NOW that we have a new Scottish Government and First Minister, I think it is a good time to make the new people in charge aware of some things that I, for one, feel should be looked at again.

Two of the topics which have been frequently mentioned in this post-Brexit mess in which we find ourselves, through no fault of our own, are the high-quality home-produced Scottish food and how it has been affected by our leaving the European market, and the need to “save the planet”, which incorporates much tree-planting in order to achieve our perceived targets to help slow global warming.

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One of the main commodities produced very successfully by the Scottish agricultural industry is Scotch Lamb. This is largely from the indigenous Scottish Blackface and Cheviot breeds, although there are other pockets of more localised breeds available, as mentioned recently in The National (Scotland’s native breeds have a major role to play, Mar 23).

It is vital to the Scottish food scene that this excellent industry should continue to flourish, not only to feed our population but also as an excellent product available for export in an independent Scotland. To activate arrangements where a slightly inferior product is shipped from the other side of the world to be sold in our shops here, as is the intention of the Westminster government, is total lunacy, as well as doing nothing for the planet as far as fossil fuels are concerned.

Last year I did a small survey of a small stretch of the north side of the Ochils where I farmed for some 70 years, and calculated that it used to be home to around 8000 breeding ewes all producing good quality-lamb for the Scottish market. At the time of my investigation it was home to 30, my small post-retirement flock.

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The reason for this situation is the mad rush to plant trees. Huge amounts of money are being paid to landowners to plant them, while they are destroying the ability of our great country to maintain a balanced strategy for the future. While tree-planting is undoubtedly a vital tool in our armoury for helping the planet, much more care needs to be put into the whole system to get it right.

One thing, for instance, from my personal experience: some 25years ago the then government gave me a government grant for a number of years to manage my sheep business in a way that natural plant cover would be recovered for the good of the ecology of the area. This was very successful, and disappearing flora and fauna recovered. I believe that an application has now been made to obtain funds to cover it in spruce trees and thereby destroy all the good work previously done at considerable government expense.

Our politicians need to wake up and take a much more detailed look into many of these projects which suddenly become the “in” thing, and arrive at a more balanced, but progressive, view.

George M Mitchell

ON Friday morning your article “Labour set to throw ‘everything’ at by-election battle with SNP” appeared on my Facebook feed. Within an hour almost 100 people had responded – all with the “ha-ha” emoji mocking the very idea.

The 57 comments which then attached to the post unanimously rubbished the idea of Labour regaining the Rutherglen and Hamilton West seat. Typical comments included “What change will Labour bring? They mirror the Tories on almost every policy. It’s time they were honest about what they are now.”

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The most popular comment in the first hour was “What a shame they can’t bring themselves to do something that might be of most benefit to the constituents instead of just their desperate scrabbling for power.” With 30 likes.

While I might share almost all of the views expressed, I often wonder if many social media users actually read the articles they are commenting on. In some cases I presume that they are not subscribers to the newspaper concerned and are defeated in their efforts to read the full article by a “paywall”.

Perhaps if they had read the article they would have noted some rather hard numerical facts.

In 2010 Labour had a majority in the seat of 21,002. In 2015, the SNP won the seat with a 9975 vote majority. Labour won it back by just 265 votes in 2017. Margaret Ferrier re-took the seat for the SNP in 2019 with a majority of 5230 votes.

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A rather starker statistical claim is expressed later in the article by Katherine Sangster, the national manager for the Labour-linked think tank Scottish Fabians, who stated: “Labour could win as many as 25 Scottish seats. If Labour can win over just one in five SNP voters, 20 seats are within its grasp.” Of course she would say that, but it is at the very least food for thought.

It is very easy to post a wee “ha-ha” face or a brief comment on social media, but with a reduced turnout and a by-election caused by the actions of an SNP MP, holding on to Rutherglen and Hamilton West might not be as easy as some folk would like to think.

Brian Lawson