The NFU Scotland Legal Helpline is a service run by Gillespie Macandrew to provide NFU Scotland members with 20 minutes free legal advice. Each call is picked up by a member of the Land and Rural Business team and thereafter passed to the relevant department within Gillespie Macandrew who can then provide specific advice to the caller.
What can be achieved in 20 minutes? We often field questions that have quick, definitive answers capable of being answered within 20 minutes. For example, during storms we often receive many calls about the maintenance responsibility of fences and dykes damaged by falling trees. Often, the caller has either been asked to pay for damage or they were looking to understand who is responsible for the damage caused to their boundary. By calling the helpline, they could quickly obtain an answer that reassured them or gave them confidence when responding to requests for money.
The helpline is not just for the smaller questions, it can be useful as a first step on the road to finding a solution to a complex issue. In the past, we have received calls from relatives after a recent death. Clearly, 20 minutes over the phone legal advice will simply not be sufficient in a situation like this. However, it is enough time to give the caller a road map of the process they have ahead, what initial steps they can take before seeking further legal help and who they should contact in the first instance. By giving clear, simple steps, it can give the caller peace of mind at a very emotional and stressful time.
Finally, the helpline can help prevent innocuous mistakes. For example, if you are a landlord or tenant involved in an agricultural tenancy, there are many small, technical points that can trip you up with potentially disastrous and costly consequences. Calling the helpline can be your first step in taking a pro-active approach to ensure that what you thought you had agreed is reflected in the legal position. The NFU Scotland helpline is there for those nagging thoughts at the back of your mind that you have been ignoring or for those questions you have been putting off dealing with.
If you are an NFU Scotland member, we would encourage you to use the NFU Scotland helpline as first port of call whenever you face a legal question you do not know the answer to. Please call 0131 271 8585 and have your NFU Scotland membership number to hand.
*This article featured in the September edition of Farming Leader.