Argyll farming leader appeals for public help

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Kintyre farmer Duncan Macalister is asking residents and visitors to Argyll to act responsibly when using the countryside for exercise during the COVID-19 restrictions.

Mr Macalister, who farms at Glenbarr, is the NFU Scotland Argyll and the Islands regional chairman.

He said: ‘For farmers and crofters across Argyll, the countryside is our place of work and spring is a particularly busy time of year for us. Calving is well under way and many will also be lambing, or about to start.

‘This is always a stressful time for farmers and the coronavirus pandemic is adding extra strain.

‘We appreciate members of the public, who are having to adhere to the current lockdown restrictions, will be wanting to take their daily walk locally. Of course, we would normally encourage people to seek fresh air and appreciate the nature Scotland provides. However, the increasing number of walkers on farmland, particularly around our villages and rural towns, is putting ourselves and our businesses at risk. As livestock owners, we also want to protect our livestock from disturbance caused by dog walkers, some of whom do not act responsibly.

‘As an industry we are acutely aware what an important role we have to play in keeping food production going during this current crisis. As essential workers providing the primary product for food supplies, we cannot afford to put our health at risk.

‘It is a requirement of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code that we all behave in a responsible way that is considerate of other people. We would ask therefore that you respect the health and safety of farmers and others working the land. Please follow requests and signs to avoid particular areas, such as farmyards, fields with pregnant or young livestock and other busy working areas. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code requires that people walking dogs act responsibly, take notice of any signs and prevent their dogs from scaring or attacking any livestock.

‘We also have a duty of care to our staff and families and we need to keep them safe during the coronavirus outbreak. We may have no, or limited, access to back-up staff, and an outbreak in a farming area could have a devasting impact on our ability to produce the food the nation needs.

‘Our message is the same as the government’s – stay at home, do not get in your car to travel to the countryside and when you take your daily exercise please stay on public roads and footpaths and avoid farmyards wherever possible.’