HOW deeply ironic that on his visit to Scotland Bill Gates emphasised the importance of agriculture for health, and Scotland’s leading role in helping prevent malnutrition around the world, yet at this very time hundreds of food-producing tenant farmers across Scotland are being evicted or otherwise losing their tenancies so that landowners can reap the financial benefits of forestry grants (Gates praises Scottish impact on modern life, The National, January 27).

Rob Gibson (Letters, January 24) rightly points out that evicting a limited partnership farm tenant is legal, as were the infamous Clearances of the Highlands, Lowlands and Borders of past centuries. Legal yes, moral no.

Many of the limited partnership tenancies at risk today were secure leases carried over decades, even centuries, but it appears estate factors over time made changes to the fine wording. Assurances might have been given that the estate would never put them out, no need to worry, but these loose words allowed the estates to achieve the desired aim of having only insecure tenancies – the zero-hour contracts of property.

Rob will know better than me that our landed elite were greatly shocked when the 2003 Land Reform Act was passed by the newly reinstated Scottish Parliament, as this significantly eroded their power, and they lost no time in spending vast amounts of money hiring expensive lawyers to protect their interests, and full-time lobbyists to do the same in Holyrood itself. Votes on puppy tail docking, snares etc show their effectiveness. Lobbying also led to vast grants being made available for tree planting, irrespective of the consequences, which are the root of these present tenant farmer evictions in the Borders and all over Scotland.

Further largesse was also handed to landlords by the Scottish Government in the shape of very loose rules on farm subsidies, which allow tenants to be evicted and the landlord to claim the cash. This policy has seen, startlingly, many hundreds of farming families and their employees evicted all over Scotland – the very people that would have been, should be, producing “Scotland The Brand” fresh local food products. The remedial order of 2014 had the effect of assisting with evictions – is this really the same “progressive government” lauded for helping improve nutrition in impoverished countries?

Heartbreakingly, the situation has also arisen that limited partnership tenants who had less than a five-year lease have effectively been excluded from the Scottish Rural Development Programme for 12 long and hungry years – most of the money, I have been told, being scooped up by large landowners.

Scottish land reform is indeed a highly complex issue, but some simple measures could surely easily be put in place to protect not only these farm tenants but also the health of our own people, who are amongst the unhealthiest in Europe? Can Scottish ministers not easily address these issues by banning tree-planting grants on land that was previously let to tenant farmers, and not paying farm subsidies on farms where tenants were evicted? Could this be so difficult for a progressive government that so heartily condemns the human rights abuses of the Clearances of old?

What is the point of Scotland The Brand without Scottish food producers? What is the point of government obesity consultations in one of the fattest countries in the world if we are to stand by as producers of local fresh food – Scottish tenant farmers – lose their ability to produce that food, and vast areas of our land are made impossible to walk, cycle or exercise on due to intense oppressive conifer forestry. Is it to be “Let them eat cake”?

EU farm subsidies are supposed to maintain rural populations, not to be used as a weapon for clearing the land. The Scottish Government can act and it must act, by stopping giving landlords incentives to evict. Simple.

Carol Charters