THIS YEAR'S Membership Flame – an NFU Scotland award that recognises outstanding efforts in recruitment and retention of members – has gone to the Perth office team of Margaret Hebbourn, Katy Neill and Marc Robb.

Looking after the interests of almost 500 members across four branches – Perth, Crieff, Blairgowrie and Highland Perthshire – makes them three of the busiest secretaries in the union’s nationwide network. The Perth office finished 2019 having recruited 39 new members, soaring past the subscription target set for the year. That is on top of the 22 new members the office recruited in 201,8 when it won the award for the first time.

The Perth team celebrated opening their new offices at Broxden Business Park in January 2019 and continue to go from strength to strength.

Presenting the award at the union’s annual conference and AGM in Glasgow, chief executive Scott Walker said: “To recruit 61 new members in two years is an astonishing achievement and it gives me great pleasure to congratulate the team in Perth on receiving this award for the second year in a row.

“Their achievement is even more astonishing given that Margaret and Katy only started with NFU Scotland and NFU Mutual in 2017 and Marc joined the agency late last year."

Former East Central regional chairman Roddy Kennedy, a member of Highland Perthshire branch said: “Their enthusiasm in invigorating the membership and branch activity is infectious. They have built an online following for their branch Facebook page and they have proved that branch meetings don’t need to be the same old format, and that has seen an exciting programme of meetings and events enjoyed by all.

“Providing an exciting, different, first-class service to the farming community is the key to both recruiting new members and keeping our existing ones and Margaret, Katy and now Marc have continued to go above and beyond with their performance this year.”

This January saw two of the union’s longest serving secretaries reach significant milestones with Michael Coutts, in the Castle Douglas office, recording an incredible 35 years as a branch secretary and Euan Warnock, from the Oban office, marking 25 years of service.

Long service celebrations in 2019 included Margaret Farquhar celebrating 25 years in the Shetland office and Wilma Benson marking 20 years looking after the Wigtownshire branch from Stranraer.

In December, long-serving secretary Nicky Brown retired from the Lanark office with Nigel Power joining the team in Lanark last month. Other new recruits to the secretary team include Colin Duncan in Inverurie and Innes Carruthers in Dumfries.