The success or failure of a tenanted agricultural holding relies heavily upon the landlord/ tenant relationship with both parties working in partnership to the benefit of each other. Under the terms of Agriculture (Scotland) Act, 1948, Schedules 5 and 6, a landlord of an agricultural holding has a responsibility to manage the land and provide all means necessary to operate the unit as an agricultural holding in accordance with the rules of good estate management i.e. the landlord has to provide, repair and improve fixed equipment e.g. sheds, drainage, fences, etc such that the occupier of the land can efficiently maintain adequate production of quality produce.
The tenant (occupier) has an obligation to run the unit properly i.e. stock the land, reseed and not wilfully damage the landlord’s property.
Where either party fails to fulfil their responsibility the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries (or in today’s government terminology, the Minister of Environment and Rural Affairs) has the power to enact a statutory instrument which would allow him to control and direct the person occupying or entitled to occupy agricultural land.
It is ultimately the Minister’s responsibility to ensure that none of Scotland’s agricultural lands are damaged in anyway by poor landlords or tenants thus ensuring good quality food is produced at low cost for the people of Scotland.
Note: the sections relating to warning notices and dispossession, of the Agriculture ( Scotland) Act 1948 i.e. Sections 26 to 34 were repealed within the Agriculture Act 1958. However, Section 35 has never been superseded.
Convicted because of appalling state of Powhillon.
Referring to the trial transcript, the Prosecutor’s (Procurator Fiscal David Howdle) opening statement at Daniel Quinn’s trial on 17 November 1997 was:
“The Prosecutor explained that general conditions on the farm had declined to such an extent that the Appellant had effectively lost control of the proper management of the livestock on the farm.”
He went on to detail how:
“Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Trading Standards Officers had been concerned for some time about the conditions on the farm.”
The main determinant and justification for prosecuting Daniel Quinn was the condition of Powhillon farm. The Sheriff’s ruling only compelled this argument where Temporary Sheriff Jamie Gilmour ruled that:
The decision to disqualify was reinforced by a concern that circumstances were that a warrant application had become necessary for the removal of the Appellant’s whole livestock for their own wellbeing but if the Appellant secured substantial compensation referred to by his agent, the Appellant might re-stock the farm and attempt to raise cattle in the same appalling conditions. I therefore decided, in all the circumstances, to disqualify the Appellant from having care or custody of farm animals for a period of three years.”
Responsibility for appalling state.
There is a recurrent theme emanating throughout the history of Powhillon which was that the agricultural holding was destroyed. The destruction dates back to 1975 and was caused by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust aided by Scottish Natural Heritage.
The destruction was catalogued by several authorities including the Agriculture and Fisheries Department within their Goose Damage Reports of Powhillon farm. For example, Mr John M Riddet in one of his many goose damage reports of Powhillon states “The farm has the appearance of being very run down, with dilapidation everywhere.”
Several years prior to this he expressed similar concerns to his senior colleagues within the department stating that he believed the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust were liable.
In addition the Health & Safety Executive also condemned the farm’s animal housing and believed that it was the landlord’s responsibility to repair them.
The condition of Powhillon farm was the sole responsibility of the landlord. After purchasing Powhillon in 1975 the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust became agricultural landlords and in doing so they had a legal obligation to act in accordance with the Agricultural Acts and provide all means necessary to operate the unit as an agricultural holding. Powhillon farm’s lease re-iterated the requirements and responsibilities of the Landlord of the agricultural holding and bound them to it in matters concerning the lands of Powhillon farm.
Clause III of Powhillon’s lease states that the landlord must put in order buildings, main drains, field drains, open ditches, dykes and fences. When Lord Mansfield wished to rent out the lands of Powhillon farm back in 1916 as an agricultural holding he had to put in place all means necessary for the tenant such that they could farm the unit for the purposes of agriculture.
The tenant’s obligation was to notify the landlord of any subsequent defects upon entry (agricultures equivalent to snagging) at which point the landlord would rectify the situation through repair or renewal. If the landlord failed to rectify the defects within reasonable time then the tenant was entitled to claim damages such as loss of crop due to faulty drainage. Clause III was in effect the conditions of entry.
