4 Mar 2018: Facing Up to the Reality of Brexit
I read with interest the interview with John Scott MSP in last week’s edition of The Scottish Farmer. His key message appeared to be for everyone to stop worrying because the Tories would ensure a positive Brexit landing for Scotland’s Food and Farming industry.
He cited Scottish Secretary David Mundell’s discussions with Defra secretary, Michael Gove, as the key mechanism that would ensure this.
In different political times some of your readers would give Mr Scott and his optimism the benefit of the doubt and cross their fingers that a Mundell/Gove double-act would pursue a course that would keep the interests of Scotland’s farmers among their priorities.
However, I would argue that the evidence shows that anyone who relies on this Tory axis to fight Scotland’s corner needs a swift dose of reality.
Firstly, the recent pronouncements on potentially banning livestock sea movements, which were deservedly condemned by Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary, Fergus Ewing and your columnist, Jim Brown, illustrated Gove’s complete ignorance to the specific needs of Scottish agriculture.
With characteristic arrogance, the he went on to compound this by refusing to take questions from the media during a recent photo opportunity at Stirling Bull Sales.
In fact, hiding from scrutiny on Brexit appears to be a growing habit among Conservative politicians, with Mundell recently going to ground and refusing requests to appear for interview, following the leak of UK Treasury impact assessments which reported potentially catastrophic effects to the Scottish economy after leaving the EU.
Both Gove and Mundell have no doubt been taking lessons from their Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, who did a disappearing act in the days following the impact assessment leaks, only to miraculously re-appear on a radio phone-in about her next self-promotion exercise on a TV programme about baking cakes.
Far from raising Scottish farming’s voice in Brexit, you’re more likely to get an answer on the merits of self-raising flour from a Scottish Tory. (The Scottish Farmer)
Robert Macintyre jnr , Newstead, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Tenant Farmers Meet to Protest
24 Feb 2018: Cayman Isles Registered Tax Free Buccleuch Estates accused of ‘bullying and intimidation’ by tenant farmers who are having their tenancy ended.
At a public meeting in Langholm last night the audience heard from Alison and David Telfer of Cleuchfoot who spoke emotionally about the way they had been treated.
The Estate Chief Executive, John Glen attended together with Oliver Mundell, Dumfriesshire MSP, and chairman Chris Badenoch.
Mrs Telfer said that last September they were told their lease would probably not be renewed. They met Alan Nisbet, then the estate manager, in October.
She said: “He told us our lease was ending at the end of February, that the hill would be planted and the house and the rest of the land sold.
“He said ‘the die is cast, this will happen’. Whatever our retirement plans were, bring them forward four or five years.
“We asked what would happen to our hefted flock of South Country Cheviot’s. He said they would be cleared and we couldn’t be sentimental about sheep.
“We subsequently found out that Buccleuch’s forester had been at the community council meeting the night before we were officially told what was happening on our farm.
“He said the farm was not big enough on its own to provide an income and the farmer was coming out at the end of November. Neither statement was true.”
She said negotiations continued but they weren’t happy with Buccleuch’s proposals because Buccleuch wouldn’t buy the sheep.
“Our agent rang us on February 14 to say that Mr Glen had issued a very distressing ultimatum; that if we didn’t agree to their proposals, the next day they would start proceedings to evict us at the end of the month.
“We eventually signed the paperwork on the 22nd but we aren’t happy with what we’ve had to sign. We feel we were bullied and intimidated into it.”
Mr Glen said he never intended to have this effect on the tenants.
He said: “I regret and I’m sorry if that’s the feeling. It’s not what we’re aiming to do. We want to have professional conversations with our tenants.
“I do take it on board and I’ll look at our processes if that’s the way you think people (at Buccleuch) are behaving.”
Mundell said: “You (Buccleuch) have to accept that, if that’s the perception people have of your organization, that’s not a good position to be in.
“People aren’t always happy with the outcome of negotiations between a landlord and tenant but this here goes beyond that.
“Tenants feel intimidated and can’t speak out. I’ve lost count of the number of people who can’t believe that it’s come to this.
“We’re now in the very sad position where people don’t trust what you have to say and something seriously needs to be done to address that. It’s not a happy position for a community to be in.
“Of course, there is change but it’s the pace of change which shocked people.” (Eskdale & Liddlesdale Advertiser)
And why was Joan McAlpine not in attendance. She referred the issue to Holyrood
MSP Joan McAlpine has raised questions over Buccleuch Estates ending tenancies on their land in Eskdale with the intention to plant trees instead.
Ms McAlpine wrote to ministers after she was approached by tenants facing eviction at the hands of Scotland’s biggest private landowner.
