Dear Sir,

Just because beef farming is struggling at the moment (Anti-beef agenda, TSF December 16th) doesn’t mean that forestry is to blame, or should be made the scapegoat. Beef farming is struggling at the moment because input costs are high, the weather has been bad, the government is not giving farmers any direction that might allow them to make decisions, and everyone is fed up and demoralised.

However, the rest of rural Scotland is frustrated and angry as well, with things drifting along at best, or being consciously undermined at worst. Scotland is not getting covered with trees, with planting rates declining for four years in a row now. That was what the recent summit was about. Estates interested in deer or grouse feel they are being targeted, salmon rivers are really bad at the moment. It looks like Nature Scot is going to get a massive cut to their budget for good measure.

The problem we all face is that we have a Scottish Government that is not really interested, and who are largely incompetent, not just in rural affairs, but right across the board. Education, housing, the NHS, policing, local government, the justice system, Fire and Rescue services, ferries, road infrastructure. Rural people and farmers use all these services as well of course, so it is not us against them.

All the stuff that has been getting swept under the carpet for fifteen years is now appearing out the other side as well, so much having been brushed under there already, and the threat of being found out about all sorts of things is causing complete paralysis. That has yet to come to full fruition because we probably haven’t seen the half of it yet.

Farmers need to be careful not to put forestry down out of frustration because many personnel and contractors are shared by both. The two are more integrated than we think.

Ms Gougeon has been putting a bit of spin on her new woodland figures. There may be a record number of successful applications, but we know from last year that 25 percent of these were not implemented, and this has been apparent in other years as well as anyone paying attention can see. The likelihood is that a high proportion of the latest 13,000 ha will not be implemented either, and part of this might in fact be unplanted areas left over from other years as well but still there in the system.

The likelihood is that actual planting levels are still going down, simply because one key message from the “summit” was that application processes were “not fit for purpose”. Things are not going to suddenly change in 2024 until the problems are fixed. They are far reaching and profound.

If farmers feel victimised by forestry, they need to remember that they receive a budget that is nearly ten times larger. The money that has been pilfered out of their pockets has not been taken by foresters but by Scottish Ministers. The same people have had since 2016 to point agricultural support in a better direction, but have not lifted a finger to do so. It is not the Greens that are at fault either, they are just a symptom of the problem. It is just a general malaise in which people have stopped paying attention to the sort of politicians we are electing, and now we have all sorts of problems and no one with the ability or nous to do something about it.

I don’t know what the answer is but sniping at each other is not part of it. Maybe an early spring Scottish election would help to clear the decks and give someone else a chance. It could happen, and if it does, that will be the chance we need to make some changes and hopefully find a better way.