Thursday 28 January 2016

Crofting in 2036

The Scottish Government published it's first estimates of national farm income for 2015 this week, it's down again by fifteen per cent. Milk producers took the biggest hit, down 23 % because of global over supply and low prices. The lowest income levels were of course in the Highlands and Islands.  This is all against a background of lower feed, fertiliser , fuel prices and CAP subsidies down 13 %.

I should add that the "Basic Farm Payment" our CAP subsidy has not been paid making matters much worse for farmers and crofters with overdrafts and outstanding bills to pay.  Fifty years ago there were at least ten crofting families keeping cattle and sheep, growing potatoes, turnips  and oats and making hay for winter between my croft and the end of the road. Now there are three of us who are over seventy and one forty something keeping sheep and buying in most of the winter feed.

2036 Second homes , camp sites, no doctor and no crofters
If things continue like this the community and the landscape will look very different in 2036. We keep sheep and few hens, winter feed is largely bought in and we all lose money. This year we averaged £42 per head for lambs sold in Fort William, I estimate that it cost at least £50 to rear them and get them to market.

If you want to build a house here the planners insist that you paint it white, the traditional colour and they are very keen to give planning permission for second homes because Highland Council gets more council tax. Our politicians have forgotten that the reason why crofting and hill farming were subsidised in the first place. It was to keep people here on the land. It was a social subsidy not a farm subsidy.

I predict that in 2036 this crofting township will be uninhabited in winter, dotted with white painted holiday homes set in a landscape of abandoned croft land, tumble down stone walls and no GP surgery within 50 miles.

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