The local MSP asked Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing what can be done to ensure that landowners like Buccleuch are not incentivised to plant forestry at the expense of tenant farmers.
She has also questioned whether Buccleuch’s actions go against the spirit of the Land Reform Act – and has written to Land Reform Secretary Roseanna Cunningham for advice. Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:
“I understand the importance of forestry and timber production. The aim of planting more trees is commendable. However, this should absolutely not be at the expense of tenant farmers – we need to ensure that landowners like Buccleuch are not exploiting their tenants to line their own pockets.”
Constituents also informed Ms McAlpine that Buccleuch Estates had promised a community meeting on the issue – where locals could air their grievances and ask questions in a public forum.
However, the meeting – scheduled for the 27th of February – is to be run as a drop in, and locals are disappointed since this is not what was promised.
Ms McAlpine has approached Buccleuch to ask them to reconsider the format of the meeting. She said:
“Buccleuch Estates promised a community meeting and this is what the community are expecting – I have written to them and hope that they will deliver on this.”
Pentland Ltd, is a company based in the Cayman Islands.
It is part of the extensive group of companies whose ultimate parent undertaking and controlling entity is ‘The Buccleuch Estates Limited’ (BEL) and is listed in the annual accounts as a subsidiary undertaking with the principal activity of property development through which money is routinely loaned at keen interest rates between all of the aforesaid companies in the group.
The company is a subsidiary of:
(1) Dabton Investments Ltd. Founded initially by the current duke and his brother Damian and incorporated in May 2009, Dabton Investments Ltd was owned by the Scott family until 2013 when 100% of the issued share capital was acquired by Tarras Park Properties Ltd:
Tarras Park is in turn a subsidiary of:
(2) Buccleuch Properties Limited, a BEL company.
The consortium, valued in excess of £90million comprises Mixed Farming, Farming, Farm Management, Property, Agricultural Services, Estate Management, Fishing, Property Development, Forestry, Residential Developments, Bioenergy, Rural Land Management and House Building, Bioenergy
Important, comprehensive reviews of the activities of Buccleuch Consortium are to be found at:
Duke of Buccleuch
Brexit – National Farmers Union Policy Statement
NFU Scotland considers it vital that the outcome of the Brexit negotiations give Scottish farmers, crofters and growers opportunities to profitably and sustainably grow their businesses so they can continue to underpin the rural economy, local communities and environmental gains.
Brexit – Tory Government Proposed Policies
Michael Gove, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural affairs, at the start of his tenure undertook, as part of the Brexit process, to end the unwarranted farming cash bonanza titled the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which for nearly 45 years has further increased the wealth of already very rich landowners simply in recognition of the amount of land in their ownership.
At the outset the CAP had been based around the provision of financial subsidies generating the production of an obscene excess of unneeded food, subsequent mass storage and disposal as landfill of huge butter mountains and wine lakes etc.
Then, after nearly 30 years of discussion within the EU, sense appeared to prevail and in 2003 the system was reformed only to be replaced with one even more banal in its concept.
Wealthy landowners would be paid huge sums of money annually to reduce farming activities whilst maintaining large tracts of their land in an agricultural state. Simply put, “money for old rope” coupled with the demise of tenant farmers whose leased tilled land would be left to return to nature. Small farmers got even poorer, but the rich big boys got richer.
The solution, post Brexit according to Gove is to get rid of the CAP allowing the Tory Party government to bring about a fundamental change in the nations approach to farming resulting from an absence of massive financial subsidies forcing farmers to produce only that which they are able to sell on for a profit to the food chain.
No more food mountains to be buried or fed to farm animals. Protection barriers to worldwide trade to be dismantled. A modern day utopia for the British public and a substantial saving for the Exchequer (£3bn annually) in London.
But all is not that straight forward, Gove is not of a mind to “slit his throat” taking anything away from the Ruth Davidson’s bakers dozen of right wing Unionist MP’s elected to parliament in London in 2017 on a binding promise to Scottish farmers to get rid of the CAP and replace it with a system more beneficial to all Scots in the farming community.
Gove’s new policy is to be one of financial reward for compliance with government policies directed at the protection of wildlife, plant life and the environment. Rates of payment are to be maintained at existing levels until 2022.
The impact of the policy will be to further increase the wealth of rich landowners who will convert their huge estates and farms into nature reserves and rambles with the guarantee of financial reward from government.
Thereafter reaping a second recurring and ever growing financial return on investment from hunting, fishing, shooting and other field sports and activities.
Sheep farming will be at risk since the return on investment will outweighed by income from estate visitors. Gentleman farmers no more. “Lords of leisure” a more fitting description.
And what is to become of the small farmer? Well, it is expected they will continue to attract financial support, reduced by a surcharge levy for any perceived damage to the environment caused by their farming activities.