The ongoing obligations of the partnership between landlord and tenant were detailed within Clause IV of Powhillon’s lease. In particular, Clause IV Section (2) detailed the working relationship and obligations with regard to ongoing maintenance, repair and renewal of the fixed equipment. This clause stated that once the Landlord had satisfactorily put the unit in order then the tenant would make payment towards buildings, main drains, field drains, open ditches and fences with rent adjustments in accordance with the amount of investment made by the tenant.
However, when the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust gazumped Roland Hill and acquired the farm in 1975, the tenant refused to invest in the agricultural unit any further. The tenant of Powhillon farm worked in partnership with Lord Mansfield and invested a lot of time and money in the unit since entering into the agreement in 1916. During this period the tenant had actually built the vast majority of the sheds and conducted the vast majority of improvements which turned the lands into a highly viable agricultural unit. It was also this period and partnership that developed the ill-fated SSSI.
Seeing all your investment and years of hard work sold to another without any remuneration was too much to bear for Roland Hill who lost heart and who subsequently intended to quit the holding. The new landlords bound by the disposition enacted upon them when they acquired Powhillon had no warranty against the actions of the tenant and having only just managed to raise enough money to top Roland Hill's offer they could not afford to pay Roland his away goings. As a result the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust through their factor negotiated terms that would secure Roland Hill's tenancy and avoid the expense of the ensuing arbitration.
Eventually a codicil dated 30 August 1978 was entered into by both parties which amended the lease to one in which the tenant would still abide by his obligation to notify the landlord of any defects and damage but the tenant would now only have to supply labour to assist the landlord.
Landlords neglect and disdain.
The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust failed to abide by their obligations and continually refused to renew or improve the fixed equipment and although they verbally stated they were willing to repair certain elements nothing ever materialised.
The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust’s via their agents continually tried to break the terms of the codicil by trying to force the tenant to pay one half of all repairs to fixed equipment. The terms of the codicil meant the tenant only had to supply labour. The landlords also refused to improve or renew any of the fixtures for example they wouldn't build modernised sheds to house the cattle and wouldn’t even permit the tenant to make the improvement themselves.
The tenant continued to comply with the terms of good husbandry and the lease and notified the landlord of all defects and improvements required on Powhillon as accepted in a letter from the landlord’s factors G M Thomson & Co dated 11 Feb 1992. This same letter however shows how twisted and abusive the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust really was. The letter tries to make excuses for them not fulfilling their obligations and refers to a grant they wanted before they would conduct any improvements. The grant was acquired by the tenants due to drainage improvements they made themselves in 1986/87. It was yet another fixed equipment improvement R Hill & Co had funded and completed because the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust refused to do anything about it as shown in their solicitor’s letter ( Austins) dated 09 May 1988.
In addition to fixed equipment the landlord's also failed to control the numbers of geese frequenting the farm resulting in the destruction of grass crops required to feed R Hill & Co stock. According to Clause 1, section (7) of the lease the landlord's had reserved to themselves the sole rights of killing and taking game which included wildfowl on the holding. This meant that they were responsible under the Agricultural Holdings Acts for controlling the geese and preventing them from damaging crops and livestock foodstuffs. They however had another agenda of using Powhillon to feed the geese.
If the landlord did not fulfil his obligations towards the agricultural unit then the Minister of Environment and Rural Affairs has the power to enact a statutory instrument for one year which would allow him to serve notice in writing on the landlord to rectify any breaches in the interests of national food supply and agricultural products. If the landlord continually failed to comply then he would be liable to summary conviction.
The government were well aware of the dilapidation and destruction of Powhillon and that it was affecting the animals. They also accepted that the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust were responsible and yet they stood by and done nothing until the situation deteriorated to such an extent that they prosecuted the innocent party.
In addition to the aforementioned powers the Minister of Environment and Rural Affairs could have relieved a lot of the pressures from Powhillon’s grasslands had he granted licences to control the number of geese frequenting the farm.
However, on the advice of senior politicians they refused to intervene as it was potentially embarrassing. Following a meeting between Lord Sanderson and members of the Agricultural Department, a summary was written to the Principle Officer of the Agricultural Department (Mr David H Brown) by Mr I M Whitelaw. Within the correspondence Mr I M Whitelaw states that although they accepted they were justified in issuing a license to kill Barnacle geese to Mr Daniel Quinn, they weren’t willing to do so as the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust could pull media resources and prominent figures and via slanderous comments they could cause controversy.
The rule of law was cast aside as the government stood by and allowed the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust to blatantly abuse their tenant, act improperly and flout the terms of the lease/ codicil and Agricultural laws of Scotland .
