Reflecting on recent events on and off the farm, I am encouraged, concerned, yet despondent for the future or our industry.

What has encouraged me? At harvest time, my hardy arable contractor, Ian MacRae, Shawpark, calls on the help of his uncle, Donald MacRae, the well-known agriculture banker and Donald tells me it keeps him in touch with the hands-on aspects of farming.

It was watching them cutting my modest acreage of malting barley and the evergreen Johnnie Matheson carting it, that started my reflections. Three men, two already well into their pensions and one who, if he lives to 100 years old, has already lived over half his life, are the lynch pins of my harvest.

It reflects what I see in marts and on farms around the country. Our food supply is increasingly dependent on an aged workforce. What now for the future?

Yet, a few days later while helping ‘young’ James MacDonald, my baling contractor, to gather straw I found myself in the same field with tractors being operated by some capable and determined young women.

On speaking to them, I was struck by their drive and passion for our industry, willingness to put the hours in and their determination to forge a future for themselves in it. Like the rest of you, I encounter an increasing diversity of people in all roles in agriculture which enriches our daily lives and broadens our outlook on life.

It is beholden on all of us to build their confidence in their roles and support their development.

I admit I did not enquire whether the Women in Agriculture Task Force had any role in their choices. Perhaps this is something the Task Force could follow up on and be a building block in encouraging others from outwith the industry to come on board.

On this subject, in 1940 my grandparents, then from Wick, took on the tenancy of Humberston Farm, where Dingwall Mart is now sited. They took on the tenancy from the executors of the late Miss Gillanders, who had been the tenant since 1925. She was well known in local farming back then and by all accounts a formidable lady. What goes around comes around.

What is concerning me? Reports are coming from all over the country of land being bought for forestry planting. A recent trip to Rhynie opened my eyes to how much land is already planted – ground, which not too many years ago, was covered in livestock.

Land is being bought up by investors and government agencies looking for grants, timber sales, carbon credits and returns.

The stock, workers, tenants and gamekeepers on these estates and farms are being removed. I also heard this week that on some large rewilding projects, houses, shielings, sheep fanks and roads have been flattened and erased, the land being abandoned to nature.

Our heritage is being wiped on the whim of folk who have no association with our land, communities and culture, wiped clean on the altar of saving the planet, but not strangely feeding its inhabitants. Is there a plan in there?

Who granted these people, who by and large are not Scots, the absolute right to destroy our heritage? Would we be allowed to remove historical buildings on our land, or in their native lands? Why are we standing by and allowing this to happen?

What is making me despondent? Rewilding is one thing but the eradication of our history, culture and businesses is another.

I have stood on crofts and farms on Skye and the West Coast listening to crofters and farmers and find it very difficult to deal with the angst so many have, watching their generations long good hill grazing being fenced off and planted, their businesses consequently being decimated.

They are powerless to stop it and shocked at the speed and scale at which it is happening. What options do they now have? Who has created the environment which promotes and allows this? In modern Scotland, a country which predicates on fairness, is this fair?

The Highland Clearances were the consequence of wealthy people owning and buying estates and removing the people to graze sheep. In other words, to make money.

Some estates were willing to take in some of those evicted and gave them land to settle on in return for labour on the estate, in other words a trade-off. Others had to leave Scotland to survive. This could only happen with a complicit government and a populace which said and did nothing.

Today, we have another Highland (or more correctly, Scottish) Clearances. Today, we have wealthy people and businesses buying estates and removing the existing businesses, people and, ironically, sheep from the land to replace them with the modern-day sheep equivalents – tree planting, carbon credits and rewilding.

Is it a complicit government and its silent populace who are allowing this? Is the government’s opposition equally complicit in that I hear no objection? Indeed, is the government actually funding the modern-day clearances via forestry grants?

Or is this an unintended consequence of a policy based on pressure group lobbying and climate science which is still in its infancy? Is the government now politically unable to halt it?

There appears to be an about turn over an oil field near Shetland, so why not a review of the unintended consequences of afforestation and rewilding? If it is an unintended consequence, why was it not foreseen – the industry was warning about this before it started?

What have the local communities been offered? Effectively, the offer is free funding to help buy pieces of land, their local shop or pub. Is this fundamentally different to the estates who took in the evictees offering free land and work as a trade-off?

To what end? Is it to distract attention from the second clearances? Does it shift the balance of power to the people in Scotland, an aspiration of some in Scotland?

Does it atone for the loss of heritage, landscape, business and community? Does it leave our young folk in farming with a future they want to work for?

Going back to our young lads and lasses, what future for them in the big Scottish forest? What have they been offered? To prosper they need a vision, a pathway to their future, a purpose and a reward. What is the vision of our governments? Do they have one?

The lack of vision for farming from our governments in Westminster and Holyrood is culpable. My flabber was completely gasted last week when I reviewed the line-up of speakers at the Oxford Farming Conference.

The ministers from the countries of the UK are delivering talks on their future agriculture policy for 2022 onwards. Well not quite. Mairi Gugeon is not speaking. Either she wasn’t invited, or she hasn’t a policy to talk about. I leave you to consider the answer.

Is our government in Holyrood culpable across the board by creating the financial environment where foresters with huge grants behind them can outbid good farmers for land?

Why are they allowing the rewilding monster to develop whilst at the same time talking up the great future for Scotland Food and Drink, a sustainable and profitable farming sector and a country for the public to wander about at will?

Why at the same time, some six months after election, seven months after the Farmer-Led Group reports were published, three months after the first 100-day targets were met, has an agriculture policy for Scotland not been delivered?

It’s not for lack of effort and input from the industry. There isn’t even word of a follow up capital grant scheme, yet look across the Border to see the government commitment there.

It’s not as if this just cropped up a couple of months ago. At the last NFUS conference, Andrew McCornick, then the NFUS president, challenged Fergus Ewing (remember him?) to stop dithering and start delivering on agriculture policy. The three other UK nations have policies, why not Scotland?

Where is the leadership in all this? Leadership is simply about having a vision that the people will support.

So, let’s see, we have forestry and rewilding rapidly taking over all types of land across Scotland; there are no further opportunities for a tenancy step ladder for new entrants coming to the end of their first 10-year tenancy periods, despite years of discussion; a task force enabling the better involvement of women in farming but not tasked with enabling opportunities; empowerment of communities but to do what, predictions of rising sea levels yet no mitigation plans, non-existent margins in farming, anti-meat and dairy lobbying, pressure for more vegan style diets and so on.

Where does this leave the industry? What do we do about it? Is this the real policy to let it run down and die?

In the 17th century (before the first Highland Clearances) there was a local seer (prophet) in the Dingwall/Inverness area known as the Brahan Seer. He had many visions, many of which were recorded and have come true.

Two of those still to come true are: 'Sheep shall eat men, men will eat sheep, the black rain will eat all things; in the end old men shall return from new lands' and 'a time will come when the Highlands will become a large deer forest and the sons of the fathers will return to reclaim the land.'

Make what you will of that what you will. It’s the nearest to a vision for Scottish agriculture that I can see at the moment.