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September 25, 2013

Debate on land reform needs widened

Last week’s story of 100 year old Nellie Eason, facing eviction because the highland estate she has lived on for 78 years is up for sale, will have introduced many to the land reform debate for the first time.  To date, too much of it has been conducted online or through niche media outlets.  In a recent article in the lifestyle magazine, Scottish Field, Prof Jim Hunter laid out the case for land reform to which the landowners quickly published an online rebuttal.  This is a debate of major significance that surely deserves a much wider hearing.  


To read the article by Prof Jim Hunter, laying out the case for land reform, published in September’s edition of Scottish Field Click here 

To read the response to Jim Hunter’s article, written by Douglas MacAdam , CEO Scottish Land and Estates and published on SLE website Click here  

Sunday Mail 22/9/13

A 100-YEAR-OLD woman fears being turfed out of her home after one of the UK’s richest men put his Scottish estate on the market for £29million, we reveal today.

Nellie Easson received a telegram from the Queen when she hit her century on August 23.

But just 20 days later, she was one of dozens of tenants on the Kinpurnie Estate in Angus to get a letter telling them their homes were on the market – and that there were no “guarantees” that they could remain in their properties.

Multimillionaire Nigel Cayzer’s decision to break up the 5400-acre estate into up to 23 separate lots and sell it for the first time in more than a century has rocked the community.

We reveal the plight of Nellie and her neighbours today as pressure mounts for far-reaching land reform in Scotland, where fewer than 500 lairds own half the countryside.

The sale of the estate, which includes a castle, six lochs and the £6million nine-bed Thriepley House, comes 18 months after the death at 80 of former laird Sir James Cayzer.

Tenants – some of whom also work on the estate – in the village of Newtyle, near Dundee, now fear losing their livelihoods as well as the homes they have rented for decades.

They believe maverick, Rolls-Royce-loving Sir James would be appalled by the sale, which is being managed by agents CKD Galbraith and Savills.

In 2003, he spoke of his disgust at a cousin’s treatment of tenants on 16,000-acre Gannochy estate in Angus, 

who faced eviction and redundancy, branding his actions “deplorable”.

Great-great-grandmother Nellie, who pays £135 in rent a month, has lived in her one-bed cottage in the village next to the estate since 1935.

When she moved in as a 22-year-old newlywed with husband John, King George V was still on the throne.

Nellie, who raised her three children in the house and now has six grandchildren, 14 great-grandkids and one great-great-granddaughter, said: “I don’t want to leave. I’d have to go into a care home.

“This is my home, my first house after I got married. Everybody knows me here and I want to end my days here.”

Nellie’s youngest son Jock has vowed to ensure his mother stays in the cottage.

He said: “We still don’t know what’s happening but, if it comes to it, we’ll fight this all the way.”

Earlier this year, Jock was one of several locals who were offered the chance to buy the estate property they rented to help settle the death duties tax bill after the passing of Sir James.

But Jock said: “The estate offered me the chance to buy my mum’s cottage for £90,000, which was a complete joke. It’s worth nothing like that. They gave me a fortnight to take up the offer.”

Sir James’s nephew Nigel, who changed his name to Cayzer from Galliers-Pratt in 1982 in order to inherit, has said the sale is a great wrench and he hopes to sell it as one unit.

But the sale particulars show the estate can also be sold as 23 lots – and reveals that all the residential properties are predominantly let on short assured tenancies, some with just a few months to run.

Kate Scott, 58, has lived in an estate house in the village since 1992 and pays £350 a month in rent on such a tenancy agreement.

The mum-of-two said: “Sir James would be turning in his grave that his estate is being sold. We feel so isolated.

“We’ve been here more than 20 years and have spent thousands improving the place. But we have always been on a fixed-term, six-month lease and just don’t know where we stand.

“Our neighbours on each side are two generations of the same family and they are in the same position. We moved here from Dundee because we wanted a better life and, if we lose this house, we will have nowhere to go.

“There is virtually no social housing available in the village and, at our age, my husband Peter and I aren’t in a position to take on a mortgage.

“The letter we’ve received is totally ambiguous. I asked the surveyor from CKD Galbraith if my house is being sold – as there are 50 houses which aren’t actively being marketed – but I still haven’t had a straight answer.”

Kate tried to set up a meeting between Cayzer and the worried village tenants to discuss their concerns but was told that he had refused to agree to one.

She added: “The way he has done this has taken no account of tenants’ feelings. Many of them are too scared to even speak out because some of them still work for the estate and face losing their home and their livelihoods as well.”

Estate agent CKD Galbraith’s Wattie Barbour, who signed off the letter to tenants, said: “I understand that it’s a time of change and great uncertainty and worry.

“The position is that the majority of the houses on the estate are not actively for sale at the moment.”

But he admitted that the rented houses were negotiable and could be bought as part of an overall package.

He added: “The thinking behind that is, if that happened, then anybody buying a large portfolio of houses would want to keep them occupied and, therefore, the existing position of tenants living in their houses would be 


Another tenant, village shop worker Shelley Bird, 41, also has fears. She said: “I’m gutted.This is a lovely village.

“I’ve been in this house for eight years, although I moved to Newtyle when I was 11. I wouldn’t just lose a house, I work here too.”

Tenants have now arranged a meeting, which will be attended by Graeme Dey, the Nationalist MSP for Angus South.

He said: “There’s understandable concern from those who are potentially affected by this and also a fair degree of confusion. People are worried about what the future might hold.”


 Mail Opinion: Who owns Scotland? It’s not us.. and we need action on land reform now

PENSIONERS such as Nellie Easson, 100, shouldn’t have to worry about losing their home just because a wealthy landlord decides to sell his estate, says MAIL OPINION.

22 Sep 2013 10:45