I have just returned from an all too brief visit across the Pentland Firth to the Orkneys, where I attended the annual open day of the Luing Cattle Society. The event included visits to excellent livestock farms, where we saw the best of Luing cattle and other Scottish breeds.
Agriculture in the Orkneys comprises mainly owner-occupied livestock units and the family farm is the norm. The islands are a terrific example of community spirit, enterprise and co-operation. Despite the obvious challenge of distance from suppliers and markets, the islands prove that where the opportunity and ability for rural investment exists, then such areas will survive and prosper.
Mr Arbuckle’s thoughtful and reflective piece points out the problems inherent in a unique land tenure system still dominated by large estates. Empty farmhouses and abandoned steadings are testimony to the rural neglect which is becoming an increasing feature of our countryside.
This is occurring in areas which are not geographically disadvantaged like the Orkneys. However, such areas do suffer from being stifled by an archaic system of land tenure unsuited to the needs of a modern Scottish economy, community and environment, where the tenant farmer is being excluded, overlooked and undervalued.
How long will politicians sit back on their hands and silently witness the shameful evidence that all is not well in the Scottish countryside?
It is an embarrassing disgrace but it could be all so very different, as my recent trip to Orkney proved to me.