The farming industry has been engulfed by a wave of goodwill and support in recent weeks as the nation is reminded of the critical importance of a domestic agricultural sector.
The public have responded in their thousands to appeals to help harvest soft fruit and vegetables to avoid crops going to waste, and the sector’s insurer, NFU Mutual, has also stepped up by including cover for Covid-19 in both existing and new health policies.
And, in most cases, government has been quick to implement measures to smooth the way: Furloughed workers have been told they can top up their wages by doing part-time farm work; crop health inspectors have been given dispensation to travel to keep hopes of vital markets alive; special travelling arrangements for key workers have been agreed; and an extension of the tenants’ amnesty is on the cards.
Supermarkets are the notable exception, and the loyalty of some has been predictably fickle as Polish beef appears on shelves at a time when everyone in the meat trade is jumping through hoops to maintain local supplies.
Meanwhile, farmers are working under pressure, frightened for their health like everyone else, and doing what they can to get through the next few weeks and months.
Given the circumstances, it’s understandable tensions are running high when unprecedented numbers of people are taking exercise on farm tracks and an ignorant minority leave litter, let dogs off the lead or stray into private space.
The industry’s frustration and despair has resulted in repeated appeals by government and the union to respect the health of farmers, to follow signs which avoid farmyards and fields with pregnant livestock, keep dogs on leads, and to avoid touching gates.
However, there has been a worrying spread of new, unauthorised signs declaring recognised paths closed, and on social media local walkers are reporting aggressive challenges.
Memories of the current struggle will be long, so tread carefully – it would be a mistake to alienate the majority of law-abiding folk who will be needed to support Scottish farming in the months ahead.