Crofter 81 - Crofting delivers

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                                                                                                                                             Number 81

Crofting Leaving the hills forever?                No policy change spells the end for hill and island farming

delivers T                                                hE CURRENT CoNsUlTaTioN on
                                                          less Favoured area support is one op-
                                                          portunity to address the current sharp
                                                                                                       declines of around 50,000 in the same period.
                                                                                                          although similar trends can be observed
                                                                                                       across other parts of the country, the highlands
                                                   decline in livestock keeping in the highlands       and Islands rate of decline is significantly faster
But will the Government?                           and islands.                                        than in the rest of scotland. Cattle numbers,
                                                      Latest figures from the SAC “Retreat from        although steadier, are also beginning to show

        his is pRoBaBly the most critical          the hills” report and from Government census        a steeper decline, even in big cattle areas
        time in crofting history since 1886.       data show an alarming increase in the rate at       such as orkney and Caithness.
           yes, that’s a big statement and         which sheep in particular are leaving the hills.       Farming will disappear from the hills, islands
some may say an exaggeration. But if you              sheep numbers in the highland Council            and remote mainland areas unless something
put it in the context of the figures mentioned     area have dropped by around 100,000 in the          is done to address the dramatic decline in
in the article alongside about the loss of         last three years, with much of this coming from     livestock. This was the stark message coming
stock from hills and islands, if you put it in     skye, lochalsh and lochaber. argyll has seen        from representatives of the agricultural sector
the context of the global food crisis and the
                                                                                                                                Continued on page 3
UK’s response of continuing to run down
home food production in favour of buying
food in from overseas – and if you look at
the dereliction in some crofting areas, is it an
   We now have a response from the scottish
Government to the shucksmith Report, the
final report of the Committee of Inquiry on
Crofting, and there will be a heated debate
both politically and in the media concerning
where the reforms will lead.
   The Government is saying some good
things: they are willing to address the
decades of lack of regulation; they want a
development body to take responsibility for
croft development; they will review support
   and that is the crux of it. The lack of
commitment to increase crofting support

                                                   A really good gathering
as suggested by professor shucksmith is
   Let’s not get bogged down with squabbling
over the detail of how crofting is regulated or
who has the responsibility for development         Barra’s Jessie MacNeil, who helped organise         “whose only aim was to destroy the SCF”.
at the expense of taking our eye off the big       the event, reports                                     The theme of the conference was “Crofting
issue – that there will be no crofting, as we                                                          – Delivering the Goods”, looking at the reforms

know it, if it doesn’t get the support needed                vER 70 DElEGaTEs gathered in              needed in crofting and related legislation to
to survive and thrive.                                       Barra for the scottish Crofting Founda-   enable crofters to deliver public goods and to
   Regulation and development matters are                    tion’s annual conference at the begin-    find markets for their produce. The Scottish
important, but the recommendations made            ning of october.                                    Crofting produce Mark was launched by the
by Mark shucksmith and his team for the               Patrick Krause stated: “It was the best.         Minister for Crofting, Michael Russell Msp.
support of crofting are salient. This is not       please pass on our thanks and good wishes              Croft produce was focussed on by specialists
                                                   to all who were involved in making it such a        in the promotion of ethical, eco-friendly food,
                       Continued on page 3         success.”                                           direct marketing, marketing a niche product
                                                      voluntary action Barra and vatersay would        and using the environment as a selling point.
                                                   like to thank Northbay, Castlebay and vatersay         professor Mark shucksmith spoke about
                                                   hall committees and staff, who all helped with      the conclusions the Committee of Inquiry on
                                                   the considerable catering for the events, those     Crofting. Michael Russell outlined what the
                                                   who were so willing to provide field trips for      scottish Government intend to take forward
                                                   the delegates, the transport operators, the         from the CoioC report.
                                                   performers, the hotels and the island for              Mr Russell said it was time to move forward
                                                   giving the crofters such a warm welcome. To         constructively. “I think there is a good will and
                                                   quote from one visitor: “I so enjoyed the days      support among the public of scotland – we
                                                   in Barra – i learned a lot, felt the warmth of      need to get up and get on with this process
                                                   the gathering as well as the dedication and         now,” he said. “If we have the sight of people
                                                   commitment, and left for home inspired by all       tearing lumps out of each other then that good
                                                   of you. Many thanks for all of this and more.”      will might well be lost.”
                                                      sCF chair Neil Macleod’s opening address            Mark Shucksmith responded for the first
                                                   called that the visit be a time of healing after    time to the report’s critics. Read his response
                                                   a turbulent year when the organisation was          on page 9.
                                                   faced by a small but determined band of critics     Full coverage on pages 8 & 9 of this issue.
2                                                                                                  THE CROFTER, DECEMBER 2008

Message from the chair...                                                                         Season’s greetings
                                                                                                  to all our members
                                                                                                 event held in Turin, italy for small-scale
                                                                                                 producers – attracted over six thousand
                                                                                                 delegates from every corner of the globe.
                                                                                                 it was an enlightening and humbling
                                                                                                 experience to be part of it.
                                                                                                    The kilted Norman and i manned the
                                                                                                 sCF stall with a colourful display of crofting
                                                                                                 produce, literature, enquiry forms, list of
                                                                                                 producers, samples and information on croft
                                                                                                 fod, harris tweed and shetland knitwear –
                                                                                                 all very well received. We were absolutely
                                                                                                 thrilled at the interest shown. it was a very
                                                                                                 hard but rewarding five days which I feel will
                                                                                                 bring its return, as we made many valuable
                                                                                                    We were ably assisted by the indefatigable
                                                                                                 pam Rodway from the soil association
                                                                                                 and slow Food network, Maria scholten,
                                                                                                 seed specialist from saC, the isle ornsay
                                                                                                 crofters/musicians and the British Consul
                                                                                                 Trade and industry. The interest evident
                                                                                                 in the numerous people who stopped to
                                                                                                 question, pick up literature and admire our
                                                                                                 goods augurs well for the producers we

