Call to protect Scottish hill farmers
NFU Scotland (NFUS) has called for a revised package of measures to save agriculture in Scotland's hills and uplands.
The call was made following the publication of a report entitled 'Farming's Retreat from the Hills', which highlights the dramatic reduction in the numbers of hill sheep being kept in more remote parts of the country.
The report, produced by SAC, was launched at a hill farming event held today (Wednesday, 6 August) at SAC's Hill and Mountain Research Centre near Crianlarich.
Speaking at the event, NFUS vice-president Nigel Miller said: "This report cuts through the anecdotal evidence of stock leaving the most vulnerable parts of Scotland and clearly highlights, for the first time, that in some areas up to 60% of sheep have left the hills.
"The root of the decline lies in the simple economics of producing lamb in these parts. Without a significant increase in the prices that these hill farmers receive, then there is little incentive to keep the same numbers of ewes as had been traditionally kept in the past."
Miller highlighted the social, economic and environmental benefits of keeping sheep on Scottish hills, including their importance to rural economies and the maintenance of traditional pastures.
"If we are genuinely committed to keeping sheep in these parts and enjoying the public benefits that they deliver, then the challenge to policymakers is clear," he said.