Farmers and crofters from Badenoch and Strathspey united in Grantown-on-Spey this week when they held a protest outside the Cairngorms National Park Authority’s (CNPA) headquarters over concerns that they are not being listened to.
The newly-formed Cairngorms Crofters and Farmers Group met earlier this month in Kingussie and organised a consultation meeting with the CNPA’s board at its offices in the town.
A further 15 people had to be turned away at the door of the meeting due to the room being so full.
Some of those 77 farmers who attended the meeting on Monday evening arrived in a tractor convoy, with 20 agricultural vehicles passing through the town and circling the authority’s offices twice.
Tractor convoy in heart of Cairngorms National Park
Robert MacDonald, who farms a few miles from Grantown-on-Spey, is chair of the farmer-led group and says the turnout at Monday’s meeting really hit home how people feel about the CNPA’s decisions.
“As custodians and food producers of the land in the Cairngorms National Park, farmers and crofters have been ignored and left out,” said Mr MacDonald.
He said the protest was a build up of long-running concerns since the creation of the CNPA 20 years ago.
‘Food producers of the land have been ignored’ says group chairman
“The turnout at Monday’s meeting really hit home how many people are against some of the CNPA board’s decisions and how badly ignored the agricultural community feels,” he added.
“Up until this week, local farmers and crofters have had no way of getting the message through to the board. Our feelings have been bubbling away all these years and the reintroduction of beavers in December was the final straw.”
Mr MacDonald said when the park was formed, the board claimed that it would be a huge benefit to land managers but he says that statement has followed in complete reverse.
“The board has been totally focused on a conservationist and rewilding aspect which seems to anchor everything now,” he said.
Reintroduction of beavers is ‘final straw’
“There was no consultation to reintroduce the beavers but the board still seems to claim there was. By the time we started speaking to the board, the license had already been issued.
“We are at a disadvantage farming in the CNPA, even the costs of houses went through the roof when it was formed, which doesn’t lead to a healthy community.”
On the back of Monday’s meeting, it has been agreed that a farmers forum of around 12 to 15 people from the Cairngorms Crofters and Farmers Group will come together to feed back thoughts to the park’s board.
“As a farmer-led group, we are pushing for the CNPA board to make it an advantage to farm in the area,” he said.
“When it comes to the subsidy support scheme, the park board should be actively lobbying for preferential rates when it comes to the likes of environmental schemes because of the disadvantages we are up against.”
Farmers forum group to be launched
Mr MacDonald said it was also agreed back in November that if damage was made to flood banks by beavers within the park, the CNPA would be responsible to cover the costs, but only until 2026.
He said these mitigations are in place over the rest of Scotland because the agricultural community has pushed for it.
Grant Moir, chief executive at the Cairngorms National Park Authority, said: “It was great to have so many farmers and crofters attend the meeting to discuss agriculture issues in the national park.
“There was a frank and honest exchange of views about farming, the role of the park authority and how we can work better together in the future to further the aims of the national park. The park authority is looking forward to future meetings and working to support the farmers and crofters in the area.”