        s i pEN these random thoughts on a         costly, time-consuming period when more of
                                                                                                    an abiding memory for me was of an italian
        balmy autumn late evening, i am zre-       our energies could have been concentrated
                                                                                                 lady explaining to her family in the expansive
        minded that the past few months have       on the raft of detail which crofting has
                                                                                                 way italians do that the potatoes we had on
been anything but calm.                            become – blue tongue vaccination, EiD, an
                                                                                                 display were genetically modified resulting
   since the publication of the shucksmith         equitable LFASS, the Scottish Crofting Mark,
                                                                                                 in the different colours – Edzell Blues,
report (and it was only a report) some of us       the proposed withdrawal of the bull scheme; Champagne, shetland and other potatoes
were vilified and pilloried by a few individuals   so much requiring our attention.              of different hues. When we explained that
when we were gathering our members’                   Two absolute highlights for me. The they were certainly not GM, but scottish,
views to present to the Environment Minister       gathering in Barra – the welcome and we could have sold tons of them. scottish
however, we feel we were able to form a            kindness we received from the islanders will oatcakes were also another huge attraction.
balanced opinion in adequate time to inform        long live in our memories, the presentations     harris tweed and shetland knitwear, both
the Minister.                                      and speeches were so focussed, pertinent intrinsic to crofting, drew many appreciative
   i am grateful for the unreserved support        and timely that i was running out of comments and enquiries. If I believed in re-
and wise counsel that was afforded me by           superlatives to describe our guest speakers incarnation i would come back as a potato
the directors and staff who carried out a          and animated workshop sessions. Our office producer or baker! Beats weaving any day.
listening exercise with patience and dignity.      staff deserve our heartfelt thanks for the       Now to let the tups out, always one of the
   We have been very unfortunate that              organisation which was first rate, well done! highlights of the crofting year, the eternal
the Committee of Inquiry into crofting was         Many people remarked on the harmony hope that we will top the sale at Dalmally or
disbanded on completion of the report leaving                                                      12:09
                                                   warmth of the gathering. sac 88x85 2/8/07 Lockerbie! Page 1
SCF to explain their findings. This was a             Terra Madre or Mother Earth – a bi-annual     if only…

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 f i n d u s o n - l i n e a t w w w. c r o f t i n g. o r g
THE CROFTER, DECEMBER 2008                                                                                                                             3

Crofting Leaving the hills forever?
         No policy change spells the end for hill and island farming
delivers                             Continued from page 1
                                     at a recent seminar in inverness.           These losses of store livestock        speaking after the seminar,
But will the Government?
                                        The seminar brought together          have an impact right throughout        Norman leask, past-president of
Continued from page 1                crofters, farmers and local              the agricultural sector, according     the sCF, said that strong political
                                     politicians from argyll, lochaber,       to John Gregor from aberdeen           leadership was now required.
support in hand-outs, this is the
                                     sutherland, Ross-shire, shetland         and Northern Marts; and with           “We badly need some joined up
payment needed for the goods
                                     and       perthshire.        Evidence,   increasing stock dispersals in         thinking from Government here.
                                     backing up the official figures, of      Orkney and Caithness, finishers        We’ve heard today about people
    Crofting can produce the
                                     the critical state of hill farming and   in aberdeenshire are concerned         leaving the land at an astonishing
best breeding stock available
                                     crofting came from delegates right       about where they will get store        rate. it isn’t good enough to wait
anywhere, it produces some of
                                     across the area.                         stock from in the future.              another five years for a change in
the finest food money can buy,
                                        Profitability is a real issue            The decline in livestock keeping    policy in this mechanism which is
it maintains a landscape that
                                     – figures from a recent SAC
brings millions of tourist pounds
                                     report presented to the seminar
into the scottish economy and it
                                     by steven Thomson show an
maintains a bio-diversity that is
                                     average loss of £26/head on a
priceless in its high nature value
                                     ewe in the lFa area and £280/
management systems.
                                     head on suckler cows.
    and yet crofters are losing
                                        Most producers would prefer to
money on every animal they
                                     make their income from the market,
produce but are expected to
                                     argued Robert MacDonald, a
continue to croft for the good
                                     farmer from Grantown, but in more
of the nation. sorry, it doesn’t
                                     disadvantaged areas with higher
work like that. Crofting must
                                     costs, this is not always possible.
have public payment for public
                                     something needs to change in
goods, as without this the
                                     policy terms to help make these
consequences are dire. Crofters
                                     units profitable.
must stop in-fighting and unite
                                        From       sutherland,       Martin
in directing our government to
                                     MacKay talked of the impact
do what is needed, to put public
                                     that the closing down of farming
money where it rightfully should
                                     operations on a number of big            makes it increasingly difficult for    designed to assist agriculture in
                                     estates and the consequent               those who remain in farming, as        the more disadvantaged areas.
    as Gwyn Jones, a speaker
                                     loss of jobs has had on the local        marts, hauliers and other rural           “I’ll be continuing discussions
at the recent sCF gathering put
                                     community. 10000 sheep have              services start to disappear from       with the European Commission
it, there is a tipping point where
                                     gone from the parish of Durness          an area and working livestock          on this in Brussels, but as a sector
crofters under the continued
                                     alone in recent years.                   becomes harder with less people.       we all need to pay attention to this
lack of support will suddenly,
                                        sylvia armstrong, a haulier              The seminar looked at the way       opportunity and have assistance
collectively, stop doing it. and
                                     from Dornoch suggested that this         in which less Favoured area            from our politicians. We need
once past this point there is
                                     loss was speeding up, with 650           payments could help stem these         evidence that the government
no going back up the slippery
                                     ewes put off this autumn within          declines. options for the future       is willing to support the multi-
                                     a twenty mile radius of her home         of lFa support, which aims to          functional farming that we have
    yes, it can be restored
                                     and a big estate in the county           maintain low-intensity farming in      in our area. We all know that we
eventually but only after a long
                                     finishing in agriculture recently        disadvantaged areas, are currently     are making the most efficient
slog and inputs that make the
                                     after 200 years. since the support       being discussed in a scottish          use of the pastoral land that we
support needed now pale into
                                     structure changed, payments              Government consultation.               have at our disposal, at really a
                                     went to individuals who retired             The possibility of maintaining      very low level of public support,
    But there is also the
                                     with it. young people were keen          the    existing    lFa      scheme     when you compare it to more
opportunity to demonstrate
                                     to come in, she said, but with no        unchanged until 2013 – an option       favourable areas in the rest of the
those things that crofting offers
                                     support, it was very difficult for       in the consultation – did not win      UK and Europe. We would like
and to lead the UK in producing
                                     them to do so.                           favour with the audience, many         to see evidence that the scottish
what the world wants – good
                                        according to argyll farmer            of whom had travelled significant      Government – ministers and
food that does not cost the
                                     angus McFadyen, what the                 distances and given up a day’s         officials – understand that too.”
earth. Crofting is now on the
                                     trends don’t show up is the loss of      work to express their concern             The consultation on the future
world stage, seen as a model
                                     people from the land. he gave an         over the loss of agriculture in the    of lFa support, available from
for how food production can be
                                     example of a farming enterprise          region. strong calls were made for     Department offices, via the
delivered sustainably.
                                     managed by two men, which                support to be linked to activity and   sCF website or online at www.
  Will the scottish Government       was four farms thirty years ago,         not paid to those doing nothing or, closes on 19th
back up its words with actions?      supporting four families.                leaving the industry.                  December.
   Will it stand up to large-scale
agri-businesses and re-distribute    Now is the time for your responses — an appeal from Norman Leask
the less Favoured area support       I said in the last Crofter that “We were delighted that the Shucksmith inquiry was completed.
to the truly less favoured areas?       “However I foresee problems if everything suggested was put into the bill so please, please let us know
  Will it tie the single Farm        what things you feel are sacrosanct and what you see should not be changed in the new bill.’
payment to activity?                    Now that the Government response to the Committee of Inquiry on Crofting has been published it is
                                     really important that everybody reads the response carefully and with great detail so that we collectively
   Will it enhance the most          do not miss anything that is important. We must ensure that the bill is acceptable to crofters when it is
effective means of building rural    published some time in the new year.
houses — the Croft house Grant          This is the time to influence the Minister because once the Government has put forward its proposals it
(and loan) scheme?                   is always more difficult to get something removed from proposed legislation than it is to make sure it is not
 Will they put money                 committed to paper in the first place.
where their mouth is?                   i know we are not the only people to have access to Ministers. please let us know your concerns and if
                                     possible please also contact your own Msp or the sCF to emphasise your concerns.
4                                                                                                       THE CROFTER, DECEMBER 2008

