SIR, – In last week’s edition of The SF, Zander Hughes asked if Scotland’s starter farms were worthwhile. The answer is: Only if Forestry and Land Scotland and the Scottish government are now minded to do the right thing.

The scheme was set up with the best of intentions to remedy the shortage of opportunities for new entrants, with the expectation that at the end of their terms they would move on to new farms.

But the tenancy famine that prompted the creation of the starter farms has since become even worse with new government incentives to plant trees, making forestry a no-brainer for landowners and increased planting targets further decreasing scarce tenancy opportunities. As for purchasing a farm, if you don’t have collateral for borrowing, don’t bother the bank manager.

It’s obvious that the starter farm scheme can’t work if, at the end of the tenancy, there are no farms to let. In the words of the Bard, ‘the best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley’, and giving young farmers the opportunity to start farming, then snatching it away, leaving them ‘naught but grief and pain for promis’d joy’, is just plain wrong.

FLS and Scotgov simply cannot fall back on the legalities, wash their hands of these young families and cast them adrift. Whether they like it or not, they have a responsibility to avoid causing their tenants unnecessary misery and hardship.

The government and FLS need to take off the rose-tinted specs and review their starter farm scheme rules in the light of reality. Their scheme isn’t going according to plan.

New tenancy opportunities are rarer than unicorns and they need to question the wisdom of re-starting the new entrant process in the knowledge that 10 years down the line, there would be another group of young families with the same problem. It would be negligent to wave off another band of excited hopefuls on a journey that has no destination.

Buccleuch Estates recently got a well-deserved pasting in the press and on social media for the cack-handed treatment of the tenants of Cleuchfoot. There is another PR disaster in the making for FLS and the Scottish government once the press and social media get wind of young families being forced out of their homes by FLS with only heartache to show for 10 years of hard graft building up their businesses.

Social media and toxic headlines would guarantee the public sympathy vote.

There is a danger that most of these new entrants could soon be back where they started, running their farming businesses on scattered seasonal grazings miles from home. That’s neither right nor fair.

What is needed is common sense and common decency and a change in policy to allow the option of renewing the leases of FLS tenants who wish to continue to farm but at present have very little chance of securing new tenancies elsewhere.

It is within the gift of FLS and Scottish ministers to end the uncertainty about the future which is hanging over them. They should just get on and get it sorted.

Maimie Paterson

Upper Auchenlay,