READING my National on Wednesday I could easily have gone radge at the roving royals spreading joy as they carried on essential work across national borders. Instead, I was fired up with a wee jewel of a filler article (Mushrooms and cannabis growth potential, December 9) and I could see practical, constructive solutions in a strategy for our future Scottish economic development.
Good on The National for giving us this insight into what concerns our rural colleges, agricultural and business communities. Let’s face it, when do we ever think about what our farmers and fishermen are doing except perhaps accusing them, often unfairly, of being subsidy junkies? That fact that the death throes of Brexit deals are held up by some of these related matters is telling of how important these industries are.
READ MORE: Growth potential for mushrooms and medicinal cannabis in Scotland
We know that our crops are essential to feeding and sustaining us. They could also be central to building a strong economy to underpin the new thriving Scotland. Let’s quickly review just one of these proposed alternative crops in the Scotland’s Rural College report: cannabis.
It is difficult not to notice how so many countries in the world are developing huge industries based on cannabis/hemp production and how many speculators, including our own UK Government ministers and an ex-Prime Minister’s husband, are in on the action. It has become “a thing”. You can make almost anything out of hemp, including houses, cars, clothing, and a whole range of essential pharmaceuticals. Wouldn’t it be something for a new Scotland to develop its biotech industries, take control of pharmaceuticals, perhaps a state-owned pharmaceutical company to support our NHS crippled by the high cost of commercial drugs?
Look at British Sugar, who found alternatives through by-products of sugar beet and added capacity to growing tomatoes in their hothouses in Norfolk. They tried growing medicinal cannabis (hemp) and now they are the biggest exporter to the world: except the UK!
READ MORE: Scottish farmers ‘should grow medical cannabis’, SRUC says
Cannabis is a lucrative cash crop but under current Home Office rules small, emerging businesses will struggle to get a licence to grow it. Hemp is also infinitely sustainable, growing in only five months, and it is unbeatable for naturally remineralising soil and removing greenhouse gasses. What’s not to like? We cannot, however, proceed to develop such an industry under the present controls of Westminster.
Apart from the cannabis, the report identifies cut flowers and mushrooms (selected as the most profitable and all imported in bulk). It also suggests there are many other alternative crops which could be grown in Scotland, including ancient cereals (so much healthier for us, with less gluten and higher protein).
Now, the Scotland’s Rural College report is perhaps limited in that it is based on findings in the south of Scotland, which is generally warmer than the islands, but I fondly remember visionary farmer Bert Leitch on Mull about 20 years ago discussing his plans to farm mushrooms alongside his cattle. There is still local shitake mushroom production today. The Isle of Mull still has runrigs as evidence to the fact that it was once self-sufficient and sustained a larger island population than presently exists. I am sure the report’s findings will apply to all regions of Scotland or can be adapted.
I do get caught up in the reports of border infringements, who said what to whom and which faction is undermining the unity of the goal of independence, but I absolutely thrive on information on practical solutions towards rebuilding a self-sustaining independent Scotland. A vision based on actual work transforming the land involving hands-on solutions rather than hand-shaking exercises.