Readers' Letters: Regenerative farming is not a simple option

In light of feedback letter writer Tim Flinn says he has received relating to negative comments he made regarding certain farming practices, it is hard to tell if he is playing the role of devil’s advocate or a belatedly enlightened environmentalist (Letters, 1 May).
Old-style farming methods, as seen on Skye circa 1910, are not easy to duplicate today, advises reader (Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)Old-style farming methods, as seen on Skye circa 1910, are not easy to duplicate today, advises reader (Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Old-style farming methods, as seen on Skye circa 1910, are not easy to duplicate today, advises reader (Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Perhaps he yearns for the rose-tinted days of old when he fondly imagined, in his own words, that “small is beautiful”. He mistakenly believes that what has become known as “regenerative agriculture”, which rightly promotes a healthy soil structure. falls into this category. The costs of fertilisers, feed and fuel, as well as the restructuring of farming subsidies and deteriorating soil structure, are encouraging this trend.

However, the practice also results in a proportion of land that is effectively out of production for a year or more, when it is dedicated to growing leguminous cover crops. While in the long term this does help restore natural fertility there remains uncertainty as to whether this system alone can match the yields of conventional systems that feed the world, or whether it can somehow avert natural climate change by enhanced carbon sequestration.

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Mr Flinn previously appeared to suggest ruminant livestock should cease to have a significant role in future farming systems, presumably because of their methane emissions. He made no mention of the devastating consequences this would have on myriad rural businesses and livelihoods. Perhaps he might reconsider this standpoint were he to recognise that integrated livestock systems are an important source of organic matter. There was a time when sheep were widely used to graze winter cereals to aid tillering and disease management, with the added benefit of returning nitrogen and phosphate to the land. Also, winter feedingof sheep on root crops such as turnips and kale were key components of mixed farming which, incidentally, also provide feed and cover for birdlife. Interestingly, there are farmers who are rediscovering the knowledge that their forebears practised but Tim Flinn's enthusiasm for regenerative agriculture should be tempered with a greater degree of reality.

Neil J Bryce, Kelso, Scottish Borders

Country miles

At a time when Scots are struggling to make ends meet because of a cost of living crisis and when the Scottish devolved National Health Service is at breaking point, it is surely outrageous that “around £35 million in the Scottish budget is set aside” (your article, 1 May) to open and staff “foreign embassies” in Europe and America and have countless meetings with foreign diplomats to advance the SNP’s obsession with independence.

Equally, It cannot be right that large sums of Scottish taxpayers’ money are being spent by Scotland’s constitutional secretary, Angus Robertson, and other SNP politicians constantly to travel the globe attending jollies to talk down the UK government in order to promote their independence dream. Surely, this largesse could be more appropriately spent relieving poverty or hiring extra nurses for Scotland’s hospitals.

It would seem that Mr Robertson chooses not to regard foreign affairs as a matter reserved to the UK government. Subsequently, he is not impressed by the Foreign Secretary’s asking “foreign governments not to meet with Scottish Government ministers without the involvement of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office”.

Perhaps Mr Robertson should temper his outrage and ponder the thought that if he had been a Catalonian politician, then Spain would have taken a much less sanguine attitude towards similar anti-unionist exploits!

Sally Gordon-Walker, Edinburgh

Trade off

Jill Stephenson and others (Letters, 2 May) fail to understand that the Barnett formula has reduced Scotland’s budget share over time as it is based on a per head of population count and does not recognise the vast contribution Scotland’s massive energy production surplus makes to the UK economy, including £4 billion from electricity exports last year that isn’t reflected in the GERS figures.

The value of Scotland’s trade missions abroad was highlighted last week after Scottish Economy Secretary Neil Gray’s visit to Japan – Sumitomo Electric is to build a large factory in Inverness to manufacture cables to connect hundreds of offshore wind turbines planned for Scottish waters

Scottish businesses are suffering as a consequence of Brexit and Scotland’s total trade with the European Union was 16 per cent lower in 2021 than it was in 2019. That is why promoting Scotland abroad is so important.

