Farmers caught up in the long-running Salvesen v Riddell court case have scored a partial victory in their fight for compensation from the Scottish government.
A number of farmers have either been evicted, or are due to be evicted later this year, because of a legal error, which dates back to 2003.
A late amendment to the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003 suggested some farmers in a limited partnership tenancy would have the right to a full secure tenancy.
Loss of control
Fearful they would lose control of their land as a result of this clause, some landlords served their tenants with a notice to dissolve the limited partnership.
In response, a further amendment was made that anyone affected by a notice to dissolve a limited partnership would be given a secure tenancy.
But this was successfully challenged in the Supreme Court on the basis it affected the landlord’s right to the enjoyment of their property.
After the hearing in 2013, the Scottish government was told to remedy the legislation and consider the possibility of compensation for landlord and tenant.
However, tenants have complained they have since experienced a series of “broken promises” with the government failing to meet its promises of offering mediation to affected tenants or providing adequate compensation.
At a hearing of the Court of Session last week, Lord Clark ruled the government was liable to compensate tenants “for loss directly arising from reasonable reliance upon defective legislation passed by it, which was then remedied by further legislation which interfered with the individuals’ right”.
Lord Clark said he was not in a position to quantify the scale of the compensation, but accepted that it should be paid in respect of specific losses sustained by the tenants who acted in good faith based on the defective legislation.
Angus McCall, director of the Scottish Tenant Farmers’ Association, said: “This is an incredibly complex case and it will take some time for the tenants’ legal team to evaluate Lord Clark’s ruling.
“What has been made clear, however, is the tenants are due some compensation for the harm caused to them by the flawed legislation instigated by the Liberal/Labour coalition and passed by the Scottish parliament 14 years ago.”
It was now time for the Scottish government to sit down with tenants to come up with a mutually acceptable agreement, he said.
“Let’s just get on and settle the matter and let the victims of this long-running and tragic saga get on with their lives.”