Referring back to the trial, Daniel Quinn could not be held legally responsible for the appalling state of Powhillon farm and the authorities should have intervened before it amounted to charges of cruelty because of it.
It should also be noted that R Hill & Co brought a damages arbitration, against their landlords for their failure to control game numbers and for the destruction of Powhillon farm. R Hill & Co was trying everything within their powers to rectify the situation. The damages arbitration is actually a legal precedent and should never have had to occur due to the Agriculture (Scotland) Act 1948 and the powers of the Ministers.
The damages arbitration (along with all the other arbitrations brought by the tenant of Powhillon farm) has never concluded and has been obstructed and perverted by twisted lawyers, land agents (FRICS), government, sheriffs and anyone else willing to accept the incentives offered to ensure no ruling is made. It is still going to this day some 14 years since it started on 25 April 1994.
R Hill & Co had also been working closely with Ministry Vets since 1986 as a result of their herd contracting an incurable disease known as Bovine Viral Diarrhoea from an undisclosed source. Throughout the period up to the trial they had several visits and discussions with Divisional Veterinary Officers who expressed concerns over the condition of the farm but as far as R Hill & Co were aware they had more than complied with the all their suggestions to such an extent that they went against their landlords wishes and built a new shed with feeding and handling facilities themselves. There was absolutely no assistance from their landlords who continually refused them permission to build it.
Procurator Fiscal David Howdle was well aware of all of the above during proceedings and when approached after the trial the Procurator Fiscal claimed that matters concerning the tenancy and the resulting disputes were not his concern. A Procurator Fiscals’ job is to be fully informed as to circumstance, history and background of the case as to any mitigating or aggravating circumstances surrounding the case. With his argument based on the condition of Powhillon farm he couldn’t ignore the responsibility of the landlord.
The prosecuting authorities have also stated that the tenants' were carrying too much stock on the farm. R Hill & Co was in an impossible position because in order to comply with the terms of their lease they had to stock the unit at the appropriate level which was determined by government stocking requirements and subsidy quotas. The stock levels on Powhillon farm when Daniel Quinn was prosecuted were actually below the guidelines for a unit of the size of Powhillon. R Hill & Co had actually had to sell stock because of the destruction and because they themselves knew the farm was incapable of accommodating them all.
The Criminal Court convicting tenant farmers without concerning themselves of agricultural matters and practicalities puts a huge emphasis on the government complying with the Agriculture (Scotland) Act 1948. We don’t believe potential embarrassment for the government is a reasonable excuse for them ignoring the plight of the tenant and breaking their own law.
It also means that the Procurator Fiscal has to have a very sound case and can prove that the defendant alone actually inflicted harm to the animals without any other factors being involved. As detailed it was the condition of Powhillon which led to the prosecution of Daniel Quinn, something for which he was not responsible. The Procurator Fiscal, David Howdle never had a case against Daniel Quinn for example the abused calf that David Howdle alleged Daniel Quinn wasn’t feeding properly was being fed the best Colostrum substitute on the market in an expensive attempt to try and help the baby fight an incurable disease known as Bovine Viral Diarrhoea. He used the condition of the farm to embellish the charges in order to secure a conviction which otherwise had no substance.
The facts of the matter were that the court case against Daniel Quinn was a procedural step they had to conclude because that’s how the system worked. They had actually already achieved their goal when they removed all of the cattle from Powhillon illegally.
The only reason for the trial was a sinister one, which was to bankrupt R Hill & Co. In 1997 R Hill & Co were living at Powhillon rent free because the rent was still in dispute and unresolved. Daniel Quinn had won the right in court to shoot allegedly protected birds. The vast amounts of money they spent on Judicial Reviews against Daniel Quinn shooting were fruitless. R Hill & Co had appeared on BBC’s ‘Countryfile’ program which was unfavourable towards the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. To cap it all, in 1997 R Hill & Co through the damages arbitration, were highlighting and quantifying (approximately £350,000) the destruction to agricultural lands caused by the geese and mismanagement of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. Their only option was to physically remove R Hill & Co.
R Hill & Co had become a major problem for the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, SNH, Government and other bodies such as RSPB. A problem which sat right in the heart of their proposed Nature Reserve and one which was in direct conflict with their aim of providing a shelter for migrating Barnacle geese.