The Lord President Lord Gill has ruled in the Court of Session that the Lord Advocate should pay half the costs incurred by a landowner during part of the long-running Salvesen-Riddell legal proceedings.
In his ruling the Lord President said the landowner Alastair Salvesen was forced into litigation in defence of his right to vacant possession against legislation that was found to be beyond the competence of the Scottish Parliament.
Mr Salvesen, the court said, was put to expense by reason of an invalid statutory provision that, had he not challenged its lawfulness, might have resulted in a substantial loss of capital value.
The case, which centred around legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament in relation to Limited Partnerships, started in the Land Court and went to the Court of Session and the Supreme Court. In his judgement Lord Gill said Mr Salvesen ‘was unavoidably drawn into this costly and prolonged litigation in consequence of a provision that ought not to have been passed.’
The Supreme Court ruled that Mr Salvesen’s rights in relation to European Convention of Human Rights had been infringed and stated that flawed parts of the legislation appeared to be brought forward to punish landowners.
Mr Salvesen, a landowner from East Lothian, said: “It is clear from this judgement and previous rulings that these protracted proceedings should not have been necessary and have resulted from defective legislation.”
Douglas McAdam, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “This latest ruling means the public purse has to pay these expenses. It underlines the need for any legislation in the very complex area of agricultural law to be fair and measured and for it to be examined with the utmost care, otherwise there is a real risk of infringement of human rights legislation.”
Lord Gill said the legislation resulted from a late amendment to an agricultural holdings bill proposed by the Deputy Minister contrary to previous assurances by the Scottish Executive and by the relevant minister that existing limited partnership tenancies would not be affected by the Bill.
In his ruling Lord Gill referred to the Supreme Court ruling saying its ‘objective conclusion’ was that the relevant part of the legislation was discriminatory because it adversely affected the right of a small group of landlords in the enjoyment of their property and that it was hard not to see the provision as having been designed to penalise landlords in that group retrospectively.
The Supreme Court had also noted remarks made by the then Deputy Minister during a parliamentary debate and a reader of those remarks in that debate might be forgiven for thinking that they displayed a marked bias against landlords.
The Supreme Court ruling triggered a wide range of compensation claims over the defective legislation which are now pending and it is estimated these could run into many millions of pounds.
The question of expenses did not arise in the Supreme Court as neither the landowner nor the tenant were parties to the action and Lord Gill ruled that no expenses were due to be paid by the Lord Advocate in relation to Land Court proceedings as the Lord Advocate was not a party.