottish Government has now published a draft Land Reform Bill which aims to establish a Scottish Land Commission alongside proposals to tackle Scotland’s archaic land system. But more substantial proposals – such as giving tenants the right to buy – were removed from the bill.

Lesley urges: “The Scottish Government’s lawyers and civil servants must get over their paralysing fear of re-entering the legal arena and work up plans for a restricted right to buy for tenant farmers of perhaps 100 acres – allowing them to buy the farmhouse, barn, sheds and other property they have probably improved or built themselves. This right could apply to just one farm to avoid exploitation and it must be at the heart of new legislation”.

Nicola Sturgeon spoke well on this subject (below) – will the government intervene?

scot farmer video sturgeonSee: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/please-stop-the-eviction-of-east-lothian-families

Richard Lochhead, Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary, said: “My officials are working on this as a matter of urgency.”