So, Happy New Year everybody.
They say that if you want a job done, find a busy person. With that in mind, 2023, with business still as busy as ever, finds me becoming not just a contributor to this column – and, boy, thank you for reading my musings – but yer actual farming columnist for one of the oldest papers in the world. I couldn’t be more chuffed to be writing about the industry I work in at arguably one of the most fascinating periods in its history. These are the best of times.
Within hours of taking on the job, my inbox starting filling up with emails from all sorts of people from the farming community – bodies like the NFUS, Quality Meat Scotland, The Dairy Hub, the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) and others. Goodness me, you read this stuff and you think – jings, this industry really is replete with talented, energetic people full of positivity and ideas. And then I thought – just – imagine having all the political and economic powers and levers to be able to bring even a fraction of those initiatives to reality. And just as that’s true for a Scottish food and drink industry worth £18bn a year, it’s exponentially true for my country as a whole, in all its beautiful, crazy and occasionally infuriating diverse madness.
One of the admirable conceits of Scotland – something that has helped us eschew the idea that there is no such thing as society since at least 1955 – is that wealth isn’t measured by the size of your wallet but by the depth of your humanity. By that benchmark, let 2023 be the year when we all become the Bill Gates of empathy and kindness. The Jeff Bezos of “oor hoose is your hoose – and you’re welcome”.
Scotland’s wealth doesn’t lie in its admittedly impressive GDP. Those numbers always remind me of Oscar Wilde’s aphorism about the price of everything and the value of nothing. That isn’t, and never will, be me. And it shouldn’t be Scotland either. Because our wealth lies in our people and our resources – food, water and energy – and it falls upon all of us, in 2023, to bring about a Scotland where all of us are first, where we all benefit, where “wha’s like us” isn’t just a slogan on a tee shirt or an empty boast by a tartan clad proud-Scot-but unionist at a Burns Supper – and God help me, I’ll meet plenty of those in in the next few weeks – but an affirmation that we have finally decided to become the people we tell ourselves we always were, and will be.
As ever, it’s not a binary yes / no question. Other, better, questions, are available. Like, who are we? What do we believe in, and what sort of country do we want to be? What constitutional arrangements do we need to become what we say we want to be? And – crucially – who shall speak for Scotland?
That’s it. That’s the post. Let Scotland be Scotland. The rest is noise. Oh, and don’t forget to dance. Fun never hurts, either. Because it’s later than you think.
Tak tint o’ sma’ things. And tak tint o’ ither.
And I’ll meet you further on up the road.
My brother and his wife are visiting from New Zealand. Their main beef about this visit was the price of parking – even some hotels charging per night for parking. Edinburgh got a special mention for expensive street parking. They had one meal in a hotel in inverness – very nice but not out of the ordinary dinner for two – which cost £135 (one bottle of house wine cost £32). Now, maybe I am behind the times but I thought that was extortionate so, if we want Scotland to be welcoming to tourists in general and not just the rich, we might have to take a look at this. My brother and his wife are pretty well off and they were just making observations this trip, comparing prices with what they are used to in NZ, also comparing them with their last visit here, and they said for that money you could feed four people a fairly decent meal back home. They also said that this latest trip which was pretty much around the world (they are now on their way to South Africa) the UK has proved to be the most expensive place they have visited. That’s not really the reputation we want, is it?