The Angus MacRae Memorial Debate – a close result
This house believes that diverse localised food production is the only sustainable way to
secure the food requirements of the world’s people.
John Bannister, co-ordinator of         motion.                               another. The search for a suitable       The debate opened with patrick
the debate, gives a brief account         The difficulty then arose as to     personality eventually became         Mulvany predictably making a
of this year’s contest                  who we could find to be a suitable    exhausted and we simply had           convincing and well-constructed
                                        opponent. our hopes were raised       no opposition speaker; leaving        argument.

        CapaCiTy house at this          then dashed by certain high-          us in a state of near desperation        Gwyn countered with a more
        year’s gathering in Barra for   profile individuals, whose initial    and the very real possibility that    moderate view of the motion and
        zthe second in the series of    agreement to speak had then           we should have to pull the plug       injected some self-deprecating
three debates witnessed a spirited      evaporated for one reason or          on an event that many of us had       humour to support his opposition.
and skilful contest between two                                               been looking forward to.                 Gwyn’s closing statement then
well-matched opponents.                                                          This state of affairs remained     also claimed defect in the wording
    last year’s debate had been a                                             unchanged as we gathered at           of the motion whilst patrick
great success and we wondered                                                 the gathering. However, a flash       concluded his ‘final word’ by
if this year’s could possibly match                                           of inspiration gave a glimmer of      reinforcing his theme and rejecting
the standard set. The motion was                                              hope in the form of Gwyn Jones,       the defect wording claim.
drafted along the general theme                                               former saC advisor. Gwyn                 Edge of seats, collective holding
of the gathering and eventually                                               arrived at the gathering directly     of breath for the result of the vote,
consensus on the wording was                                                  from his holiday in spain so was      which eventually produced a
arrived at by the debate focus                                                totally unprepared for the task       defeat of the motion (31 against
group.                                                                        we not so gently put to him.          21 votes).
    Who would we invite to speak                                                 some arm twisting and a               This debate was yet again an
for and against the motion?                                                   dram or three was enough to           enjoyable and thought-provoking
patrick Mulvany – chair of the                                                persuade Gwyn that it really          exercise notwithstanding it was a
UK Food Group and adviser to                                                  would be a good idea if he was        close call.
practical action Development                                                  to be the opposer. With a few            our thanks go to both
Group – was an obvious choice                                                 minutes remaining before the          contestants and especially to
and he readily agreed to take up                                              start of the debate Gwyn hastily      Gwyn without whom there would
the challenge to speak for the                                                made his notes.                       have been no debate.

