Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Rocks and rolls.

Today was one of those days when you try something for the very first time, succeed and fall in love with it. Today was my first time ploughing a field alone.

The Farmer's leg is still firmly out of action so I am trying my best to carry his workload; it seemed a good day to swallow any fears about hitching the plough and turning over the little field which has seen no chemicals or artificial fertilizers for many years.
The Farmer muttered a few instructions, pointed to some levers, dials and switches in the tractor then, rather wisely, hobbled off to a safe distance to observe.

The feeling of turning over tired looking old pasture into rich, brown fat dumplings of earth is indescribable. It is a sensory experience, the musky scent of the soil, the hidden crumbly brown earth lying neatly in a row, birds appearing from nowhere to pull rudely disturbed worms and insects, the human contortion of driving forward whilst looking backwards..... a blissful delight of a task.
I'll admit to having The Extreme Fear a couple of times when the tractor hit a hidden dip or two, the wheels lifted clean off the ground and the steering suited itself, sliding worryingly towards the fence or the plough steadfastly refusing to budge an unseen boulder thus grinding everything to a halt despite the screaming complaints of the tractor's huge engine.
 The ploughwoman rocking and rolling, whooping with sheer delight and terror, whilst the earth herself became exposed to the crisp, winter air with a sleepy reluctance.

The ground will rest a while and be broken up by frost, rain and sun. When the time is right, it will be harrowed to a fine tilth then planted with a meadow mix of grasses and wild flowers which will hopefully encourage insects and birds to the little field. It will be cut for hay and provide the sheep with feed in the winter months.
The sleepy field will soon transform into a riot of colour and a haven for wildlife.

On days like these, this isn't work, although sweat was broken.
This is sheer, unbridled joy.

Friday, 2 January 2015

The Year of Change. Bring it on.

Happy New Year!

I have not written for such a long time, my apologies as there is no excuse but the New Year always begins with fresh hopes and ideas.

The Old Year is one I've been glad to see the back of. It started off well, no complaints about weather, etc but as the year progressed, we were hit by a series of misfortunes which added to the workload considerably.

The Farmer had an accident in the Big Shed, he fell over a piece of machinery and ruptured his Achilles tendon so was rendered immobile with a large knee to ankle plaster cast. I think it happened in October, the months have morphed into a blurry frenzy of farm activity; we moved back to the farm, where I tried to look after all in Chez Otter - Rosie, who has now left school and needs full time care, Young Otter who is 7 and full of energy plus The Farmer... vexed at his inability to do physical farm work during a hectic season or two .......also a herd of cattle, small flock of sheep, farm collies, farm cats, a million hens, the guinea pig and Bob the duck. All are well and thriving.

We managed to get into some sort of routine, a bourachy guddle of a routine but with an eventual  semblance of order, things were ticking over until a fire in the mains electricity box saw zero power to the entire farm. This was compounded with an intermittent water supply and things just got A Bit Much so we had to leave again and return to the temporary house.
The power is still off and it is going to be a big task to have it replaced and reconnected. I've taken to lighting little fires outside to boil a kettle and warm frozen fingers which hurt like mad from being bashed on all the things you can bash your hands on in a dark cow shed.

On the positive front, we were very fortunate to have good new neighbours move into the farm next door and we look forward to working with them over the forthcoming years. Young Otter is delighted as they have children his age so he has a new pair of best friends and we have a huge amount of respect for this very hard working, honest family. The New Farmer has a wealth of knowledge and experience with sheep and it has been an education to pick up snippets of advice or general chat about breed types, etc and we wish them every good luck on their new venture.

We have also been helped by a cheerful bunch of Fifers - hard workers, grafters to be honest, who carried out some of the very heavy work with great humour, excellent swears, music,  flasks of steaming hot coffee and cigarette breaks. They shifted grain, plumbed in a new trough, built the rickety, antique bull pen, plus many of the wee footery jobs which needed doing - all with enormous energy and good nature. It brought a lungful of fresh air and joy to the almost depressed, Cold Comfort Farmesque scenario we lived/live in.

This year is the year of Land Reform.
There are so many of us eager to see positive change in Scotland, change which will bring a fairer distribution of land, opportunities for many, hopefully. There is an energy brewing and swirling from a cauldron of frustration but the time is ripe for radical change. The old 'system' dying a death as it has become untenable and unfair.
I would love to see an improvement in rural housing, rural water supplies, investment in ramshackle farms, opportunities to diversify and expand without having to pay the 'laird's share', better rights for Crofters and much of the stagnant, redundant grouse moors utilised for the benefit of the majority rather than the plaything for the few, the countryside opened to the people from towns and cities. I also want to see our unique culture respected and acknowledged.

