THE organisation which represents Scotland’s farmers, now known as NFU Scotland, will be celebrating its first 100 years in 2013 by launching a Centenary Trust to leave a legacy for the future.
A host of national and regional fundraising events will be held throughout the year and each of the union’s 7,500 members is being asked to make a voluntary donation of £25 when paying their annual subscription.
“I am sure our founders, when gazing down from on high, are proud of what the union has become and what it has achieved for our industry,” said union treasurer George Lawrie, who has been appointed chairman of the Centenary Trust.
“We go into our 100th year with a stable membership, a sound financial footing and – despite the real challenges of 2012 – we have made progress. Next year will be a year of celebration and we plan to leave a legacy to drive the union into its next 100 years.
“It will be a chance for all members and staff to get involved by celebrating our union and all that is good about Scottish food and farming.”
The celebrations will be launched at the union’s annual general meeting at St Andrews on 11 and 12 February and the money raised by the trust in the first year will be used to get as many children as possible to visit a farm in 2013, educate farmers, employees and especially their children on health and safety in the countryside and bring forward a meaningful apprentice programme that supports farmers and their employees.
The union will be working with other organisations, such as the Royal Highland Education Trust and the Royal Northern Countryside Initiative, to arrange farm visits for children and the union sees health and safety as an area where the industry must improve.
Lawrie sees the apprenticeship initiative as an opportunity to future-proof Scottish farming and give farm apprentices a lasting launch pad into their chosen career.
He said: “It may involve supporting farmers who give up their time and energy to give hands-on training to apprentices during the crucial first few months. Developing a group of farmers that can provide the necessary level of training may also be part of that vision.”
The union, originally known as the Farmers’ Union of Scotland, was officially inaugurated at a meeting in the Religious Institution Rooms at 200 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, on 1 October, 1913, following an informal meeting at that year’s Highland Show at Paisley when the decision to form a union was made.
The move was largely instigated by Kilmarnock farmer and auctioneer William Donald, who convened many of the early meetings at Kilmarnock mart and was elected the union’s first president, a post he held until 1919.
The “small entrance fee” to join the union was five shillings (25p in today’s money) and the main aim was defined as furthering the interests of farmers and dairy farmers in particular.
The first resolution debated at the first AGM was submitted by a Mr Frood on “the present poor price of milk” and was passed unanimously. But a suggestion that the new fledgling union should link up with the English union, which had been set up in 1909 and had 35,000 members, received short shrift.
In the year to October, 2012, the union made a profit of £89,461, slightly up on last year’s £87,296, and members’ funds now stand at almost £1.9 million.