Open letter to Michael Russell MSP
                                                                                find us on-line at
                                                                                w w w. c r o f t i n g. o r g
Dear Minister                           be a hodgepodge of unattached
Terra Madre
                                           i went around to their side of
i have been moved to write you
as i am returning from Terra
                                        the stall to make sense to them
                                        our thinking. I said, “Our stand is
                                                                                              28/5/07 website
                                                                                     your crofting 11:39 Page 1
                                                                              dunlop tractors 88x40
Madre where i was part of the           all about the people”.
scottish Crofting Foundation’s
                                           people need grain and
produce stand.
                                        vegetables to feed themselves,                    Dunlop Tractor Spares
    i did not go with much
                                        animals also need grain and                                 FERGI, 35/65, DEXTA, MAJOR
enthusiasm but to cut a very long
                                        vegetables so they can grow
story short various people took                                                               NEW AND USED PARTS, BADGES, ETC.
                                        to feed the people. Tweed and
a variety of items, unimportant
                                        knitwear give employment to                               OVER 1800 DIFFERENT PARTS
in themselves, such as old
varieties of scottish potatoes,         people and keep them warm.                     Send stamped addressed envelope,A4 size, for price list.
                                        The basket was a symbol of
shetland cabbage (probably                                                                67 Crankill Road, Ballymena, N. Ireland BT43 5NN
the most important vegetable            the ‘kishie’ and other types of
                                        basket required to make people’s
                                                                               Tel/Fax: 028 2565 2560       Mobile: 07710 994 190 or 07834 455083
ever grown for humanity – i will                                                               website:
explain later), some shetland           burden easier. The leaflets
knitwear, some harris tweed,            showed how people in the past                         email:
beremeal, oatmeal, a straw              and present live on the periphery
basket, the crofting brand’s new        of scotland. Music supplied by
tartan, some leaflets on crofting       the pipes shows how the people
life past and present, photos           entertained themselves. The new
and a set of bagpipes.                  Crofting Foundation tartan shows
    This conglomeration created
a tremendous interest in what
                                        how important people with no              ROB GIBSON
                                        clan tartan are to the community.
we were and with my heart               as you see: it is all aBoUT ThE           MSP
steadily lightening, Neil and i –       pEoplE.                                   for Highlands and Islands
with our beautiful and talented            i have come home very
female helpers, maybe that was          enthusiastic for the 2010 Terra           Welcomes All Enquiries
why our stall was so popular –          Madre and must encourage
were explaining the wonders                                                       WICK OFFICE
                                        the scottish Government to get
of scotland, its traditions and         involved in any way possible              4 Grant street,
                                        in this fantastic showcase for            Wick, KW1 5ay
    all of a sudden i was
                                        scotland and its produce.
approached by a group of                                                          Tel: 01955 605016
young academics from a                    Kind regards
European college. They said,                                                      Fax: 01955 604963
“We have been studying your                               Norman leask            Email:
stand for some time; we can                              past Chair, sCF
see no point in it. it seems to
THE CROFTER, DECEMBER 2008                                                                                                                                                                 5

New crofting areas for Scotland Lochhead
       RRaN, BUTE, Greater and little Cum-            speaking at the highlands and islands
       brae, Moray and the parts of highland       Convention, Environment Minister Michael
       znot already within the crofting counties
are to be designated as new crofting areas.
                                                   Russell said: “Crofting has a real role to play
                                                   in not only maintaining vibrant populations
a scottish statutory instrument proposing the
extension of crofting areas will be laid before
                                                   and thriving communities in scotland’s less
                                                   accessible areas, but enabling them to
parliament shortly.                                grow and prosper. We want to see inclusive
   The move follows a public consultation          and dynamic crofting communities and the
which gave resounding support for the plan         designation of new crofting areas will aid

and follows years of work by smallholders in       the sustainable economic growth of these                 vaCCiNaTioN programme to immunise
arran to rectify an historical anomaly. The sCF    areas. We will now look at extending the                 all susceptible farm livestock zagainst
first held a public meeting there in January       Crofting Counties agricultural Grants scheme             zthe bluetongue virus was launched on
2006 to outline the possibilities offered by the   (CCaGs) to the whole of the highlands and         1st November by Richard lochhead, Cabinet
proposals on crofting reform. The Crofters         islands Enterprise area to ensure crofters        secretary for Rural affairs and the Environ-
Commission followed suit and explained the         in the new area can fully benefit from this       ment.
implications of crofting tenure for the island.    funding.”                                            Mr Lochhead said: “The bluetongue virus
                                                                                                     poses a real, potentially devastating, threat
                                                                                                     to the scottish livestock sector. a whole-scale
                                                                                                     compulsory vaccination programme is the only
                                                                                                     way to properly protect our industry. While the
                                                                                                     compulsory approach will ensure that all farm
                                                                                                     animals are protected against bluetongue, it
                                                                                                     is only one line of defence. it remains vitally
                                                                                                     important that care is taken in sourcing stock
                                                                                                     and that high risk areas are avoided.”
                                                                                                        scotland is the only part of the UK to implement
                                                                                                     a compulsory vaccination programme of cattle
                                                                                                     and sheep.
                                                                                                        The decision has been taken in partnership
                                                                                                     with the industry and will ensure that there is
                                                                                                     sufficient uptake of vaccine to prevent the
                                                                                                     spread of Bluetongue 8 in scotland.
                                                                                                        half of the manufacturing costs of the vaccine
                                                                                                     (£2.6 million) has been paid by the Government
                                                                                                     for the first year of the vaccination programme.

                                                                                                                                              West Highland Free Pres
                                                                                                                                                                      s, 18 January 2008

             MEDIA AWARDS
  Newspaper of the Year
                       E V E R Y                              F R I D AY
6                                                                                                                       THE CROFTER, DECEMBER 2008

                          strath                      print
                    Let us do the running around for you!                                                   Angus MacNeil MP
                                                                                                                                      Constituency Office
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                                                                                                                                    Isle of Lewis HS1 2DU

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           Broadford, Isle of Skye IV49 9AP Tel: 01471 822 555
                                                                                        Angus MacNeil welcome – office open Monday-Friday
Broadford, Isle of Skye IV49 9AP Tel: 01471 822555
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    set a new standard in kit                                                                       Enquiries welcome
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    house design