We shall see. It is an exciting year and here on The Farm At The Back Of Beyond, we have managed to cope with pretty grim conditions so things can only move up locally and further afield.

I wish you all good health, happiness, fairness and positive change.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Imposing a culture- an update.

There has been an almost overwhelming interest and response to my last blog "Imposing a culture" and from the feedback, there are a couple of issues which I feel compelled to justify.

Firstly, the entire point of the blog, (one born from sheer frustration and vulnerability), the point was to illustrate compromise and respect to others who do not wish to have a culture imposed upon them yet who are bullied into compliance.

Several people have taken great exception to my choice of diet. What are they offended by? Do they think I would hide in the bushes and flick lumps of tofu at them? Did they assume that I would scream at them to give up eating meat? Make them wear pleather shoes? If this was their thoughts then they missed the point I was trying to make; I would not *force* my choice of diet on my own family or others, it is a personal choice.
Our family spent yesterday evening at Stirling market where we were selling some cattle. The mart is a fairly basic place, the sale was huge in respect of the amount of stock being sold. Some of the cattle would go for slaughter, some for breeding some for fattening up.
Our family saw the culmination of a year's work go in five minutes. Hours spent not only feeding and caring for our cattle through the winter months but the ploughing, sowing and harvesting of the hay, straw and grain which would sustain our herd.
The money raised will keep our farm and family going for a while (not a long while as our cattle were sold near the end of the sale and most buyers had long gone home). Our hard work did not realise a great price and we feel despondent today as a result. Our cowsheds are very quiet.

This is what we do. If the issue of vegan married to a beef producer causes no arguments in our own household then I fail to see what the problem is for those who found it offensive. People eat meat and our work is in response to that demand regardless of personal dietary choices.
This vegan would be willing to teach someone who was hungry or reliant on food banks, how to skin a rabbit, gut a fish, pluck a pheasant or cook a stew from inexpensive cuts of meat.

My husband is the farmer - a proper farmer to those who doubted his credentials. He is not a hobby farmer who farms subsidies or breeds overtly expensive types of cattle, he is a bog standard, grass-roots farmer, fourth generation tenant farmer, his family have farmed this land for 124 years. I am merely the farm hand/ orrawoman* although circumstances have forced me into taking responsibility for the entire farm eg when my husband suffered a heart attack, the cattle still needed fed that morning, the fields were half ploughed and the running of the farm continued despite the absence of the 'proper farmer'.
*An Orraperson can turn their hand to anything needing done on a farm. Tasks include operating machinery, animal husbandry, farm records, entertaining farm bairns, nurse, psychologist, cook, mender of broken things...you get the idea. It is easier to say 'tenant farmer's wife'.

To those who asked if we had even approached those who were imposing their culture upon us, I can state, yes, we tried. In fact, I am trying to think of who I have not appealed to but perhaps it is easier to list those who have responded and offered practical help.
Our M.P. has been very supportive and our communication is ongoing, fellow tenant farmers have been incredible and have offered us much more than mere solidarity. The land reform campaigners have been highly supportive in so far as they recognise injustice, oppression, feudal high handedness, rural vulnerability. They fight for us and use articulate, academic arguments, facts, figures and examples. Their energy is tireless and our gratitude and loyalty to them is unfailing.

We have received support from those who are concerned - more than concerned, worried sick- about our native wildlife; our birds, wild animals and environment. Many people recognise something insidious happening to the countryside and are prepared to try and change the existing situations suffered by ordinary people and the wildlife in the rural environment. They put hours of footwork and hard graft into their work only to see demoralising low punishments for those who  are caught killing or injuring our wildlife.

I must ask if some of the landowners who are 'giving shooting tenants permission' are even aware of what is happening on the land they own? Many landowners are non residents of this country, many of them have no direct communication with the tenants on their land.
We are never invited to estate meetings where our lives are discussed, decisions made which affect our lives, we are excluded entirely and this is not part of a democratic society which we voted for.
Would these people be prepared to live in the sort of housing we are expected to live in? Would they be prepared to show the public actual receipts on all the 'investments costing millions' they claim to be throwing at tenant farms? Are they willing to announce the amounts of subsidies they receive from the public and true estate incomes from shoots?

