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Land and freedom: Starter farm success for young sheep producer

New farmer Kevin Cuthbertson with Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon.

A young Blairgowrie sheep producer who acquired a five-year tenancy in Glen Isla thanks to the Scottish Government’s “starter farm” scheme is excited to finally have security.

The property at Newton, near the Loch of Lintrathen, is on Scottish Water-owned land and Kevin Cuthbertson, 30, is the latest of around 70 young people to get a start from the Farming Opportunities for New Entrants (FONE) scheme since 2017.

He said: “I have been wanting to set up on my own since I was 16, but I just haven’t had the security of the land to do it.

“You need a lot of money to set up on your own and be able to buy a farm – it is not easy to cover the mortgage just from sheep farming.

“The FONE scheme has given me the security that I need and it allows me to plan ahead and develop the farm, which is really exciting.

“I now have around 370 sheep including some North Type Blackfaces, which I have wanted to get for a long time.”

Newton is the fourth starter farm released by Scottish Water, which is working alongside the government, Forestry and Land Scotland and some local authorities to make more public land available for new entrants.

From left: Archie Macgregor of Scottish Water, Henry Graham, chairman of the Scottish Government's FONE Group, and Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon with Kevin Cuthbertson.
From left: Archie Macgregor of Scottish Water, Henry Graham, chairman of the Scottish Government’s FONE Group, and Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon with Kevin Cuthbertson.

Scottish Water’s land and property development manager, Archie Macgregor, said: “We’re delighted to be able to help Kevin realise his ambitions of developing his flock and to offer him the security he needs on his land tenancy to be able to do that.”

On a visit to the farm, Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said she recognised there are considerable challenges to entering the sector including access to land.

She added: “It is fantastic to see what Kevin has achieved since he secured this starter unit.

“I’d like to thank Scottish Water for their involvement in making this land available for Kevin and for their continued work in identifying and making public land available for new farmers.”

Kevin revealed he had first become interested in farming at the age of 13, after getting involved in helping his neighbour, Keith Webster.

Kevin Cuthbertson and his dog Linn with some of his sheep on the new farm.
Kevin Cuthbertson and his dog Linn with some of his sheep on the new farm.

“I asked if I could help him move the sheep, and that was it,” he said.

“Every day Keith would come past the house, and I would go and help him; then when I was a bit older, I would help before and after school every day.

“I gained so much experience from him over those years.

“It was actually Keith that encouraged me to submit the application to the FONE scheme.

“I didn’t think there was any point applying, as it would be so popular, but he told me to.

“It was a great feeling when I eventually got the call to say I had been successful and was getting the farm.”

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