Why Scottish farming is listing but not sinking

It was decided early on that we would not discuss the forthcoming general election; nor the elephant in the room called Brexit.
The elephant in the room is not on any lists - for now. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoThe elephant in the room is not on any lists - for now. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto
The elephant in the room is not on any lists - for now. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

This decision was made despite several in the company having pretty forthright opinions on politicians who add to uncertainty by repeatedly changing their minds.

Any debate on the merits or otherwise of the various political parties was put to one side because they have not issued manifestos and even when they do, any references to farming will be bland, “fill space” platitudes with concrete policies hidden out of sight.

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Brexit was also off the debating agenda because it is now pretty definite that UK food production will be just a pawn in trade negotiations. Thus, “You take our electronic gizmos, we will take your beef. Hormones in it? Never mind, we are free from those pesky EU regulations.”

Equally it was universally recognised that night that Defra were not going to publish their thoughts on life after the CAP in order to have them criticised by the Scottish Government, a truth Jane Austen might have described as being “universally acknowledged”.

Contributing further to the constipation on post Brexit life is the reluctance of Scottish politicians to propose any policies. They do criticism and not construction after all.

Then came a suggestion that we should lighten up and take a less worried look at farming life.

This was where one of the worthies noted that there is hardly a magazine or paper that does not carry “lists”. He mentioned seeing lists of “the ten best hotels in town” and the “best eating houses in Scotland” and then, being wonderfully parochial, added that he had never seen any “Scottish farming” lists.

To help some of the company to latch on to the idea, he suggested, as an example, that we list the ten most influential people in Scottish agriculture today.

Some took the easy route and mentioned the leaders, past and present of the NFUS. Others more thoughtfully mentioned leaders in science and business. Politicians were mentioned but that was moving us too close to matters of the moment such as wonky Scottish Government computers costing many millions of pounds.

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Names were bandied about either with backing or with derogatory epithets. A highly subjective list was soon put together. But that was not the end of it as one member pointed out there was only one woman in the elite group.

We decided to then nominate a list of the most influential women in agriculture and again names came thick and fast. They included some of the top pedigree breeders in the country and they were joined by those at the top of the tree in research work. There was even room for one female journalist who is noted and respected throughout the land.

That was not the end of it as other possible farming lists were then lobbed in for completion. Unusual crops grown in Scotland was one and this produced a surprising list that included gladioli, rhubarb, aronia and wasabi. It had to be explained to some of the company that aronia is supposed to be a very healthy fruit which sadly is as sour as anything and wasabi is what you leave at the side of your plate when eating Japanese food.

By now the discussion was spiralling outwards and we were talking about diverse lists such as one about farmers who found fame on the sporting field, another one on the biggest recipients of CAP subsidies, yet another on songs with an agricultural slant – think Strawberry Fields Forever – and even one on evocative smells associated with farming. To show how far the discussion went there was even talk on creating a list of alternative uses for baler twine.

Was that the end of our “listing”? Far from it. RSABI – Scotland’s rural charity which does a great deal of good work – was approached.

Would they be interested in supporting a book full of such lists? Back came a very positive response. Such a compilation of farming information, some factual, some subjective and some just there for the humour would be an ideal way to raise funds.

The plan is to have the “listing” book ready for publication in October and if anyone has had their “listing” nerve tickled by the suggestion and is willing to contribute, get in touch.