Historically, we have observed a decline in standards in this area which correlates to the introduction of large estate 'managers' taking over the running of these estates. Large professional companies where once there was a factor or gamekeeper who would liaise with the laird/ tenant directly. Now, you have to try to communicate with the Chief Executor of such and such and these people can be very difficult to work with when you are a tenant. No rapport.
 Personally, I have found a very high handed, aloof and snobbish type run these agencies. Personally, I have experienced a grey area when shooting tenancies/ tenant farming is involved, the line between what shooting rights are and the blurring of common sense, consideration for neighbours or downright patronising feudal actions. It is 2014 for Goodness sake!
The estates around here who do not employ these agencies appear to have a much better rapport with their tenants and estate workers. There are some decent lairds in this area who do hold the interest of their tenants close, they interact with them on a personal basis and therefore a mutual respect is realised. The tenants are not patronised but are listened to and these estates attempt to resolve issues within their means. Yes, it is old fashioned but it is the best we have to offer in 21st century Scotland and in these instances, the community help each other and help the lairds.

We are not inferiors to anyone.

 In this day and age we are equals. We have rights, laws which everyone is supposed to adhere to and we are human beings, not human cash cows to be bled dry to enhance the life of some unseen person. The fact that we pay rent for a farm, farmhouse and land does not mean others have carte blanche to diminish our lives in any way. We want to welcome the public to our farm, share our environment and perhaps generate a little income from this yet the constrains are set against us therefore there is little to offer visitors to this area who do not shoot. The imposition of an alien culture prevents us from offering so much to so many.

More than any of the above, we want to feel safe and right now, we feel very vulnerable indeed.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Imposing a culture.

I had the good fortune to receive a call from a much respected friend who follows this blog.
During the conversation, my friend remarked that certain elements of society "Had no right to impose a culture on others which has an affect on diminishing our lives".

This conversation came about as I needed to talk to a friend on how our family felt after yet another shooting incident on our farm.

On Easter Sunday, a Larsen trap was set in the middle of the field where my sheep graze. We were given no warning that this trap was to be set, no warning that a vehicle would be used across a field which will yield hay and therefore, a standing crop.
We were not given any warning that the gates would be left open, my sheep released then worried by a dog, no warning that this dog would kill poultry then enter our cattle shed where pregnant cattle are due to calf.

We had no idea who the Larsen trap belonged to as it had no identifying number. I will admit that I had no idea what a Larsen trap was although I have seen them on the hillsides in the area. On research, I find that they use a live lure, usually a Corvus, and the given the social nature of these birds, the live lure is used to catch other Corvus.
That is the theory but in practise, the Larsen trap is capable of trapping owls, raptors and other birds. These traps are supposed to be checked every 24 hours with the provision of food, water, a perch and 'shelter' for the live bird. The dead rabbits begin to stink.

I am assuming that the water supply is contained in the jam jar which the stressed bird knocked over? I could not see any water in the jar.

We were to discover that the only law broken was an absence of a number on this cage, not sheep worrying, death of stock, abandonment of an injured dog, leaving gates open....this is, and I quote Police Scotland, not a criminal act as the person has the landowner's permission".

Really? This appears to be from a law that I cannot find any reference to on the internet. My guess is that the person who owns the land has no idea this is going on, I would even go as far to hazard a guess that if they did, they would not be greatly impressed.
I personally find these traps hugely offensive and cruel.

Have we received an apology? No.
Has our stock been replaced? No.
What followed was a fair bit of shooting (on Easter Sunday) then some 'lamping'* in our field, again without warning, shooting continuing in the dark.

* This definition by Wikipedia: Spotlighting or lamping (also jacklighting[1]) is a method of hunting nocturnal animals using off-road vehicles and high-powered lights, spotlights, lamps orflashlights, that makes special use of the eyeshine revealed by many animal species. A further important aspect is that many animals (e.g. foxes and rabbits) often remain to continually stare at the light and do not appear to see the light as a threat as they normally would view a human. It is possible to carefully approach animals on foot to a short distance if the bright light is continuously maintained on the animal to greatly improve chances of successful killing. Spotlighting may also be used as a method of surveying nocturnal fauna. Repeated, frequent spotlighting may have a detrimental effect on animals and is discouraged.
We received a high handed reply from the person whom I assume has accepted responsibility. The reply contained a reminder that they were acting in accordance with the agreement they had with the owner of the estate, in other words, they had shooting rights on our farm.
I cannot find the rule which states this gives them an arrogant, inhuman right to make people's lives miserable, in fact, I feel there is a whiff of the feudal about this 'shooting right' which smells worse than the rotting rabbits in the Larsen trap.