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Scottish Development International operates in 15 locations with a network of 11 Trade and Investment envoys, and over 1,100 Global Scots. This has produced results; in 2022 Scotland outperformed the rest of the UK in terms of growth in projects, up 14 per cent from 2020, while the rest of the UK had a 1.8 per cent increase. On trade, latest results show trade support Scottish Development International provided to companies across Scotland in 2021-22 will result in £1.44 billion of planned international sales over the next three years.

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly’s misguided attempts to reduce Scotland’s status abroad is just a further example of the UK Government’s attack on our Parliament’s powers following the UK Internal Markets Bill and the failure of the Levelling Up Fund to match half of the funding the EU made towards projects in the Highlands and Islands

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh

Is Long Covid real?

These days we seem to hear more about so-called Long Covid than Covid itself. The official name of Long Covid, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), is Post-Covid-19 Condition (PCC), and to the NHS across the UK it is Post-Covid-19 Syndrome. The NHS admits that their definition is “very similar” to that of WHO.

However, a recent Norwegian study under Joel Selvakumar calls the whole issue into question. Selvakumar and his team of 18 researchers recruited participants who were non-hospitalised and aged under 26 and divided them into a cohort that had tested positive for Covid, and a cohort that had not tested positive. It was found that 48.5 per cent of the former cohort had Long Covid according to the WHO definition. But, bizarrely, it was the same for 47.1 per cent of participants in the latter cohort. You obviously cannot have Long Covid if you didn't have Covid in the first place.

NHS scientists and doctors need to have a rethink, as well as patients who believe that they have Long Covid.

Geoff Moore, Alness, Highland

Sack Greens

The bid by the Scottish Government to create Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) is in disarray (your report, 3 May). These exclusion zones would prevent fishing, the farming of fish, and swimming and watersports would be outlawed. Coastal communities would have no economic future and become ghost towns.

Former SNP Minister Fergus Ewing ripped up the proposal, saying, “This is not a consultation document, it's a notice of execution”. Which party is behind this bill? The Greens. Which party is behind the alcohol advertising ban? The Greens. Which party is behind the Deposit Return Scheme? The Greens.

Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater must be sacked from their £98,045 ministerial positions and be MSPs on a salary of £66,662, which is still too much for their lack of talent. If they are not sacked the SNP will implode.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow, West Lothian


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How disappointing to see Kate Forbes apparently U-turning on her previous, eminently sensible attitude to the SNP/Green Party’s draconian and dogmatic plans to decimate huge areas of our fishing industry. If this is the case, is it a sop, another one, to the Greens? For a party with a miniscule percentage vote they now hold immense power in Scotland.

Apart from Fergus Ewing, no-one in the Scottish administration appears to have what it takes to stand up and be counted when they are needed. Surely things cannot continue in this vein for very much longer? At the very least we need changes that do not allow any wildly unrepresentative minority party to hold the sword of Damocles over out vital industries.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Speak out

Mhairi Black, Jeremy Corbyn and Anas Sarwar are scheduled to appear in the "In Conversation with" series at the Stand Theatre during Edinburgh Fringe. I hope that Mr Sarwar, at least, will take the opportunity to speak out now or at the event in support of Joanna Cherry and freedom of speech even though he disagrees with her stance on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill and protection of women’s rights, to the extent that his MSPs were whipped to vote for the bill. I'd also like to hear Humza Yousaf's views on the matter.

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

Move on

Alex Salmond is not going to the Coronation. Humza Yousaf, despite declaring his wish for a republic, is. What connects these two gentlemen is a lack of foresight. Independence is yesterday’s issue. There was never a feasible plan after 15 years of desperately trying to find one and circumstances now are no longer favourable.

Mr Yousaf now joins Mr Salmond in the category of “yesterday's men”. Scotland needs to move on from SNP/Green/Alba fixations with a policy that was never going anywhere. Scotland needs to be part of the United Kingdom. If there was an alternative surely this would be obvious by now. Time to move on.

Gerald Edwards, Glasgow

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