TENANT farmers David and Alison Telfer have won their fight to stay on their farm at Cleuchfoot near Langholm until they retire.
The couple had been told to leave by Buccleuch when the landowner put up the land for sale as part of the Evertown portfolio last year.
They’d previously been under the impression that they could remain until their retirement in a few years’ time.
David said: “We appreciate the efforts of all those involved who have worked to find a resolution to this issue and we are pleased to be able to continue to live and work on at least part of Cleuchfoot until our retirement.”
Joan McAlpine, South Scotland MSP, has welcomed the news.
She said an incredible 89,000 people signed a petition asking the estate to reconsider, accusing it of removing tenants to secure lucrative forestry grants.
Ms McAlpine has campaigned for the couple and raised their plight in parliament, the media and with the Scottish Land Commission.
A deal has been brokered between the commission’s tenant farming representative and the new owners of the land which the Telfers farm.
The new owner, James Jones of James Jones & Sons Ltd, the Lockerbie timber manufacturers, has agreed to let the sheep farmers remain until their original retirement date.
Ms McAlpine said: “I’m delighted to hear they have won their fight to remain.
“They’ve been at the farm for more than 20 years and had expected to stay there for the rest of their working lives.
“It was a shock for them to be told they’d have to move and start over again with only a few years to go until they retired.
“James Jones & Sons deserves credit for extending the lease. They were under no legal obligation to keep them on but I believe they made the right moral decision.
“I know Bob McIntosh, the Tenant Farming Commissioner, has worked with the Telfers and the new owner to find an amicable solution.
“I’d like to thank Bob for all his hard work on this case. It shows the commission, which was set up as part of the SNP’s land reform programme, is really making a difference in rural Scotland.
“I’m delighted its intervention has led to such a positive outcome.”
The Commission said the Telfers occupied the farm on a short-limited duration tenancy.
The estate had granted a new tenancy until November 2019, 21 months beyond the end date of the previous lease, and had put up the farm and adjoining hill ground for sale.
The couple wished to stay on the farm until retirement and said they had received a verbal assurance from the previous Duke of Buccleuch.
Buccleuch approached the commissioner and James Jones & Sons Ltd in an effort to find a solution.
Mr McIntosh said: “Landlords are entitled to resume land at the end of a fixed-term tenancy but there was an extraordinary set of circumstances in this case and a dispute over what had been discussed in years gone by in terms of the length of occupancy.
“We are pleased that, through collaborative discussion, a satisfactory outcome has been achieved for the tenant, the new landlord and all other parties.”
Benny Higgins, executive chairman of Buccleuch, said: “We were pleased our proposal found agreement with all the parties involved and I thank Mr McIntosh for his constructive liaison with the tenant.”