This brings me back to my friend's comment; "What right do these people have to impose their culture upon others to the detriment of people's lives?".
Our family do not shoot, we do not keep guns on our farm, we are in the industry which creates life, food for others, we sow and harvest crops. We assist cattle to deliver their calves safely so that one day, the meat will feed others.

I personally have chosen to stick to a plant based diet for almost forty years with a choice to include dairy products during my pregnancies. That is my own personal choice, one which I would not impose even on my family. I am happy to cook meat, fish and poultry for them as that is their choice of food. I can gut a fish, rabbit or even assist in butchering up a cow, pig or sheep as my father taught me to do when I was young. The fact I can do this does not mean I personally have to eat this meat.

Our family manage to find a compromise where vegan lives with beef producer. I am realistic and respect my husband's ability to produce good cattle, he in turn respects my refusal to eat meat.

We are fortunate that we have a choice on what we eat - so many do not and have to rely on food banks or diets low in fresh produce through no fault of their own.
How many pheasants from shoots are handed in to food banks? How many rabbits, how much venison or heavily subsidised Wagyu beef steaks are donated to those who cannot afford the £198 per kilo this meat costs to buy in Harrods?
How many pheasants are dumped after a shoot only to attract Corvus thus the Larsen trap cycle begins ad nausea?

I might add that the rogue dog who killed our poultry has denied my children a few dinners? Perhaps that breed of hen was for table use as well as an egg provision for my family, neighbours and friends.

This culture of shooting being imposed upon us has a detrimental affect not only on our quality of life but our income. We are unable to rent out our farm cottage due to issues that tenants have experienced from shoots, shooting parties, noise pollution, aggressive behaviour from some individuals who carry a gun?
Damage to standing crops by 4x4s, pheasant damage and the noise. Oh God, the noise.
Who would come here for a quiet holiday in stunning countryside when the peace is shattered by shooting? Why is this activity acceptable here yet would be unthinkable in an urban setting?
My friend pointed out that it would be offensive if someone urinated beside your house, they would be arrested if they defecated beside your house yet some are allowed to kill beside your house, in view of children.

This is not our culture.

When did it become acceptable to foist another culture from a tiny minority to the majority ie most of us do not partake in the shooting culture- most of us either cannot afford to or have more common sense not to. I am sure that the thousands of acres of grouse moor land could be put to a wider public benefit by ploughing them up and sowing crops - the lands here showing ancient signs of having been productive for thousands of years. Ecology, proper ecology and not gamekeeper 'conservation' can easily live beside agriculture if carefully thought out. The Ancients managed it!
Nature would sort itself out if given a respite from the release of millions of game birds. The raptors would flourish, given a chance.

The incident which took place on Easter Sunday has much wider social and ethical implications - one man controls several thousand acres of land yet contributes little if anything to the plates of the hungry, contributes little to the community economy, prevents diversification in tourist accommodation due to noise nuisance, fear and alarm. It could be understood by some that these shoots can have a detrimental affect on the actual population of an area - certainly here, the population is in decline, industry non existent, school role threatening to drop to single figures next term.
This area once had seventy farms. The same area now has less than ten.
This area was rich in agriculture, the three schools had a role of a total 300 pupils, there were five hostelries, three churches, plus a much greater population than today.
Some of the old farms have been amalgamated into a single 'unit' - run in partnership between an estate and a farmer on a very short contract. Great for subsidies, not so great for anything else and certainly terrible for the other sixty nine families these farms once provided for. If the old farms were still running today, the population here could be increased by a potential 280 (if each family had 2 children). The moors which now lie empty once grew oats, barley and potatoes. It is beautifully fertile ground.

The reason the farms became empty here was a refusal by the farmers and their families to adopt the laird's religion. Their own church was closed to them by the laird, a new church built by the laird and those who did not comply with this alien religion were evicted or 'opted' to leave for Canada.

Imposition of a culture having a detrimental affect on people's lives.

I feel we are seeing Clearance by shotgun. Clearance by fear, stress and control. Clearance by subsidy. Clearance by the imposition of a culture.

