20th September 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Letter from Edinburgh

, by , in Features

Bell’s Brae Primary occasionally has a lot to answer for! Cameron came home from school one Friday late last year and decreed that he wanted to see the D-Day landing beaches in Normandy. This fol­lowed a school project on war.

So after considerable internet research at Christmas time, we organised the family break to a self-catering house in northern France. It turned out to be a great choice. A holiday that mixes sun, good food and some history that’s useful for school has to hit most of the correct buttons.

Like most families ours has a Second World War connection. A great uncle – an army doctor – strode across Sword beach in the first few days of the Allied landings in June 1944. So we visited Sword, the museum and the British cemetery at Bayeux. This and the enormous American site above Omaha beach, where 9,000 grave­stones stand testimony to a gen­eration’s bravery, are places that cannot fail to move people of all ages. It’s the age of the soldiers, sailors and airmen who fell to set France, and then Europe, free that is intensely sobering especially when your own are the same age – late teens. We also visited the tapestry at Bayeux which I had only read about in school history, so if Bell’s Brae Primary influences a few more Scott family breaks it will be to the good.

So home now to the silage, the clipping and the other jobs of the summer, like pointing up the Gardie pier. This is a long overdue project and badly needs doing before a winter run of gales does some damage to the stonework. On the days I get to the clipping shed I’ve sensibly been relegated to sheep handler rather than being let loose with shears. Ex-farmers are extraordinarily good at claiming expertise at many things – spread­ing fertilizer in straight lines, always obeying health and safety guidelines when attaching the PTO, and of course clipping ewes. So it’s best to know one’s station in life when it comes to remembering the best way to remove the fleece while limiting the pain both to the clipper’s back and, more impor­tantly, to the blessed ewe.

Sheep will be in great abundance at the shows, but cattle – and Shet­land cattle too with the Shetland Cattle Breeders Association hold­ing a major get-together in August – will also be subject of rapt agricultural discussion this sum­mer. I met in with former NFU president Jim Walker at an event before heading north. I asked what would be the major improvement farming and crofting could do with.

“A government which was serious about cutting the bureauc­racy,” was his clarion call. Your lot were useless and the current lot are even worse was his rough sum­mation, although I do paraphrase to some extent. I accepted his challenge!

Tavish Scott MSP