The election is over – but we remain facing the issues of Brexit and Indyref2.

The former is, as we now know, going to happen and whilst a no-deal departure certainly remains possible, it is much less likely. The great concerns which we had in October, 2019, are thus allayed and we must hope for a suitable transition and a good deal both with Europe and markets further afield.

As regards Indyref2, a border at Gretna would certainly present an interesting challenge to the marts and everyone else. It is significant that voters in the southern and Border counties seem to have much less appetite for independence than those elsewhere.

The earlier autumn sheep sales season saw us with good numbers through our marts, but a slightly disappointing return. However, latterly, through November and into December, we have seen a welcome strengthening of demand for cast ewes and prime lambs combined with a very encouraging store lamb trade where a degree of confidence in the future is very evident.

Store lambs at our Longtown sales over the last four weeks have been running at £6 to £7 ahead of last year’s figures. It is a shame that many hill farmers, with their lambs away, are unable to share in this but, hopefully, it bodes well for the sale of the 2020 lamb crop.

The prime sheep trade, in particular, has demonstrated how quickly auction marts enable the market to respond to demand, with buyers in the ring reacting on an hour-to-hour basis to requests for supply. This market responsiveness is something that cattle producers can only envy, with their over-commitment to direct marketing.

The finished cattle price remains challenging and short of a realistic figure to meet sustained profitability. If the wholesalers and supermarkets want continued supplies of Scottish beef, it is no use them looking to the government to increase subsidies; they need to cheerfully give a little more for the product.

Despite the finished price, store cattle prices have remained stronger than one might have expected and our fortnightly sales at Dumfries continue to attract good numbers with sellers generally well satisfied.

We also continue to see constant and partially unfulfilled demand for rearing calves and stirks where, as auctioneers so often say: ‘More could be sold to advantage’.

There will be much to look forward to and to worry about, in 2020 but I join with my colleagues in the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland in hoping that everyone will enjoy good health and some modest prosperity in the year to come.