Are our land-based industries fit for the future?

Land based study summary FP 9 3 16

The results of an in-depth study looking at the future of land-based industries such as agriculture and farm forestry in the north-east of Scotland are made public next week. (Tuesday, March 15)

The first report of its kind since 2008, “Facing the Future” identifies some of the major challenges and opportunities for the key elements of north east’s economy. Agriculture, farm woodlands, farm diversification including renewables, the input supply and processing sectors, skills and education infrastructure and the wider rural economy are considered and analysed.

The region represents only 16% of Scotland’s agricultural area, but punches well above its weight, producing a high proportion of its crops and livestock – nearly half of the national crop area, two thirds of pig production and a third of Scotland’s finishing cattle.

The multifaceted rural industry faces a number of significant challenges such as slowdown in the local oil and gas economy, exchange rate volatility, generally lower levels of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) farm support and downward price pressures driven by the retail sector.

The North East Scotland Agriculture Advisory Group commissioned the study against this backdrop, to look at whether our land-based industries are fit for the future. It covers the local authority areas of Aberdeenshire, Moray and Angus and builds on a series of reviews of agriculture in Aberdeenshire.

The study is supported by Aberdeenshire, Angus and Moray Councils, Scottish Enterprise, HIE Moray and Forestry Commission Scotland. It identifies the development of premium products as a major opportunity, including the expansion of soft fruit production, continuing strong demand globally for Scotch whisky – and the growth of currently small-scale food and drink businesses to add value to local farm produce. Increased technical efficiency, greater adoption of new technology and best practice, capitalising on renewable energy and diversification into food tourism are all seen as further possible opportunities.

The study does however recognise the impact of global and local financial slowdown on land-based businesses’ ambitions for the region. Threats include future skills shortages, climate change and the possibility of the UK leaving the EU, and there are concerns that resources available in future for land-based training and education may not match up to industry needs.

The critical importance of the processing sector is considered in detail along with the future implications of land reform and proposals to extend Legal Rights to immovable assets in inheritance law. The key issues for the industry as a whole are identified and recommendations made for the commissioning organisations.

The study team consulted widely with industry to gather evidence and elicit views. Both the main and summary reports feature case studies which explore how land-based businesses are adapting to and preparing for the future.

Infographics have been prepared to show at-a-glance the essence of the areas of Aberdeenshire, Angus and Moray and the changes they face.

Land based study infographic 9 3 16

NESAAG Chairman, councillor Bill Howatson, said: “Some vital issues are highlighted in the report, not least the accelerating pace of change in farming, the role of processing, food and drink, agri-tourism, farm woodland and labour.

“I’m delighted that the North East Agriculture Advisory Group has been able to commission this study with support from partner organisations which collectively reflect the wide interest in, and commitment to this part of rural Scotland.”

Peter Cook, who led the study team, added: “Previous studies tended to show a high degree of stability – production systems and the size of farms and labour forces changed, but the headline numbers of livestock and areas of crop did not. “In the current study period there has been much more change. With falling prices and further Common Agricultural Policy reform on the way, there is scope for even more radical change over the next seven years.  “So one of the key aims of the study was to help create a vision for how the sector and the businesses within it can develop and grow in future, and how they can be helped to realise their potential.”

You can view the study online, including its recommendations on what needs to be done and what is needed for the future, at:

Common Agricultural Policy Roadshow dates announced


Farmers and crofters across Scotland will have the opportunity to find out more about the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) at a series of Scottish Government roadshows.

35 public events will take place between the end of October and the start of December.

At each roadshow  officials will explain how CAP support will be delivered from 2015, and what farmers and crofters need to do to receive CAP funding. Farmers and crofters will then be able to ask questions about the new system, as well as find out all the key dates and deadlines.

The new CAP comes in to effect on January 1st 2015.

Your local roadshow will be held at Thainstone Mart, Inverurie, Tuesday November 18, 2014, 7pm.


Rural Affairs Working Group

Horses 1

I was delighted to be a substitute member today on the Rural Affairs Working Group held at SRUC at Craibstone.  As well as admiring their artwork (see pictures), we received an excellent presentation from Chris Stockwell, Head of Agriculture & Business Management Department and Richard Huxtable, Head of Farms Group. We heard all about their teaching programmes and the SRUC Consultancy Services. SRUC work with a raft of partners across the North East, the rest of Scotland and the United Kingdom.

Committee were then updated on the Rural Internship Project, a joint initiative between Aberdeenshire Council, Ringlink and the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS).  The meeting concluded with an update on the Common Agriculture Policy Pillar One 2015-2020.



Advice for dog-owners from the National Sheep Association



Our countryside is peppered with pregnant ewes and newborn lambs just now – one of the most enjoyable yet stressful times in the farming calendar. The National Sheep Association has issued some timely advice on the law in Scotland around dogs and sheep to ensure that livestock are protected.

Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, if a dog worries sheep on agricultural land, the person in charge of the dog is guilty of an offence. The Act considers sheep worrying to include attacking sheep, chasing them in a way that may cause injury suffering, abortion or loss of produce or being at large (not on a lead or otherwise under close control) in a field or enclosure in which there are sheep.

Under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, access rights do not allow members of the public on to land with a dog which is not under proper control.

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC) lays out the responsibilities of people enjoying their access rights and of those who manage the land. It offers guidance for people enjoying the countryside with their dogs and says: “In exercising access rights, you must keep your dog(s) under proper control. You must also ensure that your dog does not worry livestock.” The Scottish Outdoor Access Code says ‘proper control’ means different things in different situations, but when around sheep you should:-

Not take your dog in to a field where there are lambs. Go in to a neighbouring field or on to adjacent land. In open country, keep your dog on a short lead (2 metres or shorter) when there are lambs around and keep away from them.

Keep your dog on a short lead or under close control if you need to go in to a field where there are sheep. The SOAC defines ‘under close control’ as at heel and responsive to your commands. Stay distant from the sheep.

Keep your dog under close control in more open country where there are sheep and stay away from them. The SOAC reminds dog owners that in some cases a farmer has the right to shoot a dog that is attacking their livestock.

If you are handling a group of dogs, make sure that they do not cause alarm to livestock.