    T: 01471 820410 I:
THE CROFTER, DECEMBER 2008                                                                          7

                             Balnakeil ewes – improved condition
                             and milkiness with Harbro feed blocks
                                harbro’s super Energy 20%          Balnakeil to winter the ewe hoggs
                             protein feedblocks play a crucial     at home within 600 acres of sand
                             role in maintaining ewe condition     dunes and also grow a few acres
                             in one of the most exposed hill       of turnips, to winter the tups, and
                             sheep farms in the North of           silage, to feed the 45 aberdeen-
                             scotland.                             angus cows.
                                andrew Elliot switched to               The ewes are kept on four
                             Super Energy blocks five years        hirsels and the flock is virtually
                             ago on the 12,000 acres hill farm     self-contained with home bred-
                             of Balnakeil at Cape Wrath and is     tups kept for three years use at
                             delighted with the improvement in     home and only one bought-in tup
                             the condition and milkiness of his    used annually on each hirsel to
                             North Country Cheviot ewes.           bring in new bloodlines.
                                “Balnakeil has the reputation of      The reputation of the Balnakeil
                             some of the harshest weather in       cast ewes for shifting well goes
                             Scotland,” says Andrew. “We don’t     before them and they meet a
                             get much snow low down but the        ready trade at the autumn sales,
                             farm is exposed to constant gales     with last year’s consignment of
                             and driving rain which means we       300 selling into Caithness and the
                             need easily-fleshed sheep with        North of England. Because of the
                             tight skins.”                         harsh environment at this northerly
                                super Energy blocks are made       farm, no gimmers are tupped and
                             available from tupping time to        ewes are lambed for the first time
                             hold ewes near the tups on the hill   as three-year-olds. Draft ewes are
                             because, with open marches and        sold at six years of age after four
                             few sheep on neighbouring farms,      crops of lambs and rear another
                             the tup-time gather can start five    two, and occasionally three, crops
                             miles off Balnakeil’s own ground.     of lambs on kinder farms.
                             Blocks are fed until the ewes            Balnakeil tups are sold at lairg
                             are gathered off the hills prior to   and Dingwall at four years old
                             lambing in late april.                after being in the flock for three
                                “The feed blocks are quite hard
                                                                   years and are eagerly sought
                             and last well,” says Andrew. “We
                                                                   after, peaking in 2006 with an
                             put blocks out weekly and since
                                                                   average of £1950 for 12 at lairg.
                             switching to the harbro block,
                                                                      “Concentrates – a mix of oats,
                             there are usually a few bits left
                                                                   beet pulp and mineralised protein
                             over each week when we go
                                                                   supplement – are only fed to
                             to replenish them. There was a
                                                                   tups as hoggs during their first
                             noticeable improvement in ewe
                                                                   winter and thereafter the tups
                             condition when we switched to
                                                                   are wintered on turnips,” says
                             this block, helping us usually
                                                                   Andrew.      “Rearing    ruminants
                             achieve a lambing percentage of
                                                                   naturally on forage-based diets
                             over 90% – as good as can be
                                                                   has a major impact on longevity
                             expected for such an extensive
                             farm experiencing such harsh          and perhaps this is one of the
                             conditions.”                          reasons why many Balnakeil tups
                                The farm stretches from the        go on working to nine and ten
                             northern coast of scotland about      years of age.”
                             twelve miles inland and rises
                             to almost 3000ft. The steading
                             sits at the coast where there are
                             around 900 acres which allows

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8                                                                                                         THE CROFTER, DECEMBER 2008

                                       SCF ANNUAL GATHERING

                             Delivering the goods
       hE pURposE of the con-          cattle from the Western isles.         ignored professor shucksmith’s           vast, but underused resource for
       ference in Barra was to try     These are healthier, hardier and       recommendation for this to be            crofters. Training and education
       to chart a course towards       more prolific than their mainland      within a “powerful crofting and          will be an important part of the
recognition for crofters providing     counterparts – plus the islands’       community development body”              process of making sure more land
public goods. “Crofters deliver        isolation from markets also            ideally within hiE. instead it           is better used. Donald praised the
significant non-market goods,”         isolates stock from diseases.          plans to drop crofting into the          work of two Uist folk, Mary Norton
explained Patrick Krause, “but if         Crofting Minister Mike Russell      mainstream of hiE’s economic             and Neil Macpherson, who set
crofters can’t make a livelihood       offered little new information         development work.                        up and run a crofting module at
from delivering either market or       on the Government’s plans for             David lamb from saC said that         the sgoil lionacleit as part of the
non-market goods then they just        crofting but robustly defended         research suggested a market for          national curriculum.
won’t continue to do it.”              them against criticism from            the kind of local food produced             The hospitality at the gathering
   pam Rodway, an organic              delegates. he said it was time to      by crofters, with 44 per cent of         did Barra proud. Throughout the
farmer and cheesemaker from            move forward constructively. “I        UK consumers interested in               event the involvement of the local
Morayshire, described the slow         think there is good will and support   buying locally and 30 per cent           people, their talented musicians
Food Movement by contrasting it        among the public of scotland – we      of tourists interested in eating         and their craic made this gathering
with fast food. it stands for food     need to get up and get on with this    local food on their holidays. The        very special. Fine local produce
that is rooted in a particular place   process now.”                          main motivators for buying local         was served at every meal,
and held dear by a particular             Nonetheless there was a good        seem to be a desire to support           showing what can be achieved on
culture; food that gives a fair        deal of concern among delegates        communities and producers from           a croft in harsh condition.
return to the people who grow          at aspects of the Government’s         that area.                                  During an evening celebration
and rear it.                           response which changed some               Donald Murdie, sCF’s crofting         of crofting produce, Michael
   perthshire farmer Tom Gray          of shucksmith’s proposals – not        resources programme manager,             Russell Msp gave an inspirational
describes his approach to farming      the least of which was a lack          argued that with at least one-           address on what scotland and
as being closer to the crofting        of commitment to give greater          third of scotland’s land mass in         crofting has to offer the world.
ethos than to agri-business.           financial support to crofting.         crofting areas and 25 per cent of
Despite being within a few miles of       The Government’s proposals          agricultural land in those areas in      Our thanks to Iain MacKinnon for
big livestock markets he chooses       on crofting development have           crofting tenure, crofting land is a      this report.