But Scots are entitled to be assured that their taxes are utilized by the government efficiently eg. protecting the nations food production from failure or deterioration and improving the environment. Not lining the pockets of the rich.
2 Mar 2018: Liar Liar Pants on Fire – Gove Plans to Limit Farm Support Payments
Michael Gove has contradicted the speech he made at the Oxford Farming Conference in January where he promised that CAP Pillar One payments would continue at current levels to 2024, not 2022 as the recent consultation paper states.
Gove said: “As we leave the EU, we have a historic opportunity to deliver a farming policy which works for the whole industry. Today we are asking for the views of those who will be affected to make sure we get this right, so any future schemes reflect the reality of life for farmers and food producers.”
ScotGov responded by challenging the UK Government’s failure to recognize quality food production as a clear public good, as the estimated future funding cuts could penalize livestock producers across the board.
“It is concerning that the UK Government is seeking views on whether to remove direct support for basic farming activity or food production from farmers following the 2019 Basic Payment Scheme in England,” said Scot|Gov. “This would be wholly unacceptable in Scotland as it would put our farmers and food producers at a disadvantage to those in the EU and clearly demonstrates why it is absolutely vital for Scotland to have full control over agriculture policy.
“The paper gives no clarity on what the total funding for rural policy will be to replace CAP and environment and rural funding. Without that information it is impossible for farmers, foresters, fishermen, and environmental managers to make long term plans post Brexit.”
The consultation paper itself contradicts Gove’s speech at the Oxford Farming Conference in January, where he said CAP Pillar One payments would continue at current levels to 2024 – not 2022 as the new paper states.
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said that the consultation once again affirmed the necessity that the future of agricultural policy remain within the hands of the devolved administrations. (The ScottishFarmer)
10 Feb 2018: Highland Re-Wilding Plan Has Ignored Local Residents’ Concerns
Kate Forbes, the SNP, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, believes that the views of local residents have been ignored under controversial proposals to re-introduce predators to a 23,000-acre estate in Sutherland, north of Inverness.
Paul Lister, the owner, wants to introduce bears and wolves in a bid, he has claimed, to return the area to its natural Eco-system. Lister, the multi-millionaire heir to the MFI fortune, purchased the Alladale Estate in 2003 for £3.5 million and has argued that his re-wilding plans would prove a major tourism draw.
However, his plans have met with strong opposition, particularly from farmers and crofters who are concerned over the threat of predation by wild animals.
Now Kate Forbes has weighed into the debate: “My problem is the extent to which the individual behind this project has actually spoken and engaged with the people who live and work there all year round,” she said. “It’s a problem to me if an individual is making decisions that affect local farmers and local residents without engaging with them in the first place.
“It also concerns me that fences could be put up around reserves like this and without working with local communities on the economic, social, cultural and environmental impact of it.”
She added: “I believe the land should be worked to the benefit of those who live and work there. But in this case we have a situation where the individual responsible has not engaged properly with the local community.”
He is aware of Gove’s plans for the future and intends to ensure his CAP subsidies remain unaffected by clearing people off the land, replacing them with predators for the rich and famous to enjoy shooting. (The Scottish Farmer)
2 Mar 2018: Campaigning for Scotland the Brand
A SMALL but hardy contingent of ‘Keep Scotland the Brand’ campaigners gathered in Kelso last Saturday in support of Scottish farmers and produce.
The grassroots campaign, initiated by consumers, is growing all over rural Scotland, and was prompted by the steady disappearance of the Saltire on Scottish-grown food, and its replacement by Union flag packaging.
“A two minute dash through the vegetable row in Sainsbury’s and we filled a basket with potatoes from Angus, Perthshire and Berwickshire; carrots and parsnips from Fife and sprouts and cabbage from East Lothian,” said campaigner Keith Pattison from East Berwickshire.
“All fresh produce from Scotland, but not one displayed a Saltire as they would have done till very recently. Instead they were wrapped in massive Union flags,” he complained.
Fellow campaigner Jackie Thompson added: “We’re not being petty about this. Scotland has a deserved reputation for high quality food and we’re concerned that credit is not being given where it’s due. More seriously, it’s a situation that may well lead to loss of market share as the Scotland brand disappears, damaging Scotland’s producers.”
Also on the demo, Alison Currie added that undermining the visibility of Scottish produce was damaging to the ‘shop local’ ethos: “Being Kelso, we met more than a few farmers getting their shopping in before the rugby started,” she reported. “They were well aware of the dangers posed by this brand dilution and glad to sign our petition and glad for the support.
“With Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb currently left out of UK Brexit trade deals, we see further undermining of our high quality brand as yet another blow for Scottish farmers.” (The Scottish Farmer)