David Richardson landed me right in it when he joked about the enforced repatriation of Scots living south of the border after Scotland re-gains its independence.


Ever since his column appeared two weeks ago (Opinion, 27 January), it has placed a strain on the relationship that I have with my English-born mother-in-law who farms in the next valley. I have assured her that I will not be promoting a reciprocal arrangement whereby she will be escorted to the border with her goods and chattels on the back of a cart. We’ve both got far too much to lose if that was to happen. We have a mutual agreement whereby as long as I get her four-crop ewes every year for a very reasonable price then she won’t get her daughter back! God I would miss those ewes, they’re great doers. So, let’s not have any more talk about repatriation.

I do, nevertheless, agree with one or two of David’s other views and ideas on independence for Scotland, but not them all. His inference that the border should be moved back to the line of Hadrian’s Wall is one that I’m all in favour of. Scotland is in much need of extra land to meet the increasing demand for its brands of food and drink products.

It should be a jolly coup d’état with no need for Scotland to roll its tanks out and annex the area by force because liberation will be welcomed by the farmers living there (do we have any tanks?)

After all, those poor folk have spent the last decade being oppressed by Hilary “no I don’t eat meat” Benn; Margaret “your support payment is in the post” Beckett and latterly Caroline “I’m going to campaign to remove your support” Spelman.

Therefore, a more democratic approach would be far easier than military action. I would suggest that all the farmers south of the present border but north of Hadrian’s Wall should hold their own referendum.

One simple question on the ballot paper ought to do the job. Something concise like: Do you agree that you will be better off in independent Scotland? I had thought initially something along the lines of: Help, I’m a livestock farmer, get me out of here – but there’s an air of desperation about that one that might influence the voter.

The other point that David made about most of the 59 Scottish MPs in Westminster not voting with the government and generally being a damned nuisance is, I think, a valid grievance. Most of them are a source of annoyance in Scotland also because, bizarrely enough, most of them are at odds with the government here as well. Difficult to know what to do with them exactly, but I expect if you were to stop feeding them they’d eventually stop coming around the place.

There won’t be many farmers north of the border that don’t admire the way that the SNP government have handled themselves over the last few years. It used to be that a farmer that openly supported the SNP was regarded as having lost his head and was voting with his heart. Now many of the farmers I know are voting SNP by using their heads while holding on to the vestiges of their traditional politics in their hearts.

It’s not difficult to see where that is going to end eventually. The remnants of the UK can gain a much needed ally in Europe or it can continue to have a disgruntled lodger living in it’s attic for a wee while longer. It’s only a matter of time.

Neale McQuistin is an upland beef and sheep farmer in South West Scotland. He farms 365 hectares in partnership with his wife, Janet, much of which is under stewardship for wildlife.


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