Looking forward to animated debate and discussion

As Scottish referendum day draws closer – September 18 to vote yes or no for independence, that is, four weeks from today – the debate gets more heated.

And, notable in farming terms, the big names have broken cover to say “Yes” – former NFU Scotland presidents John Cameron, John Ross, Jim Walker and John Kinnaird.

Having talked to a number of farmers on both sides of the debate during the past year or so, and read some of the seemingly interminable letters in the farming press before losing the will to live, I don’t know how much effect endorsement by the four will have.

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All gave valuable service to Scottish farming over a combined period of almost 30 years, Cameron and Walker more extrovertly, Ross and Kinnaird more low key, but in their way as effective.

However, just as I doubt whether the televised debates of the genuine big political names Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling change our views on independence for or against, I doubt the farming four will convince or disabuse.

Still, we must give them full marks for trying.

Their joint view, summed up by Mr Ross at a press conference is basically: “Farming and rural affairs need to be at the forefront of all future Scottish government thinking… An independent Scotland is the only way this can be secured.”

It might seem naïve to suggest that an industry involving only about 65,000 people directly and producing a small part of the country’s output should be at the forefront of government thinking. But isn’t that rather blinkered view how most people think about the referendum? In theory, they should consider the overall effect. In practice, it is about how we think it will affect us as an individual.

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As for my own view, I can only offer the allegory of a dour Gala/Hawick game where a visitor turned to the man next to him and said it was an awful match. To which the man said: “Are you fae Gala?” “No.” “Are oo fae Hawick?” “Er, no.” “Then what’s it got to do with you?”

I look forward to animated debate and discussion in the next month, but to few minds being changed from their present yes or no setting, regardless of who endorses either side.

Back in the harvest fields throughout the region, no one needs to be told that the weather took a turn for the worse again last week and remains unsettled.

So much for the worse that in some parts of our area grain fields were flattened, an unusual sight these days, and some might have suffered wind damage. A pity, because until early August most farmers in north Northumberland and the Borders admitted – the correct description for something akin to drawing teeth – that this has been a good year with a good spring, good lambing, good hay and silage and a great start to harvest with oilseed rape and winter barley.

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