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WWW.NTS.ORG.UK69FAVOURITE READAs others see us - personal views on the life and works of Robert Burns (Luath)I use this book every day as a simple introduction to the world of RobertBurns. Insightful photographers Tricia Malley and Ross Gillespiehave produced a collection of thought-provoking pictures ofsome of Scotland's greatest names along with a few other Scotswho have a greater story to tell. To name a few - Peter Capaldi,lawyer Aamer Anwar, Alex Salmond and Ayrshire farmer NeilGillon. The book works so simply. You flick through its pages untilyou stop at one of the pictures - someone you recognise,connect with, or feel comfortable with - then they take you on ashort journey through their experiences of life and they reflect onwhich lines of Burns have come to mind at that time.One story I am drawn back to is that of entrepreneur Jim McColl: "My whole career I've come across people jostling for positionwithin an organisation, some of whom are just full of their ownself importance." This is a trait that Burns often comments on, most famously in 'To a Louse' - "O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us / To seeoursels as others see us!"Who could say it better than Burns?Chosen by Stuart Cochrane, retail and admissions manager,Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

CROFTERSoften complain about agri-environment funding programmes run by theScottish Government and intended to supporttraditional, high-nature-value farming methods.These programmes are seen as complicated,inflexible and, because they use the languageof "clawback" and "fines" for non-compliance,intimidating.So, at a conference at Plockton in the westHighlands to discuss the future of agriculturalsupport, it felt like a ray of sunlight to hear IainTurnbull, the National Trust for Scotland'sproperty manager at Balmacara, present asupport model used by the Trust there thatappears to be simple, flexible, effective andpopular.In 2006 a trial project, in partnership withScottish Natural Heritage on three croftingtownships, offered funding for basic productioncosts of crops such as potatoes, turnips andcereals, and a premium for cutting hay ratherthan silage, with further help if hay was cutafter 1 August - intended to benefit ground-nesting birds.The key to making the process successful,Iain insisted, was building a relationship oftrust with the crofters - a claim that in the Trust'scase appeared to be borne out by the fact thatwhile 15 crofters had joined the scheme in2006, five years later 24 were involved. Forme, the fact that quite a few of the estate'scrofting tenants were present during his talkgave strength to Iain's claim. The average annual payment to crofters wasbetween £520 and £620 with the total budgetrising from £9,300 in 2006 to £13,840 in2011. Given the work it takes to produce acrop, these sums aren't large. Perhaps thescheme's popularity is because, as theagricultural consultant Alan Boulton told theconference in Plockton, many crofters are notprimarily driven by financial reward. Oftentheir work comes from a sense of tradition,DiscoverBALMACARAESTATEKyle, Ross-shire IV40 8DN. Tel: 0844 493 2233EstateAll year MTWTFSSWoodland WalksAll year9 until duskMTWTFSSVisitor Centre1 Apr to 30 Sep 9-5 (Fri 9-4) MTWTFSSFor more information, visit theBalmacara page on the Trust's websiteat way ahead for croftingBy Iain MacKinnonhistory and responsibility to land and place.But neither are they willing to put in long hoursto make a loss - one reason many crofters havegiven up stock has been years of poor prices.The sums involved in the Trust programmemay make the difference between break-evenand loss. The Trust scheme has a level of flexibilityunimaginable from government-led schemes.For example, at Balmacara -see pictures -one crofter had allocated a piece of in-byeground to grow hay, but could not do sobecause a cow became sick and had to bekept on that land. In consequence, the Trustwithheld the anticipated payment for that area,but the crofter continued with, and was paidfor, the rest of the agreed agro-ecologyprogramme as usual.The Trust programme appears to haveimproved on the Scottish Government's agri-environment schemes, supported biodiversityand been welcomed by crofters - all at relativelysmall cost.Alan Boulton also noted that governmentagri-environment schemes generally exist tomitigate against ecologically damaging practicesin supposedly modern farming systems. But, headded, traditional crofting - already part of ahigh-nature-value farming system - requiressupport designed to maintain and reward existinggood practice.The European Common Agricultural Policyis being reformed, supposedly in favour ofhigh-nature-value farming. So perhaps now isthe time for those who want to see croftingthrive to lobby for an enhanced standalonecrofting support programme - possibly alongthe lines of, and extending, the Trust model -which can become an integral part of the ScottishGovernment's agricultural support. lIain MacKinnon is a researcher for the ScottishCrofting FederationSPRING 2012WWW.NTS.ORG.UKCOUNTRYSIDE70