Open letter to cabinet secretary Fergus Ewing

Dear Sir,

I am a farming minister for the Church of Scotland based in Ayr presbytery. My unique role is a full time position with the Church of Scotland supporting and working solely with and for the farming community.

Today I have read in The Scottish Farmer that the health and safety executive have been making visits to farms in the SW of Scotland to check on what Covid prevention measures farms have in place and to offer advice. I find it extremely worrying that a body such as this is unable to see the danger and foolishness of carrying out such visits. My own work entails visiting farms and livestock markets, but since March 2019 neither have been possible or advisable in a bid to prevent the spread of Covid. I have had to find other ways to carry out my work. Up to now I have made over 1,000 phone calls to farmers in my area and also SW Scotland. I ask the question why is the HSE not able to do the same? If they made contact with farmers via the phone to check on what they have in place and to offer advice then it would be far more cost effective, not having to pay mileage or spend time driving between farms. They would also contact many more farmers employing this method. Unless of course they just want to catch farmers out for breaches of HSE legislation, which I hope, and I am sure, is not their remit.

I hope as secretary for the rural economy you may be able to express concern to the HSE over these visits which is causing concern amongst the farming community. I also wonder if they would have been foolish enough to have carried out similar visits during the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001? I suspect not.

Best wishes

Rev Chris Blackshaw BA

Farming Minister

Church of Scotland