Francis Ogilvy, owner of Chalmers & Co, reflects on the state of farming and economic development in East Lothian.
What a change a good summer makes! No records were achieved by the harvest, but it could have been much worse and we’ve had such a marvelous entry for next year – no wonder the expressions have changed! Is it time to consider a county brand for East Lothian as the bread basket of Scotland?
Farmland values are still disproportionately high relative to earning capacity. Interest comes not just from farmers keen to expand, but also from investors who regard farmland as a safe-haven, as agricultural land values having outperformed equities and gilts since 1995.
Demand for the better land of East Lothian, with widest scope for cropping and high yields, has pushed average values over £7,500 per acre for prime land.
Two variable farming years and expected shift from direct support to Pillar 2 (Rural Development) will leave a mark on the county’s arable farmers and force some to consider change. For those who find themselves asset rich and cash poor – this may be an opportune time to rationalise assets to free up capital for farming or separate investment.
The high demand to live in East Lothian is in contrast to the pitiful offering of land put forward for commercial development. The Main Issues Report for the new East Lothian Local Plan is keenly awaited (due November) to see the extent of the Council’s stated commitment towards increasing employment.
The NFU, in its centenary year, has opportunities to broaden its remit and promote a renaissance of the countryside generally. A focus on Better broadband connections and enthusiastic support from our planners for appropriate development could go a long way towards this.