Posted: Friday 8th February 2019

New farmers are being supported in developing their businesses by Scottish Water as part of a scheme to boost the rural economy.

And the first new tenant farmer has just taken up tenancy on land owned by the country’s publicly-owned water utility.

James Royan is realising his ambition to develop a business breeding rare sheep thanks to Scottish Water’s involvement in the Scottish Government-run scheme Farming Opportunities for New Entrants (FONE).

James, from near Duns in Berwickshire, is one of the country’s top breeders of Poll Dorset sheep in his own time but has been reliant on seasonal and informal grazing arrangements for his 25-strong flock and has never had the benefit of owning his own land or the security of a long-term tenancy agreement.

Now he has kick-started a five year tenancy of more than 14 acres of land owned by Scottish Water at the Whiteadder Reservoir through the scheme.

James, 45, who works for Police Scotland supporting the organisers of major events such as the Royal Highland Show, Royal Military Tattoo and Hogmanay Party on safety and security issues, has developed his Bennachie flock of high-pedigree Poll Dorset sheep over the past 11 years using informal grazing arrangements on a plot of land at his parents-in-law’s farm.

The sheep are high quality breeding sheep, capable of producing fast-growing lambs from a largely forage-based system.

After starting his five-year tenancy at the Whiteadder Reservoir last month, his sheep enterprise is now set to take its next step towards a large-scale operation which he aims to run once he retires from the police in about 10 years.

Scottish Water’s land at the Whiteadder Reservoir is part of more than 1000 hectares of public land made available to new farmers to attract people to farming under the Programme for Government commitment to identify and release more public and private land for new farmers to encourage a new, younger generation of farmers.

The utility, and organisations such as Forestry Enterprise Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and some local authorities, have released land across Scotland for about 50 new farmers

James, who is married to Vicki and has two children, said: “Like many others, I developed a passion for farming and sheep production at a very early age but have experienced how hard it is to realise the farming dream without the benefit of owned land.

“The Scottish Government’s Farming Opportunities for New Entrants Scheme has offered me an opportunity to build a viable operation through the security of a fixed-term tenancy agreement.

“The seasonal arrangements I previously had lacked any form of security and prevented me from making long-term business plans such as improvements to infrastructure. Now, thanks to the FONE scheme, I’m confident I can develop the venture, increase numbers and improve commercial viability through economies of scale.

“The success of the FONE scheme is dependent on public bodies offering up blocks of land for agricultural use and I’m exceptionally grateful to Scottish Water for affording me the opportunity to rear sheep next to the Whiteadder Reservoir”.

James, who has won a number of awards at national shows and became the first Scottish chairman of the Dorset Horn and Poll Dorset Sheep Breeders’ Association, added: “I am excited to see what the next chapter of my farming life brings and with the support of Scottish Water I am determined to build on the success I have already enjoyed.”

Archie Macgregor, Scottish Water’s Land and Property Development Manager, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer James this great opportunity to take his business plans forward over the coming years.

“Scottish Water advertised the opportunity online and in local newspapers and James was an outstanding candidate for the land near the Whiteadder Reservoir. We are delighted to be supporting the Scottish Government’s FONE initiative and playing our part in helping new entrants get on to that vital first rung of the ladder in the farming industry.

“We have also just completed a tenancy agreement for a second Starter Unit on land of ours near Ballater, Aberdeenshire and hope to be in a position to advertise more blocks of land under the FONE scheme in the coming year.”

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “I welcome the news that Scottish Water have made land at Whiteadder Reservoir available and wish Superintendent Royan well in his new tenancy.

“I’m extremely pleased to see our public bodies continuing to identify and release more land for new farmers as part of our action plan for Farming Opportunities for New Entrants.

“Last year alone, more than 1,000 hectares of public land was made available as a direct result of the work of the Farming Opportunities for New Entrants group, which I launched in December 2016.

“New entrants drive innovation and best practice, improve efficiencies and contribute towards the overall economic vitality of the sector, and I look forward to welcoming more people to farming under this scheme.” Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE

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April 2021

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