It is apparent in the wildlife, the most common bird being the large pheasant rather than the robin or blackbird. How much feed does a pheasant need in comparison to a small robin? Are our garden birds being deprived of feed by some of the 50 million pheasants* reared and released in this country?
Our own crops, silage and grain stores are decimated by hundreds of pheasants each year and going by our archaic tenancy agreement, we are forbidden from shooting and eating a single one.(Not that we would).
*Google the figures.

A recent poll in the Scottish Farmer http://www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk/opinion/question-of-the-week/question-of-the-week-for-april-26-2014-x.24048997 asked if any of us believed the amazing facts and figures ejaculating from the Scottish Land and Estates stating how much money they had invested in tenant farms (millions!), THE ECONOMIC CONTRIBUTION OF LANDOWNERS IN SCOTLAND screamed the grandiose release. Gazillions of pounds were being made on these shooting estates.

The quiet reply came from those weary farmers who actually have to live and work with shooting tenants tramping roughshod over their fields and farms, tumbledown farmhouses. Shoots climbing over broken fences onto land which has not seen landowners 'investments' for generations.

100% did not believe the findings.

Listen to the quiet voice of the farmer.....if you can hear him over the gunshot.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Be careful what you wish for....

There has not been a night where I have not prayed for my family before going to sleep.
I will pray to anyone who will listen, God, Buddha, Great Spirit and include prayers for those in need of prayer.
I have prayed nightly for a roof and clean water too. Lately, I have been asking for a few slates to patch up the worst of the holes.

It seems my prayers were answered but with a TransAtlantic slant.

I have shingles!

So here we go, Dear God, Buddha, Great Spirit,
Bless and care for all who need your help, watch over them, help and protect them and please provide us with roof slates, roof shingles if you are an American deity and not the trigeminal nerve type of shingle which is a bit sore.

Thank you, Amen.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Curling, sugar and the FATBOB Olympics

Saturday and by 8am the bairns were at a loose end. Youngest had been caught 'being the Jamaican bobsled team' and hurtling himself down the stairs in an old tin bath, wearing my Bob Marley hat.
He had been attempting cross country skiing wearing two pieces of wood tied to his feet with bailer twine (the closest we have to skis) and flapping his way through the mud outside. The Winter Olympics had made a strong impression on him and now he was attempting a gold in his own Farm At The Back Of Beyond (FATBOB) Olympics whilst his family rushed around doling plasters, ice packs and consternation.

The Courier had carried a piece on curling "TRY CURLING!" and Eve Muirhead had been along to help the newcomers on Wednesday at the Dewars Rink in Perth, The Farmer 'kent her faither' and thought it might be worthwhile going along to see what was happening; with the bairns in tow. Youngest had decided he would be part of the Scottish Curling team circa 2030 and he would get to meet his heros, the Jamaican Bobsled team. Rosie wanted to go and give curling a try as she felt it would be similar to the carpet bowls (which she and The Farmer go to on a Thursday).
None of our children had ever been inside an ice rink In Their Lives.

(As a slight aside, I have been zealous with a healthy eating approach and have been making sugar free, fat free and dairy free, ok, vegan, foodstuffs in an attempt to avoid junk food and heart attacks yet unknown to me, they had discovered the American foodstuffs in the 'World Foods' aisle and had breakfasted on marshmallows the size of your head plus Oreo Poptarts).

I stayed at home as I had plenty to do and loathe feeling cold plus two hours of peace - nightmare week. The family were fired up on a sugar rush and ready to curl.

When they returned, they seemed oddly subdued, no doubt the sugar high had worn off and the prospect of my oat and banana slab was nowhere as exciting as a giant marshmallow or Oreo Poptart (shown here with an ordinary and jumbo marshmallow).

I got the truth from my husband this morning and will write exactly what he said, exactly as he said it - then I'll translate.


"Ah kent, ah just KENT whit wid happen. The bairn loupin' an' skitterin' aboot, loupin' on the ice tae see if it wid crack and Rosie fell on her dowp then roared an' gret and ma breeks dinnae fit an' a cannae find a belt, there's nothin' o' me, ah wiz a' poke ersed an a'hin then the bairn skited an' louped an' fell ower and dunted his heed aff a curlin' stane; we were the family fae hell.".*...He looked quite crestfallen.
I was quite shocked. This is the most he has ever spoken in one breath in all the years I have known him.

*Translation: I knew what would happen. Our youngest child was 'spirited' and jumping on the ice to see if it would break then Rosie fell on her derriere which upset her and I have lost so much weight that my trousers are falling and our youngest slipped and fell, his head making contact with a curling stone. I am not sure if this is the criteria looked for by the Royal Caledonian Curling Society.

