FARMERS are fighting eviction attempts by two of the country's biggest landowners amid fears that hundreds of farming families could face a new wave of Highland Clearances to make way for shooting interests.
Two Scots aristocrats are trying to evict tenant farmers from their land in test cases which the Scottish National Farmers' Union fears could spell disaster for hundreds of farmers.
The tenth Earl of Airlie, a former Lord Chamberlain to the Queen and brother of Sir Angus Ogilvy, has started an action to evict Norman Ogg, 58, a farmer, from his 125 acre farm on the 40,000 acre Airlie estate.
Nearby, in a separate action, Captain Alwyne Farquharson, chief of the Clan Farquharson and 16th baron of Invercauld, is trying to evict Jean Lindsay and her son, Sandy, from the 2,500 acre hill farm she has farmed for 26 years in Glenshee.
Capt Farquharson, a neighbour of the Queen on Deeside, owns 125,000 acres of the Highlands, including four tenant farms in Glenshee.
In both cases the lairds are using a legal loophole to evict their tenants to make way for non-agricultural uses of the land.
The law allows landowners to propose a change of use without requiring planning permission.
In Glenshee, Capt Farquharson wants to extend the area available for grouse habitat and at Kinwhirrie farm, near Cortachy, Lord Airlie wants to improve the pheasant shooting.
Mr Ogg said last night: "This is just like the Highland Clearances all over again. The lairds and their factors are kidding people on about wanting to keep folk in the glens. They just want people off the land."
His lawyer, Donald Rennie, warned: "This is a very serious challenge to the security of tenure guaranteed by the Agricultural Holdings Act.
"If it succeeds in the courts, there isn't a tenant hill farmer in Scotland with a sprig of heather growing on his land who will be safe."
The Scottish National Farmers' Union has thrown its weight behind Mrs Lindsay, who is fighting the notice to quit her Glenshee farm at Runavey.
Like Mr Ogg, she has been told to go under Section 22 2b of the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1991. The Scottish NFU is backing Mrs Lindsay's case at the Scottish Land Court.
The Scottish NFU's legal spokesman, Bob Kay, said: "This isn't the spirit of the law. The act was designed to give security of tenure, not to allow landlords to evict tenants on a whim. That is the principle we are pursuing.
"This case goes straight to the heart of the Agricultural Holdings Act. Security of tenure is the cardinal feature of that legislation.
"It places restrictions on the operation of notices to quit, so that landlords cannot force tenants out of their farms on a whim. A lot of tenant farmers in Scotland will be very worried by this."
Mrs Lindsay vowed: "I will fight this all the way. I have nowhere else to go. I want to pass on the farm to my son.
"It is fine for the factor to say that I can stay on in the house. But how can I pay rent if they take away the land that gives me a living? This is a terrible situation and, if the estate gets its way, others will follow.
"We could be looking at a second Highland Clearance."
Nobody was available for comment at Invercauld estate yesterday, but
David Laird, the factor of Airlie estates, said: "I can see how some
might think of this in terms of the Highland Clearances. But Norman Ogg
is a very astute and shrewd businessman. The land is fair game."
From: "The Scotsman";
31 March 1997