Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has welcomed the shipment of emergency supplies of straw to Westray.
Local farmers and crofters have been struggling to cope with the effects of almost 12 months of exceptionally wet weather. Following earlier engagements with the local NFU and Orkney Islands Council, Liam McArthur used a Scottish Parliament debate in September to press the Agriculture Secretary, Richard Lochhead to set out the help that would be available.
In response, Mr Lochhead confirmed that his officials were involved in discussions with local industry representatives. NFU Scotland, Scottish Government, RSABI and Ringlink Machinery Ring have now organised supplies of straw and the hiring of a cargo vessel to ship straw direct to Westray, rather than via mainland Orkney.
The first shipment of straw direct to Westray will leave Montrose Port on Thursday 29 October on board the MV Burhou. Weather permitting, the ship will make three trips in order for the required volume of straw to be delivered to the island.
Commenting, Liam McArthur said:
“The poor weather over much of the last year has created real difficulties for many farmers across Orkney. Many were forced to sell off cattle early and the lack of fodder was even threatening to see the loss of breeding stock from the islands.
“Last month I made representations to the Agriculture Secretary on behalf of local farmers. He assured me that practical measures would be put in place to assist. I am pleased that this commitment has been followed through with action.
“I know that there were particular problems for farmers in Westray, a community heavily reliant on its beef cattle. They had identified the amount of additional winter fodder that would be needed. Hopefully this delivery will meet that need and give some respite at the end of a difficult 12 months.”