The bairn is out practicing curling as I write, (cranium intact) mud curling or lobbing large stones into the mud to hear it plop. He is 'clattered in glaur' and 'fair fu' o' gled' *covered in mud and very, very happy. The Farmer has been handed a belt for his trousers, Rosie, lots of chamomile tea and sympathy.

I like to think that this most noble of sports originated (circa 1500s I think) when a laird was taking his leave after giving a tenant grief one hard winter and someone decided to 'caw the feet fae the divvil'. Whatever the origins, it has evolved into a very worthwhile sport to be enjoyed by all ages.

If you do decide to give it a try, wrap up warmly and please look kindly on Team Otter because they are doing it again next week..... without the sugar.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Prove it.

The Farmer recently engaged in a conversation with another farmer and invariably, news, gossip, who had died, etc was swapped. The other farmer told my husband that someone he knew was thinking of passing his farm to one of his several daughters (assignation) and there was some consternation over 'a lassie taking over'.

I have strong feelings about this and the way the existing tenancy laws appear archaic where women and tenancy are concerned.
Heaven forbid but should a female partner of a tenant farmer become widowed, she has to prove that she is experienced enough to continue running the farm. All aspects are taken into consideration (including financial) yet, in my opinion, excluded are the day to day roles a tenant's wife undertakes.

Can you calf a cow, plough a field, step into the farmer's wellies should he be taken ill? Can you do the books, order in supplies, fix a broken tractor? Can you run the farmhouse, do a decent job of raising children, feed cattle, worm and dose sheep, work out a crop rotation, do soil analysis, shoo the ducks out of the house, keep on top of the ever changing bureaucracy, hold down a part time job/ full time job, mend fences, patch wellies, lamb a ewe, ad infinitum....?
Well, yes you can and you do. Half the time nobody sees your work but then, you are not looking for acknowledgement, you are merely doing what is required.

If you are bequeathed a large estate of many thousands of acres which encompass many tenants and houses, are you required to prove your worth? I don't believe that you are but with the laws of primogeniture being the way they are in Scotland, the odds will be that the new laird of an estate is male and therefore does not have to prove anything to anyone of his 'competence' in running an estate. Does he have to show how much money he has to anyone? No.

Very different for, e.g. a newly widowed tenant with say, less than 500 acres to run and the pressure on her to prove her ability.

I know a couple of female tenants and one of them is the absolute top in her field. Her stock is superb, highly acclaimed and she is very well respected for her knowledge and ability; yet this is a fairly unusual situation in farming, tenant farming especially.

I also know of another tenant farmer's wife who was tragically widowed young and who not only lost her much loved husband but her home and business too due to her inexperience in farming. This woman held and holds down a highly professional job outwith the farm and no doubt contributed hugely to the farm income yet these issues are not considered.

There appears to be a call for new entrants to farming and it will be very encouraging to see young women and men starting out in our profession but surely the restrictive views of assignation must be considered and changed? Can you imagine how difficult it must be for someone who has just lost a partner/ the father of their children/ workmate to go through the ordeal of proving they are worthy and capable of running the farm whilst grieving and adjusting to their loss?
Certain large estate agents, who appear to run estates, are not known for their humanity but rather their fondness for money and subsidies. Often, the human factor is ignored and the monumental task of a lone widow having to stand her case to these people is too much to cope with so farms are lost, tenancies are lost.

What other industry would you have to prove your ability and finances after the death of a partner when all along you have been the invisible 'orraperson'? **

I am also unable to find out where a same sex partner stands in the assignation laws? Would a man have to prove his worth, ability and finances if he wished to continue the tenancy on the death of his husband? I don't know the answer to that question but feel this is an area which has been ignored.

I propose that these issues could be avoidable through introducing agriculture and agricultural law as part of the National Curriculum. For those who wish to farm after us, make things easier for them by enlightenment, education, hands on experience beginning at an 'O' level basis (or whatever O levels are called these days).  If people have to prove they are worth (and please realise how demeaning this is) then help acknowledge their work in the first place, all aspects of their work.

This goes for lairds too. If the widowed tenant has to prove her/his ability then so must the new laird - after all, his actions have the ability to change lives - he has the land and the power.

The French addressed 'Liberte,egalite,fraternite ou la mort' circa 1763.
Prove your worth, Scotland and show us what equality really means - we will do the rest.

**orraperson - Jill/Jack of all trades