Minister Visits Stracathro Estates

In October the Minister for the Environment.  Climate Change and Land Reform visited Stracathro Estates, accompanied by Hugh Dignon and Linda Murray.  Dr Aileen Mcleod came at the invitation of Wildlife Estates Scotland, to see what steps Stracathro has taken to earn its Grade Two Accreditation.

Alister Jack and Ross Mcleod chairman and director respectively of WES together with Hugh Campbell Adamson and Gordon Cairns of Stracathro Estates welcomed the Minister.

Following a brief introduction to the aims and aspirations of WES, there was a presentation on Stracathro Estates, giving a description of the company, its turnover, its varied businesses, and how its ethos is wedded to that of WES.

There followed a tour of Stracathro Estates, starting at the grain dryer, where the Minister was introduced to Ian Donaldson, who explained the perils of harvesting in such a wet autumn. With over 50,000 litres of diesel required to dry the grain in 2015, Gordon Cairns described the anomaly whereby the exclusion of flow through driers from RHI restricted greatly our drive to reduce our fossil fuel consumption, by use of renewables. This conversation continued with a visit to the turbine where the Estate's policy of off-setting as much of our carbon footprint was explained. Hugh Campbell Adamson expressed his frustration that despite obtaining planning permission for a large solar panel project, it was very unlikely to proceed due to lack of capacity on the grid, and SSE's failure show any urgency in upgrading.

The Minister was introduced to Rob Collins the gamekeeper. He explained that the Estate's strict policy of no persecution or disturbance of raptors matched his views, but did suggest that his job was becoming very difficult due to the number of buzzards. He explained how the partridges were continuously being harried and killed by buzzards, and this resulted in severe depredation of the wild stocks.

The next visit was to a steading conversion, undertaken by the Company in 2008, with financial help from Community Scotland. Hugh Campbell Adamson praised the scheme, which created affordable housing. Since its construction, the five houses in the scheme enjoy hotwater and heating from a communal wood burning boiler, and free electricity during the day from solar panels.

The Minister was then driven to meet George Doig, an agricultural tenant of Stracathro Estates, who took the opportunity to correct the political view that the relationship between landlord and tenant was often strained. He suggested that it was in the interests of some to exaggerate this, and he went on to give his opinion that it was government interference which often created friction.

After various stops to look at greening, extended hedges, water margins and beetle banks, a sandwich lunch was provided at the fishing hut on the North Esk.

There the Minister was introduced to Paul Smit, the fishing tenant for the week. This gave everyone the chance to congratulate the Minister and her staff on their excellent handling of the contentious subject of salmon licencing, and the protection her proposal would give to the iconic species.