By John Thomson, director at Dumfries Mart and a member of IAAS

The writing of these few lines is overshadowed by the news of the untimely death of David Thomlinson.

He was the pre-eminent pedigree cattle auctioneer of our generation and contributed greatly to the esteem in which our profession is held today. David's many awards and accolades were well justified and he did much behind the scenes to support farming and our industry. He was a likeable and approachable man who really will be missed.

Such a tragedy puts into perspective the important things in life and belies the machinations of our politicians now jockeying for the position of Prime Minister.

These are the people who have got us into the present chaos, yet few of them will admit that there is now insufficient time to depart the EU on October 31 – whether with or without a deal – and thus they will probably be taking us to the wire again.

A common theme at the recent successful Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers of Scotland conference was the worrying fact, although it is stating the obvious, that nobody knows what is going to happen with regard to Brexit.

We must hope that we have some inkling before the August and September breeding sheep and store lamb sales, as buyers will be looking for some confidence before committing themselves fully to their annual purchases. On the plus side, the onset of rain in the south will certainly encourage clients who were greatly limited by last year's drought.

One certainty is that – with the exception of those PM contenders, such as Rory Stewart, who have large rural constituencies – the leadership contenders will not be viewing our concerns for the sheep trade as a high priority.

Sheep farmers face an uncertain future, but they enjoy a strong auction system permitting them to sell as and when they wish and with real competition, whilst cattle finishers face an equally uncertain present and are experiencing delays in getting cattle away and no real competition for their product.

The disappointing price which cattle finishers are receiving for their stock is, inevitably, filtering down into the store trade – although the price of stirks and calves, as well as breeding cattle, remain good.

Next week's Royal Highland Show will again showcase a remarkably positive and diversifying agricultural sector – we and our fellow auctioneers, look forward to being there to meet many of our friends and clients.