Thousands of farmers and rural businesses have once again been supported through a successful harvest season by the Scottish Machinery Rings Association, despite energy and labour hardships.

The nine-strong rings that make up SMRA – Border Machinery Ring, Caithness Machinery Ring, Highland Business Services Ring, Lothian Machinery Ring, Orkney Business Ring, Ringlink (Scotland) Ltd, Rural Services Scotland (Perth), South West Machinery Ring and Tayforth Machinery Ring – collectively represent over 7250 member businesses, spanning the length and breadth of Scotland, delivering extensive services to their members, ranging from machinery and commodity provision, to training and skills development.

With energy prices being of heightened concern, Borders Machinery Ring manager Michael Bayne acknowledged that farm input inflation was a real worry going forward, with enterprise margins certainly being affected.

"However, using the combined buying power of our co-operative, we were able to fix a price for gas oil over nine months from March to November at 54.1ppl. We have reminded members who still have fuel volume to draw down to make sure this is done before November 30, because the current spot price is now significantly higher at over 70ppl.

Read more: Doug Niven's The Gleaner column: Export and home demand bolsters prices

“Market volatility looks set to remain, but the fuel fixed pricing that we offer to members can help them plan ahead, budget and reduce risk.”

Chief Executive at Tayforth Machinery Ring, Bruce Hamilton, echoes this position of collective power: “A dry harvest meant that volumes of gas oil were down for us between June and September, but the price is 40% higher than last year. With everyone talking about these incredible increases in costs, we know how worrying the outlook is for farmers.

“Fortunately, we had already fixed prices for fuel for this harvest, so it insulated our members from market price increases during this time.”

Mr Hamilton added that, unlike a limited company, the profits that machinery rings secure are not taken out of the business, but instead reinvested back into each cooperative.

"All rings have expansion plans. They want more staff to look after members better, better equipment, better offices and the likes. That way, we can truly support the sector, now and in the years to come."