Power, land and food have been on the table most of all in Angus, and it won’t surprise you to know that they’re somewhat inter-related and high on the agenda of the local farming community in particular. After a packed three days of travelling around Angus (and a sojourn to Glasgow to meet Digital Scotland – more on that another day) holding events in the communities of Friockheim, Newtyle and Edzell, these look to be the hot topics.
There was a feeling amongst many of the people who attended that rural communities don’t have a strong enough voice. Amongst the many discussions on this subject was a conversation about beavers, who are causing a lot of destruction in areas they have unintentionally spread to since reintroduction elsewhere, which in turn, led to a deeper conversation about governmental organisations. How do people influence these unelected bodies who have power over their lives, in this case, SNH?
Other people attending, members of NFU Scotland, expressed understandable frustration about the lack of progress towards making their CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) payments – now several months overdue. These payments are lifelines for farmers, and without them many won’t survive. Despite heavy lobbying on their part, little progress has been made. They questioned how an organisation such as ours, which is much smaller than theirs, would be able to influence when, on this issue, they have found it so challenging. It’s a fair question and one I will address in another blog later this week.
The Land Reform Bill has caused frustration amongst those who attended our events in Angus too. People felt the bill was relatively balanced until some last minute changes were introduced following the SNP conference.
When you take these three issues together it’s understandable that the people who attended our events are concerned that we have a problem with the balance of power: a government agency which people feel is not listening; failure to deliver lifeline payments to farmers who are entitled to them; and last-minute changes to a long-debated and controversial Bill.
Perhaps the people attending our events in Angus have been particularly hard-hit, or perhaps the same issues will arise at other events too. I’d love to know what you think; is this a hot topic in your area too?
A more specifically local issue is a lack of processing facilities in the area, and I know this is felt elsewhere in Scotland too. In Angus, the need is for food processing facilities – high quality bread and an abattoir were amongst those needs mentioned – but also craft related facilities, a wool mill for example. A desire to see local produce processed, sold and eaten locally was strong and voiced at all three events this week in Angus.
It was good to hear people expressing concern too about the people in their communities who are struggling to make ends meet and who were perhaps not so well represented at our events in Angus. A lack of quality jobs in our rural areas can lead to seasonal and part-time work, depopulation, and employers finding it hard to find the right people for their jobs too.
Angus has a high migrant population, predominantly people from eastern Europe who have come to Scotland for seasonal work, and some of whom have settled here. Brechin Community Campus, where we will be holding our national event this year, has many children attending the high school who speak English as a second language. We’ve been discussing with the Brechin Liaison Group how to ensure this group in their community access the national event alongside everyone else.
Right, that’s enough for this evening I think – after three events in three days and a meeting with Digital Scotland in-between I’m ready for some good food and a good nights sleep. Whether I’ll find any local produce in the eateries in Forfar, where I’ve been staying, is another matter of course.
After a night at home on Bute, I’ll be off to Islay, Jura and Campbeltown in Argyll where I’ll be running another three events and hope to sample some of the local produce 😉
Please note that if you comment it can take a day or two for it to appear below.