NICOLA Sturgeon has expressed concern over the Duke of Buccleuch plans to evict tenant farmers as he sells off 9000 acres of his estate.

The Duke, one of Scotland’s biggest landowners, hopes to raise at least £19 million from the sale of forestry and agricultural land close to the A7 to the south of Langholm.

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine raised the sale during First Minister’s Questions yesterday, asking Sturgeon if she was aware of the plight of tenant farmers David and Alison Telfer, “who are being forced off Cleuchfoot farm near Langholm by the Duke of Buccleuch?”

She added: “Next week, the duke plans to value their hefted sheep, which have been on the hill for centuries, so that they can be sold to make way for trees.

“Does the First Minister agree that forestry planting grants should never be given in such circumstances, that the Telfers’ human rights are being violated by Buccleuch Estates and that the duke’s sale of the 9000-acre Evertown portfolio, which includes the Telfers’ farm and their home, contravenes regulations that were enacted by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016, which say that landowners should formally engage with the community ahead of major changes?”

The First Minister said she shared McAlpine’s concern.

The SNP leader added: “Guidance for landowners makes it very clear that communities should play a part in decisions about how land is used and managed. I know that the Scottish Land Commission has written to Buccleuch Estates to advise it how communities should be involved, and has offered to provide further advice.

“Human rights are also reflected in the guidance, which landowners, including Buccleuch Estates, should take into consideration during this or any process relating to land transactions.”

John Glen, chief executive of Buccleuch, has previously said the estate was “committed to achieving the best use of land possible and part of that strategy involves reducing our footprint”.

He promised that tenants would be kept up to date with the progress of the sale.

The Buccleuch Estates cover more than 270,000 acres of land in Scotland, including 500 properties.