                                                    Brand local?
Laurent Vernet of QMS spoke on         the product, you will not buy it       scotland, consumers understand           producer to the consumers.
the value of a local brand. This is    again.                                 local as scottish but local is also         The term local is too often used
an edited version of his address.         With a collective brand, you        often used to describe a product         in a restricted sense. Consumers

                                       are only as strong as your             produced around 30 miles from the        interested in local products (and
        oNsUMERs love brands,
                                       weakest product. if someone has        place of retail. Local is potentially    happy to pay for them) are not only
        logos and marks, but un-
                                       a bad experience with one single       a very dangerous marketing               looking for the place of production
        processed food producers
                                       product from a collective mark, this   term especially in the context of        but they want a genuine link
and processors have been slow
in adopting brand differentiation –    consumer will often be resistant to    the highlands and islands. For           between the product and the place
especially with fresh meat.            trying other products associated       example, why should consumers            it has been produced which can
   Now the industry has caught         with the mark. This is one reason      pay more for a local product? “It’s      be a flavour, a cultural character,
up and every producer selling          why the specifications for Scotch      local, so it was cheaper to deliver      a tradition or a specificity they
direct to the consumer has at          Beef and scotch lamb are so            therefore it must be cheaper than        won’t find in a general commodity
least one brand. it is therefore       important.                             in the shop.”                            product. i believe that local
important to get back to basics           a brand is a promise, a moral          Local is more than just the           products     from     the     crofting
to understand what advantages          contract between the producer          locality or the distance of transport.   community have a genuine market
and disadvantages branding has         and the consumer. successful           Local is about an ethos. The             beyond the 30 miles from where
to offer.                              brands vehicle an ideology, a story    product is from a reliable source;       it has been produced. There are
   a brand is a way of recognising     and/or a guarantee. Depending          the consumer can talk directly           a lot of consumers in large cities
a product within the mass market.      on the message you adopt, your         to the producer. Local is about          who are happy to pay a little bit
Brand recognition can work for and     consumers may be very different.       identifying exactly where the            more (and often a lot more) to get
against the product in question. If       The marketing buzz-word is          product was produced. Local is           a genuine food product. so think
you have a bad experience with         local – but what is local meat? in     about the direct commitment of the       of the larger definition of local.
THE CROFTER, DECEMBER 2008                                                                                                                             9

                                     SCF ANNUAL GATHERING
Reflecting crofters’ opinions A major target
A synopsis of Professor Mark Shucksmith’s
presentation at the Barra gathering
                                                       – 67% supported restrictions on sales or
                                                    transfers; only 21% against
                                                                                                      for CAP support
                                                       – 88% said crofts should only be available             T ThE sCF gathering in Barra, Gwyn

    WaNT To ExplaiN why the Committee of            to people who work the croft                              Jones of the European Forum on
    Inquiry into Crofting came to the proposals        – 69% said absentee crofters should be                 zNature Conservation and pastoralism
    that we did, and why we believe they are        forced to assign the croft                        looked critically at the pros and cons of using
right.                                                 – 79% said absentee crofters should be         the high Nature value (hNv) farmland tag as
   The committee engaged with over 2,000            forced to sub-let for a fixed term.               a selling point for crofting produce. Below we
people and gathered mountains of evidence.             at most public meetings, groups felt there     reproduce a summary of Gwyn’s talk.
This is all available on our website, even          should be stronger measures to deal with             hNv farmland is farmland which – because
down to photographs of the flip-charts from         neglect and absenteeism, and to prevent           it is managed by low-intensity systems –
our public meetings, along with the written         sales to the highest bidder.                      supports rich biodiversity and is now a major
submissions and the analysis of the most               amongst written submissions, opinion           target for Cap support.
comprehensive survey of crofter opinion ever        was divided between those who favoured               Much of crofting agriculture falls squarely
conducted. Unfortunately, very little notice of     more regulatory powers – “every empty croft       into this category. Though the traditional low-
this evidence has been taken in so many of          is a family opportunity denied” – and those       intensity use of the inbye (eg hayfields, arable
the opinions voiced this summer.                    who felt existing powers were adequate but        cropping) may have changed for the worse in
     one of the core principles of our report is    needed to be applied more rigorously by the       recent years, common grazings are almost
local accountability, so let us look first at the   CC. only a small minority believed that more      wholly unimproved land. This semi-natural
evidence we gathered and published on this          regulation is inappropriate.                      vegetation is a central characteristic of hNv
issue. in the survey of crofter opinion, people          all this evidence is available on our        farmland.
said the appropriate level for regulation to        website and it is rigorous and compelling.           if crofters can make the hNv farmland label,
occur is: 46% local community level; 34%            it gives the lie to those who say we didn’t       properly defined, work for them then their main
local area level; 16% local authority level; and    reflect what crofters told us.                    constraint – the low-yielding land – becomes
only 21% national level – the level at which           The Committee of Inquiry was established       their main asset.
regulation currently operates. and ironically       to gather evidence and to propose a vision           However, many difficulties stand in their
support for local crofting boards was highest       for the future of crofting. Central to this is    way. The main one is that a key characteristic
in the north west Highlands!                        tackling neglect, absenteeism and land            of crofting land is the highly seasonal pattern of
      amongst 300 written submissions, four         speculation; and that crofters themselves         vegetation growth. Bringing stock to a finished
thought the Crofters Commission did a good          should take control. it is claimed now by         condition on the growth of one season is very
job, but the remainder criticised the Commission    some that crofters do not want responsibility     difficult, leaving the crofter with a difficult
or proposed changes. a recurring theme              and accountability and that they oppose           choice.
was that the composition of the CC should           measures to tackle these crucial issues, but         selling store means that it is unlikely that a
change to permit greater area representation        you have seen the evidence that they very         substantial part of the value added by the label
and to be more accountable. Many called             clearly did want these things last year. have     falls to the crofter.
for democratically elected representatives,         crofters’ opinions reversed since last year?         Using two or more seasons’ growth to finish
including local area delegates.                     or are some people now shouting louder            a beast (eg selling wedders) means spreading
     i am discouraged by those who say that         than others?                                      the income over a greater length of time and
crofters cannot be trusted to run their own             it’s tempting to take an ‘easy option’ – to   developing a niche market for what is at
affairs. The evidence is clear – most crofters      go for what seems to be popular but fails to      present a mass market product – store lambs
do want more local control and accountability.      grasp the nettle – to leave the tough choices     – produced in their millions.
    Turning to regulation, the other area where     for another day – but we were told time and          The usual response – the use of concentrates
we have been accused of going against crofter       again that that will lead to the demise of        for the final stage of indoor finishing – could, it
opinion, the survey showed a strong desire          crofting in only a few years. Radical reforms     might be argued, severely damage the integrity
to tackle absenteeism, neglect and sales.           are needed which build on crofting’s history      of the product. The beast ceases to be wholly
When asked about these issues, of the 1,000         and traditions but meet the new challenges        grass-fed, while concentrates themselves are
surveyed:                                           of the 21st Century. i am pleased that the        very energy-intensive and make the ‘good for
   – 57% were against sales to the highest          Government is not taking the easy option but      the climate’ argument for local food sound
bidder; only 24% in favour                          is prepared to grasp the nettle.                  rather hollow.
                                                                                                         Nevertheless, the hNv idea chimes well with
                                                                                                      the slow Food ethos and should resonate well
                                                                                                      with consumers – after all, it relates directly to
                                                                                                      the management of the land, not to a set of
                                                                                                      technical standards or abstract rules.
                                                                                                         Gwyn finished by reminding the audience
                                                                                                      that reversing the current economic returns
                                                                                                      from traditional systems is a big challenge
                                                                                                      indeed. Marketing undoubtedly has a part
                                                                                                      to play, but even marketing won’t happen by
                                                                                                      accident – support and capacity building are
                                                                                                         Moreover, the encouragement of better
                                                                                                      market orientation and shorter production
                                                                                                      chains is very unlikely to be a substitute for the
                                                                                                      formulation and delivery of integrated support
                                                                                                      from both Cap pillars.
                                                                                                         The geographical correlation between the
                                                                                                      post-decoupling reduction in sheep numbers,
                                                                                                      the distribution of semi-natural vegetation (ie
                                                                                                      hNv farmland) and the lowest levels of lFa
                                                                                                      payments is striking, pointing clearly to where
                                                                                                      such policy integration must start.
10                                                                                                                   THE CROFTER, DECEMBER 2008

