Scottish Land & Estates has approached the Scottish Government’s law officers asking them to ensure controversial agricultural holdings provisions in the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill are fully compliant with human rights legislation.
Scottish Land & Estates has written to the Lord Advocate asking law officers to examine sections of the Bill relating to the assignation of secure tenancies and the widening of succession rights before the Bill receives Royal Assent, which is due to happen shortly.
Our submission states that the assignation of 1991 Act tenancies to new secure tenancies and the widening of succession rights to secure tenancies damage property rights and are believed to contravene the European Convention on Human Rights. Our concerns were raised consistently during throughout the Bill’s progress through the Scottish Parliament.
Scottish Land & Estates has said in its approach to the law officers that if compliance with ECHR cannot be verified, the matter should be referred to the Supreme Court for a ruling.
Scottish agriculture is still counting the cost of flawed legislation on limited partnerships being passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2003 and resulting in the long-running Salvesen-Riddell case, the ramifications of which are still not fully resolved despite a ruling in the Supreme Court.
The approach to the law officers does not seek to strike down the Land Reform Bill and applies only to the two issues of concern raised.
Scottish Land & Estates has provided robust legal opinion on these issues and this was conveyed to government before the Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament.
The legal opinion was clear that with the significant widening of the group of people to whom a tenant can transfer his tenancy during their lifetime (assignation) or after death (succession), these new measures could lead to landlords, who had an expectation of recovering possession of a farm, losing that opportunity.
As regards, assignation for value of a 1991 Act tenancy, effectively being able to sell on a secure tenancy, Scottish Land & Estates’ legal opinion states that this measure also contravenes ECHR and the cumulative effect of the two issues exacerbates non-compliance.
It is in everyone’s interests that we are sure that the new Land Reform legislation is not flawed. Parliamentary committees and leading politicians have also said it is vitally important that the legislation is legally compliant.
We want to ensure, even at this late stage, that every possible step is taken to avoid the industry being plunged into long-running legal turmoil when these provisions take effect.
Chairman, Scottish Land & Estates