IT IS a matter of considerable pride for the organisers of the Royal Highland Show that this year’s event, which starts today at Ingliston, has attracted record numbers of livestock; beef and sheep enterprises being the backbone of the Scottish farming industry.
But this year’s show will also feature record numbers of politicians, with issues as diverse as the reform of agricultural holdings legislation and the details of the forthcoming common agricultural policy on their agenda.
If pre-publicity is any guide, the political hot potato will be the independence referendum. First Minister Alex Salmond is visiting today to discuss the benefits of independence for rural Scotland. He will be accompanied by rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead and environment and climate change minister Paul Wheelhouse.
The former will also take part in an independence debate organised by the Highland Society tomorrow, where he will be backed up by broadcaster Lesley Riddoch. They will face Scottish Secretary of State Alistair Carmichael, who has Aberdeenshire farmer, Peter Chapman putting the case for the Union.
The whole independence debate kicked off at last year’s show with then MEP George Lyon heading up the Better Together campaign. Yesterday, he announced that a number of prominent farmers were adding their names to the campaign to keep the Union.
Noted livestock farmer Keith Redpath, who farms on both sides of the Border and lives near Kelso, has been involved in various farming organisations over the years, many of them connected to the beef sector. “Walking away from the strength and security of the UK makes no sense,” he said. “As a livestock farmer, the UK market is crucial to my business. I don’t think that putting up new barriers between my produce and our biggest customers is particularly sensible.”
Also signing up to take an active role in the campaign to stay in the Union is former NFU Scotland legal and commercial chairman Robert Lamont, who farms in the Borders. His son John is an MSP in the area.
Another noted farmer joining the Rural Better Together campaign, is Alex Allison, from Dunsyre. He is a former chairman of the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs and served as regional chairman of the Forth and Clyde area of NFUS.
From the North-east, Tom Johnston, a former regional chairman for NFUS, said he was also going to lend his support to the Better Together campaign.