The following statement has been given to Scottish Land & Estates by the Trustees of the Colstoun Trust to provide clarification of the factual position surrounding Colstoun Mains Farm.
The Colstoun Trust, which owns Colstoun Mains Farm in East Lothian, has provided the following statement to Scottish Land & Estates in light of recent inaccurate commentary and speculation on the tenancy arrangements between the Trust and Mr Andrew Stoddart, currently tenant of Colstoun Mains Farm.
The Trustees of the Colstoun Trust and Mr Stoddart entered into a Limited Partnership agreement in 1996 knowing that the tenancy agreement would come to an end on a set date and would not continue indefinitely. Both agreed that that the limited partnership and the lease would terminate on November 28th, 2010. When that agreement was signed willingly by both parties, Mr Stoddart was fully aware he was not entering a secure tenancy arrangement. The parties entered into these arrangements with the full expectation that they would come to a natural end in 2010. That was what the Trustees planned for and the contract was not varied by oral agreement.
The reason Mr Stoddart has remained the tenant until now is, regrettably, due to defective legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament. The Courts found in the now well-documented Salvesen v Riddell case that part of the agricultural holdings legislation of 2003 was illegal as it breached landowners’ human rights. The Scottish Parliament were obliged to enact remedial legislation as a result. The Colstoun Trustees are affected by this human rights breach.
Some former general partners such as Mr Stoddart would have had the expectation during the period between the (now illegal) legislation coming into force (2003) and the remedial legislation being passed (2014) that they would secure a full tenancy of indefinite duration, which is far beyond what was originally contracted for. When the remedial legislation was passed it made it clear that vacant possession could be obtained by the landlord within a relatively short timeframe and this is what the Trustees made clear they wished to do.
Had it not been for the illegal legislation the Colstoun Trust would have regained possession of Colstoun Mains Farm in 2013 at the latest, as a result of other parts of the legislation enacted in 2003 which would have given Mr Stoddart the right to extend the lease for up to 3 years in his own name, beyond the original termination date agreed by contract.
In light of the remedy now provided to landlords such as the Trustees to cure the human rights breach which allows vacant possession to be regained within short timescales, the Trustees and Mr Stoddart entered into an agreement whereby the tenancy will terminate on 28th November 2015. This was secured by way of a binding legal process which Mr Stoddart instructed his solicitors to complete on his behalf. The position was agreed to try to minimise further litigation between the parties and the expense and additional stress for all concerned which that would have entailed. Again, there was no suggestion that any tenancy in Mr Stoddart’s favour would extend beyond that date.
Tenants’ improvements are regulated by agricultural holdings legislation which sets out a process for raising competent claims following waygo. In this case the Trustees offered at an early stage to settle all claims by Mr Stoddart relating to the tenancy, including improvements, but this offer was rejected on Mr Stoddart’s behalf. Whilst agents for landlord and tenant may have some discussion in advance of waygo on proposed claims, it is premature for comment to be made at this stage and in the circumstances of this case in connection with any offers in settlement of particular improvements claims.
The Trustees wish to have greater involvement in the running of the farm after Mr Stoddart’s waygo on 28th November 2015 and intend after that date to run the farm as they would have done had they been able to recover vacant possession at the point in time when they ought to have been able to do so.
The disappointment and frustration that Mr Stoddart is now experiencing is not due to the actions of the Colstoun Trust but because of an unprecedented legislative failure which has affected many tenants and landlords.