A FORMER vice-president of NFU Scotland, Stewart Whiteford, has died – he was just 69.

Mr Whiteford came from a well-respected farming dynasty in Easter Ross, farming with his brothers Jim, Alan and David, who between them at one time ran various units in the Fearn peninsula near Tain. Stewart largely farmed the 1000-acre Wester Rarichie before retiring in 2017.

Born in February, 1951, to John and Betty Whiteford, the family was brought up at Shandwick Mains, Nigg Station, and he went on to be educated at Gordonstoun School, followed by Edinburgh University.

At university he read Agricultural Economics followed by a Masters Degree in the same subject at the well-respected agricultural campus at Guelph University, in Canada.

His brothers, paying tribute to Stewart, said: “He came home in the early 1970s and along with his father, John and brother, Jim, transformed the recently acquired Wester Rarichie Farm, Fearn, into a highly productive mixed enterprise unit which included 180 suckler cows that were his pride and joy."

In fact, in 2016 the farm played host to the ‘Profitable Production for the Future’ event, organised by SAC Consulting, with funding from the Universities Innovation Fund.

Fittingly, as a progressive farmer, the focus had been on new technologies such as the use of drones for livestock production, visual imaging analysis, and camera and weighing technology – some of which are in everyday use now.

At that time JM Whiteford and Co farmed a total of 2200 acres, running 300 suckler cows, 1350 breeding sheep, pig production and a large arable cropping area.

He was NFU livestock convener for several years in the early to mid-1990s and vice-president between 1996/98, which included a spell as acting president in 1998.

He was also director of Scotch Quality Beef and Lamb Association 1990-98 – a fore-runner of Quality Meat Scotland – chairman of the Aberdeen-Angus Producer Group and served on the Meat and Livestock Commission’s Beef Strategy Board in the late 1990s. He was also chairman of the Highland Acute Healthcare Trust from 1999 to 2004.

The brothers added: “Stewart was adored by his eight grandchildren and is survived by his three children Rosalind, Stephen and Katie, loving partner, Alison, along with brothers James, Alan, David and sister Fiona.”

John Ross, former NFUS President, said: “Not only was Stewart a valued colleague during my term as NFUS president, he also became a close friend. In my travels north, I would always be welcomed at Wester Rarichie. It was also my privilege to get to know his wider family.”

He added: “As a farmer he was never content with the status quo. He was always searching for innovative ways to improve his business. He brought that desire to his time as an elected office bearer with the NFUS.

"He had the ability to question in a challenging but supportive manner. This was done with his typical enthusiasm. Above all, however, he was a real people person and was at ease whether at a mart, NFUS Branch meeting or with Government officials.

“Life in Stewart's company was never dull. He will be greatly missed.”

A spokesman for the current NFU leadership, said: “It is sad news of the passing of former vice-president Stewart Whiteford. From a well-respected farming dynasty, Stewart was livestock convener for the union in the mid-nineties and was vice-president between 1996 and 1998 – including a brief spell as acting president at the end of 1997.

“Our thoughts go to all Stewart’s friends and family at this sad time.”