For Farmers Weekly October 2014
I sometimes tell people the most important elements of my English teacher’s lessons went over the top of my head - the boy that 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 summarisation 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 in 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 it was “yes”. 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.
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 finally the era that he has 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 when 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 the same empire that my grandparents were part of. It’s the European Union and the CAP that has got me out of bed in the morning for thirty seven years.
My generation of farmers have done well as part of the EU over the last forty years. We have never known conflict on the scale that the previous generation experienced either. We even enjoy the same feeling of being part of an enormous shared enterprise just like the generation before them 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 best to be 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.