Social Distancing Applies To Everyone – Including Scotland’s Farmers And Crofters


In his latest blog, Jonnie Hall, Director of Policy, highlights the importance of social distancing and how it applies to everyone including Scotland’s farmers and crofters.

We find ourselves in anything but ‘normal’ times.  The word ‘unprecedented’ is already well worn but remains spot on.  We are all having to adapt – and adapt quickly.  It is not ‘business as usual’ for anyone, and all those engaged in any agricultural activity are no exception.
For so many farmers and crofters living and working in rural Scotland, the concept of ‘social distancing’ themselves from others may not be so unfamiliar as to be so seriously challenging as it is for so many others in society.  Ironically, the isolation of agriculture may for once be a distinct advantage.
The farming cycles of spring work, calving and lambing tend to bring their own degree of isolation without enforcing and change.  However, there are still a raft of farming and ‘normal’ activities that do need to be adjusted by us all. 
Farming and crofting may often be physically remote, removed from the mainstream of modern life, but that can never buy immunity. Nor can it be any sort of excuse not to fully comply with solid and demonstrable social distancing in every context of agricultural activity. 
The instruction to all is to reduce social interaction between people in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  The single most important action all can take, in fighting coronavirus, is to reduce the spread of the infection. 
The key during this time is to stick rigidly to the not unfamiliar concept of biosecurity, similar to maintaining biosecurity for livestock, but this time between people.  We all need to work to protect ourselves and others by doing the right thing.  Social distancing measures are for everyone, including all farm businesses.
Reduced day-to-day contact with other people is the central plank of the government-led approach to reducing the spread of the infection. That is why the Scottish Government introduced three clear measures:
  • requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes;
  • closing certain business and venues, and
  • stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public.
Everyone in Scotland must comply with these new measures, which came into effect on 26 March.
As well as the actions of individuals, in this public health crisis it is vital that all businesses also act responsibly, including all farm businesses, and align fully with the social distancing measures.
Farming and food production are ‘essential services’ upon which daily life in Scotland depends. Essential services are the fundamental in ensuring the country continues to function. However, even then, it is critical that all farm businesses do the following as a minimum
  • demonstrate that they can operate safely and that the safety and wellbeing of their workforce is of paramount importance
  • ensure and demonstrate that they can undertake all relevant farming activities in a way which is fully consistent with established social distancing advice 
  • ensure that their members, staff, contractors, etc. are fully briefed on safe working and social distancing practices and that they are supervised to ensure these are adhered to 
  • undertake to monitor the latest advice from the Scottish Government and make the necessary changes to their business operation as required, should this advice change
  • where they are able, endeavour to demonstrate to their customers and the public that their operations are fully compliant with safe working and social distancing procedures
It is recognised and appreciated by so many that farms and crofts are working incredibly hard to continue to provide the absolute essential of food during this incredibly difficult time. Our priority, as Scotland’s agricultural industry, must be to help ensure sustained production of safe, high quality food, produced to the most exacting of standards, while also doing all we can to minimise the risk of transmitting COVID-19.
There is, of course, no one answer to every farming situation and different farming systems will have different challenges in meeting social distancing requirements. Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of each and every one to do whatever it takes to carry out effective social distancing.
Government guidance applies as much in rural areas, and to agriculture, as it does in towns and cities and it is imperative to ensure farming continues, but does so by strictly adhering to practices, some which may be new or very different, that put social distancing at the forefront of what might otherwise be every day agricultural activities.
Of course there are two sides to every story – the policy team are also aware about your concerns about increased public access and fly-tipping increasing during this lockdown period – rest assured that we are acting on your behalf to address these issues and keep our members safe.  But for the time being please, do your part to stay safe, stay apart and stay well.

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