By Neil Wilson, executive director of IAAS

It’s certainly been a baptism of fire since I took on the role of executive director of the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland. In just a couple of months we’ve experienced severe flooding, our departure from the EU and now we face unprecedented times as the country prepares to lock down to fight the effects of COVID-19.

Here at the Institute we are passionate advocates of the livestock system and the benefits it brings to the rural economy.

Despite the current unsettling climate and the challenges we face in the weeks and months ahead, our message is simple – as far as is humanly possible we will be working relentlessly to ensure the marts can operate as normal. What normal looks like at this point in time is anyone’s guess but the Institute and our members will be doing everything we can to ensure farmers can continue to trade their livestock to safeguard and protect their livelihoods.

We are working with our members, in a fast-changing environment, to keep our marts open and are in communication with the Scottish Government and officials to ensure we remain firmly within the guidance on safe practice. Our aim is to keep disruption to a minimum but ensure our marts are safe places to continue the trade of buying and selling livestock through the ring.

As a sector generally we take health and wellbeing, both of our clients and their livestock, extremely seriously but we are asking everyone who uses their marts to be extra vigilant, to act responsibly and follow public health advice. There is no doubt this is a worrying time, putting an enormous strain on the farming industry, which is already under pressure, but the Institute is here to provide guidance and support to our members and clients.

We fully appreciate how difficult the coming months will be for farmers and the rural economy more widely. These are strange times indeed, but we are a sector that has shown resilience through many a crisis and we can do so again. We urge our members and customers to stay safe and work with us to keep the marts running.