I sometimes tell people the most important elements of my English teacher’s lessons went over the top of my head – the boy who sat at the desk behind me went on to become one of the most respected journalists of my generation.
Special reporter for the BBC, Allan Little, is a local man who has reported on events from all over the world. Although I’ve rarely seen him in person since I left school, my ears always prick up when I hear his voice on the telly or the radio. His calm and precise summarising of any situation is, I would suggest, without equal.
Therefore, in the aftermath of the Scottish referendum, I was particularly keen to read his analysis. There are many reasons why his views would interest me. Not least, he’s my age, he’s from my area and, importantly, he’s not a farmer.
Perhaps for a man who has spent much of his life reporting from war-torn areas of the world, the language he used was not unexpected. He wrote about the “heavy artillery” that was pressed into service to save the Union and he described the mainstream media as “hostile” to independence.
The banks and the supermarkets were singled out for special mention. The banks would leave and the supermarkets would put their prices up if there was a “yes” vote. We, as farmers, know all too well the power that both those organisations can exert when they put their minds to it. A hostile media supported by the other forms of heavy artillery could get to you after a wee while if you were in the Yes camp.
“My generation of farmers has done well as part of the EU over the past 40 years.”
But one piece he wrote definitely struck a chord with me as a farmer. He described three different eras by relating them to the periods in time that his grandparents, his parents and then he, had grown up in.
I’ve first-hand knowledge of the era he grew up in. I’ve witnessed for myself the decline in the industries in Scotland that gave communities here a common bond with other communities elsewhere in the UK.
Like Allan Little, my parents were also children in the war years. My mum who is 87 still gets dewy-eyed at the mere mention of Winston Churchill’s name. And why not? May future generations never have to live through anything like that again.
But it was when he wrote about his grandparents and the days of the Empire that they had grown up in that he really got my attention. He describes how “the Empire, the powerful, binding economic force of it, had, for generations, given Britons a common purpose, an enormous shared enterprise”.
Remarkably, I’ve had that same feeling my entire working life. But it’s not about the same Empire that my grandparents were part of. It’s the European Union and the CAP that have got me out of bed in the morning for the 37 years since I left school.
My generation of farmers has done well as part of the EU over the past 40 years. We have never known conflict on the scale the previous generation experienced, either. We even enjoy the same feeling of being part of an enormous shared enterprise while we remain part of the EU. This may seem like a terrible contradiction for someone who has just campaigned for his own country to leave the UK. But countries are better being part of just one empire at a time.
This is a time to keep calm and examine very carefully the direction our newest MP in Westminster would have us go in.
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