Whole Farm Review Scheme
re-launched to offer more support
       hE sCoTTish Govern-            agriculture is being increasingly
       ment re-launched the           market-led, now is probably
       Whole       Farm     Review    an ideal opportunity to talk
scheme earlier this year in an        to an accredited adviser and
effort to make it more attrac-        discuss the best options for
tive and encourage more farm          the future. The scheme is very
businesses to apply. The re-          flexible and can address many
launched scheme now offers in-        of the concerns associated with
creased grants, less paperwork        running a croft under trying
and greater flexibility.              conditions. Those may include
   open to all eligible farmers       profitability and loan issues,
and crofters, it aims to allow you    diversification       restrictions,
to take a fresh look at the entire    succession         arrangements,
farming/croft      business     and   pollution and environmental
what can be done to help make         requirements.
it more sustainable over the             John Doddie, policy manager         This Scottish Government Scheme will refund over 80%
                                                                             (up to £1,900) of the cost of an accredited adviser.
coming years. This is done with       for    the    scheme,       stated:
the services of an accredited         “Although the scheme was               The adviser will analyse your whole farming business
                                                                             and provide a Report and Action Plan to improve
adviser* who will assess the          primarily designed to support          performance.
business and provide a report         full time farming businesses,          Further information, Scheme booklet
and a recommended action              a number of crofters have also         (WFR 1 (2008)), and application form
plan.                                                                        available from:
                                      taken part in the WFRs and
   as the scheme’s grant rates        found it to be a very worthwhile       •   Any Scottish Government RPID
are in excess of 80% and paid                                                    local Area Office
                                      exercise”. he has also been
direct to the adviser business,       encouraged by the number of            •   Scottish Government website –
the cost to the farmer/crofter        participants who had taken the             topics/agriculture
is minimal. The grant is paid         time to write into the office and      •   tel. no. 0131-244-5236 or 6193
in three stages up to £2,400          praise the scheme:                         Email:
towards the costs of improving           “I believe we have now got a
the performance of the business:      very useful, in-depth appraisal
stage 1, up to a maximum of           of my farm business with clear
£1,600 for the review report;         directions for the future.”
stage 2, up to £300 for a later          “May I say that we are
follow-up review of the action        delighted with this review of our
plan and an optional third grant      farm and i think it has been a        your local scottish Government                           Email:
of up to £500 to support any          very worthwhile exercise.”            RPID area office or the scheme’s                        Website:
additional specialist advice             “The fact that the review was      own website:                          scotland
identified in the report.             being done forced me to think         uk/topics/agriculture/grants/                             *accredited   advisers    are
   The WFRs can provide:              clearly about the future … and        bdandm/wfrs                                             registered under the Farm
   • a simple application             has given me a much clearer             For more information about                            Business Adviser Accreditation
process, with approvals usually       path to what to do over the next      current accredited advisers                             Scheme for Scotland (FBAASS).
granted within three weeks            five to 10 years.”                    contact:                                                (The scheme is run under
   • very generous grant rates           For more information and             lantra, Newlands, scone,                              contract by lantra on behalf of
   • a stand-alone scheme             application leaflets, contact:        perth, ph2 6Nl, 01738 553322                            the scottish Government).
that is not linked to any other
Government scheme
   • a review report that will
assess recent performance
(financial and environmental)
   • an assessment of the farm’s
key strengths, weaknesses,
threats and opportunities
   • the flexibility to cope with
all types of farming situations
and focus on the core issues
and problems of that business
   • an agreed action plan
that will help the business to
become more sustainable and
improve profitably
   • a return visit to review
progress and provide any
further advice
   • an optional additional grant
to obtain further specialist
   The scheme has assisted
around 1,700 businesses and
feedback analysis has been
very encouraging. 96% of
participants think the scheme
is either “excellent” (50%) or
“good”. At a time when Scottish
THE Crofter - Protection#1FEA25 28/3/06
 The CROFTER, DECEMBER 2008                                                            2:09 pm            Page 1                                                                                                          11

                  The last thing
                  your children need
                  when you’re gone
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                   Call us on 0141 225 3233 or contact
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12                                                                                                                  THE CROFTER, DECEMBER 2008

