28 January 1999
One in seven Scottish farmers to go

SCOTLANDS farmers expect more than 14% of farming businesses to go in the next five years, according to a survey by TSB Bank.

The forecast would mean the disappearance of more than 2500 of Scotlands estimated 21,000 full-time farms.

Donald MacRae, senior manager of agricultural services at the TSB, said there had been just a 1.7% decline in the number of farms over the past five years.

But he expects to see a dramatic increase in the next few months as the financial problems generated over the past year become apparent.

Figures for Scottish farming published by the Scottish Office today (Thursday) show income to be barely half of what it was in 1997, and one-third of what it was in 1996.

Mr MacRae says the most likely candidates to call it a day are small-scale farmers nearing retirement age with no family member to take on the business.

Official figures show that almost half of Scotlands farmers are over 51.

Another group of candidates for departure is tenants paying high rents, with big overdrafts and on poor land.

The farmers surveyed felt that their incomes were being limited by the buying power of supermarkets. Imported food, European Union policy changes and food safety scares were also cited.

The survey also found that support among farmers for European monetary union had increased.

  • The Scotsman 28/01/99 page 28