WHILE IT is a complex subject – and there can be any number of arguments made on both sides of the landlord/tenancy debate – there are three indubitable truths that have contributed more than anything to the current state-of-affairs.

So, while the outcomes may be complicated, the driving causes of rancour are not. Simply put, legislation has pushed the sway of balance in the direction of landlords – and any fair-minded person will know that when something gets pushed, the tendency is for it to push back. And that goes for both sides.

What has particularly pushed the buttons for landlords is quite simple. The threat of an 'absolute right to buy' polarised even the most secure landlord/tenant relationship; the headlong roller-coaster of public funding for renewable energy galvanised landowners into 'chasing the gravy-train'; and a similarly unbridled vision of forest clad hills, backed by huge amounts of public spending, has meant that many a good hill (and even some lowland pastures) have come under a big plough. Jealousy aside, who would blame anyone for taking 'the shilling'?

The dichotomy is that this has all been driven by an SNP government which was elected on being hell-bent on curbing the power of, for want of a better description, The Landed Gentry, but which has actually handed very large pots of money to them, arguably rebuilding the fortresses of aristocracy.

Cause and effect are sometimes not easy to predict, but in this case it was as plain as a shovel.

Balancing act

IT IS great to see Rural Affairs Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing championing the cause of hill farming in this week's issue (see pages 14 and 15), but if a balance is not struck between the tri-partite interests of farming, renewable energy and forestry, then I fear for the future of hill farming.

In the words of Burns – which has been celebrated throughout the world in recent days – 'Facts are chiels that winna ding'. And the fact is that forestry plantations are greening up hillsides at an alarming rate and a way of life being swallowed up by larch and spruce.

A patchwork quilt of mixed farmland or a blanket of evergreen? – that must be the dilemma facing Mr Ewing as he strives to hold true to his promise. There yet remains time to find that balance, but it is being constrained by the rapidity of change.