MSP Joan McAlpine has urged a major landowner not to clear a couple off the land in a modern “lowland clearances”.

The South Scotland MSP compared the actions of Buccleuch Estate to those of the Highland landowners in the 18th and 19th centuries.

McAlpine made the comment as she hit out at plans to sell land used by tenant farmers Alison and David Telfer.

The couple aim to stay at the farm near Langholm until they retire in five years’ time. However, their five-year fixed lease ends in November 2019 and the property is part of almost 9000 acres that Buccleuch announced for sale late last week.

The top part of their land, currently used for sheep, will be offered for tree planting.

The landowner has promised that “any sale of land encompassing tenanted farms would see current leasing agreements honoured” and says the Telfers’ lease has already been extended by 19 months, with the couple turning down the chance to buy the lower section where the farmhouse is located.

McAlpine said: “The sale came as a complete surprise to Alison and David and just demonstrates how little power tenants like them have.

“Scottish history is stained by the legacy of the clearances.

“The treatment of the Telfers is akin to the lowland clearances for the modern age and it cannot be allowed to stand.”

However, rejecting what it called a “complete distortion of the facts”, a Buccleuch spokesperson said: “If these extensions are unsuitable, Mr and Mrs Telfer should have let us know and they have been aware of our intention to sell the for over a year.”

He added: “We have also written to Ms McAlpine to spell out the facts of this case and it is regrettable that she has chosen to ignore the legal framework of short-term tenancies and resorts to inaccurate and inflammatory statements.”