Reflections from our Spring Conference

David Johnstone ,
31 May 2019

At a time when little is certain for Scottish land management, it would be understandable if many are looking forward with a sense of trepidation as to what the future might hold.

Whether it is the prospect of climate change and the weather conditions which have already looked more difficult in recent years, the reform of subsidies or the decline in farm gate prices, there is no shortage of issues facing rural landowners and the agricultural sector in particular.

Yet, having had a chance to reflect on our recent annual conference in Edinburgh, I believe there remains a tangible sense of optimism for the future of Scottish land management. That is not to ignore the very real challenges that we face individually and collectively but it is clear that businesses across Scotland are taking significant steps to ensure they are in the best shape possible to face whatever comes their way.

Those of you who attended will have know that we themed the conference around ‘Maximising the Margins’, covering productivity on marginal land, opportunities for marginal communities, the environmental benefits of field margins and rural business profit margins. I was pleased to conclude the day’s business knowing that our members are leading the way in confronting these issues.

Once again, we received many positive comments from our ‘lessons from the ground’ case studies and panel discussion, which demonstrated in real terms how businesses are adapting for the future.

There was a striking range of activities showcased across a wide geographical area. Innes Estate is looking to adapt under the leadership of a new generation whilst Leys Estate has focused its efforts on facilitating SMEs to flourish on its land. Rottal Estate has taken a striking approach to wildlife and conservation on its moorland and Sweethope Farm is at the forefront of cutting-edge science to improve its farming techniques. Laggan Outdoor, meanwhile, has created a booming tourism and hospitality business over the past decade to sit alongside their farming enterprise.

I hope you find the time to view each of their films as the participants explain in their own words why they are looking to the future with optimism. Their willingness to embrace change and constantly look to evolve and improve is something that can be replicated by any business, no matter what sectors we are focusing on. 

As a group of rural enterprises, we cannot and should not wait for government to provide us with the answers. 

The conference highlighted that many businesses are refusing to stand still and I passionately believe there is a wealth of vision, experience and knowledge in the sector that we can call upon to enhance our economic output in the future.

You can watch our highlights video below.