Increasing croft incomes Unique crofters’ tar tan
                                                                                       available to members
       hE CRoFTiNG Resources             production. We heard how value
       programme, launched at            can be added in this sector too if

       the sCF gathering in Barra,       the store producer can maintain                      oR a vERy special Christ-
is a natural follow-up to the sus-       high health status and form a                        mas present this year, why
tainable land Use programme              trading relationship with the                        not get your loved one
which concluded this year. The           finisher.                                     something made in the unique
new programme will continue                 The programme will assist                  crofters’ tartan.
some of the themes of the old,           crofters and crofting communities                Norman and Evelyn leask
but will pay particular attention to     to make best use of the resources             in shetland have set up an                 at £46 per metre with £10 per
emerging policy issues on food           available to them in order to                 enterprise which makes the                 metre going to the sCF.
production, land use, crofting re-       sustain the cultural heritage of              distinctive and exclusive tartan           10oz weight tartan available at
form and sRDp.                           crofting, its people and practices            available directly to you and              £37 per metre with £7.50 per
   The scottish Crofting produce         and the rich environment and                  helps the sCF at the same time.            metre donated to the sCF.
Mark, also launched in Barra, will       cultural landscape derived from                  part of the proceeds of all                a range of co-ordinating
form a key part of the programme.        low-intensity crofting land use.              sales go to the Foundation to              knitwear designed and produced
its main aims – increasing crofters’     We will continue to promote the               help the organisation further its          by Evelyn is also available and
confidence in what they produce,         productive and sustainable use                work on behalf of crofters.                again on all orders more than
encouraging production, finding          of the phenomenal land resource                  including delivery to your door,        10% will be donated to the sCF.
new markets, getting a fair-trade        that exists within crofting tenure.           the costs are as follows:                     it’s not too late to order for
price and increasing croft incomes       a network of facilitators will be                                                        Christmas, but this is also
                                                                                       Ties £15 (£2.50 to sCF)
– will be reflected throughout.          built up who will assist individual                                                      an opportunity to purchase
The theme of developing and              crofters with access to sRDp                  scarves £15 (£2.50 to sCF)
                                                                                                                                  something very special for any
supporting     producer      groups      measures and the programme will               Rugs 54” x 72” £60 (£10 to sCF)            time of year. Talk to Evelyn at
and collaborative working will           also assist townships who wish to             Rugs 27” x 72” £32 (£5 to sCF)             anderson & Co, or any of her
continue. Crofters who belong            follow the community development              16oz weight tartan is available            staff – 01595 693714.
to producer groups will be well          approach advocated in the
aware of their benefits. Such            shucksmith Report. Maintaining
groups, covering sheep, cattle           and developing the skills base
and vegetable production, now            will continue and a mentoring
exist in many crofting areas from        scheme for new crofters will form
shetland to lochaber.                    part of the programme.
   in Barra we highlighted as an            As with all the projects
example the success of lewis             undertaken by sCF, there will be
and harris sheep producers,              a need to secure funding if the
who have given crofters in those         Crofting Resources programme
islands a fair-trade alternative         is to go ahead. We have made
to store sales by securing a             various applications to fund the
marketing agreement with the             employment of one (full time
Co-op and by on-line selling.            equivalent) staff member as well
Of course the great majority of          as three part-time, outbased
crofters will continue in store          facilitators.

          Gift Aid                        SCF notelets
                                                                                                        Tigh Beannaichte
                                                                                                              applecross           Advertise your
                                                                                                                                   business on the
    it’s always nice to feel that           From well-known artist and
                                          skye crofter susan Walker’s                     Dear Editor
 you’re getting something back
 from the inland Revenue and              image of a crofting scene,                      We have just returned from
 through the Gift aid scheme
 you can help support the
                                          these attractive cards be used
                                          as Christmas cards, Christmas
                                                                                       attending the gathering and
                                                                                       would like to record our thanks             SCF website
                                          presents, or anytime note cards.             to everyone at sCF who created
 scottish Crofting Foundation                                                                                                         self catering cottage to let?
                                          The 4x6” cards come with                     such a great and informative
 even more.                                                                                                                        B&B? Do you run fishing trips or
                                          envelopes in packs of ten at a               meeting. Not only did we meet
    sixty per cent of members                                                          old friends but made many new               sell crafts?
                                          cost of £5 including postage.
 have signed up to this scheme              available by phoning hQ                    ones. The gathering was, in                    if you have a tourist business
 which increases the value of             or via the sCF website, by                   our opinion, what crofting is all           then you can advertise on the
 your donation by 28p in every            purchasing these cards you are               about. The welcome we had from              sCF website. look under Croft
 £1. it doesn’t cost you an extra         helping support our work and                 Barra people was absolutely                 holidays on
 penny!                                   getting some unique custom-                  magnificent and the ceilidh on                 provide two photos, a brief
    if you have received a Gift           made cards.                                  the last night was great fun,               description, grading (if you have
 aid postcard with this Crofter                                                        especially our own seinneadair              one), contact details (name,
 then you are not registered                                                           from lewis (we think).                      phone, email and website).
 with us for our Gift aid scheme.                                                         i do hope that next year we              The cost will be £35 for the first
 please return this postcard to                                                        will see lots more members                  year.
 hQ. Even if you are not eligible                                                      attending as the more that attend              you must be an sCF member
 please tick the box that states                                                       the stronger sCF becomes.                   and the business must be run by
 this to prevent further mailings.                                                                                                 yourself or an immediate family
                                                                                          yours sincerely                          member on a working croft.
    and remember, it doesn’t
                                                                                                  Roger and lynn Evans                Contact hQ 01599 566365
 cost you an extra penny!
                                                                                                                                   for more details.

                                                         Contacting the Scottish Crofting Foundation
       SCF HEADQUARTERS: Lochalsh Business Park, Auchtertyre, Kyle IV40 8EG t: 01599 566365 • f: 01599 566375 • e: •
   Chief Executive: Patrick Krause • Land Use Programme Manager: Becky Shaw • Land Use Projects Manager: Donald Murdie • Training Manager: John Bannister
                           Office Manager: Carol Anne Stewart • Membership Administrator: Marion MacLeod • Accounts: Mabel Macaulay
                             • Crofter Editor: Fiona Mandeville – • Crofter advertising: Calina MacDonald 01478 640 276

                Printe d by St rat h P r i nt Lt d, Bro adfo rd, I sle o f Sk y e em a il inf o @ str a th p r in t. co . uk Te l: 0 1 4 7 1 8 2 2 5 5 5

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