The stark fact is that Scotland's shilly-shallying over whether to grant a licence for asulam (the active ingredient in Asulox) – the selective herbicide spray for bracken control – is putting lives at risk.

It has the end-game of affecting the day-to-day lives of those who like to make the most of what our countryside has to offer, by having a serious impact on the health of those who do so. There is no other conclusion that can be gleaned from this dithering at Ministerial level in the Scottish Parliament.

It should not be such a difficult decision to make, but it perhaps highlights the flaw in having someone from the Scottish Greens making important decisions like this, where personal dogma takes precedence over practicality. Over and above any concerns about the use of 'sprays' to control anything, should be a principle concern for human health – and that goes for the chemicals too.

But in this instance, rocketing cases of Lyme disease in humans, spread by little blighters called ticks that are mainly harboured by bracken, should have alarm bells ringing everywhere. That data is stark – the number of people infected with Lyme disease increased five-fold between 2018 and 2022 – and the outcome is even darker.

For many, there is no cure and those seriously infected could be debilitated throughout their lifetime – indeed I have some friends who are so afflicted that it severely restricts their diet.

A secondary consideration is the impact on many farmers' and crofters' ability to farm, as once bracken gets a hold of a hillside, there's no going back without much more use of chemistry and mechanical controls – all of them expensive. It also raises the question about complying with 'good agricultural practice', as the failure to do so might bring about penalties on farming business' farm support payments.

Bracken also leads to a habitat that does not very much for anything other than ticks, while a hillside cleared of bracken can support farm animals and the flora and fauna diversity that these bring to less favoured areas.

So, we need to ditch the dogmatism for pragmatism and give landowners the best opportunity to keep bracken to a minimum, thereby minimising the very real risk that ticks present to human well-being.

Champions all

We are delighted to be able to announce that we are planning the first all-Scottish farming industry awards event this year. It will be held in Glasgow, at the end of October.

It will be a true celebration of the very many facets of Scottish agriculture and it will be all about the people that work hard to make this industry what it is – and what it is, is just about the most important single contributor to our national GDP.

We see champions almost every week in this newspaper, but this time the 'champions' will be the people who makes Scottish agriculture a most vibrant and rewarding industry to work in. So pick out the local business and farms that stand out for you and get nominating: You can do this at: