Land of Milk and Honey Square

Rescuing rural life from the misanthropes and urbanistas

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Land of Milk and Honey – by Jamie Blackett

Quiller 2022, 256 pages, Hardback. ISBN 9781 8468 93667

THE CYCLE Of rural life in one of the most beautiful corners of Britain is described over a turbulent and eventful two-year period in this beautifully written book. Jamie Blackett, a multi-tasking Dumfriesshire farmer in the Galloway region of South-West Scotland describes the battle for existence as those who won a livelihood from the land were buffeted by an ill-planned departure from the European Union only then to be pole-axed by Covid.

The author writes with admirable candour and detachment about his battle to save his farm in the face of adverse balance-sheets. It is a familiar story across the whole of Britain as those on family farms feel a sense of worthlessness while they struggle to keep at bay a range of invariably urban forces from the worlds of politics and corporate business determined to humiliate or impoverish them.

But with a supportive family and belonging to a tight-knit community, Blackett swats away the prospect of defeat with the resilience instilled in him when in the army – and no doubt underpinned by many generations of his family’s attachment to this picturesque locality.

He provides a diary of rural life as the noughties pass into the discordant twenties. Activist groups, who if they are not actually in power, certainly have the ear of the powerful, campaign to impose their ideological agendas on an unwilling or uncomprehending society. They see the countryside as a frontline where they can impose their will on custodians of the land whom they sense are ripe for dispossession due to their lack of strong defenders even after a dozen years of a supposedly Conservative government in power.

Behind his affable exterior Blackett is a redoubtable foe who is a good networker and resistance organiser. Part of his strength stems from his ability to switch off from the political struggles which now spill over into rural Britain and draw inspiration from nature, whether it is the arrival of migratory birds each spring, or the drama of a cattle sale in the mart at Castle Douglas, or a playful otter gambolling in the shallows as his land meets the Solway Firth.

He is determined to fight for the survival of a farming existence which has contributed not just to providing nourishment but to shaping Britain’s sense of itself as a nation, where individualism, endeavour and restraint have moulded a specific character known across the world.

What isn’t overtly spelled out but emerges clearly from the book is that an increasing erosion of freedom is occurring as activists with fringe ideas about how human beings should live and what they should eat, move ever closer to the corridors of power. How electoral democracy can hope to survive is hard to see if misanthropes, who believe their views must brook no opposition, triumph outright.

Blackett is unafraid to single out the Scottish National Party which has run Scotland’s internal affairs since 2007. Much of its power stems from its ability to turn Scotland into a ‘disconnective society’ where citizens find themselves increasingly disempowered against a Leviathan State. Its greed and inefficiency are legendary but it has established such a hold over civic Scotland through turning the media, charities and other intermediate groups into vassals.

Charlatans, incompetents and sociopaths have risen to positions of influence in a bloated Scottish state. The more intransigent SNP activists display a Scottish supremacist outlook that in many cases stems from their ignorance about realities and conditions of life beyond the small country they extol. Inevitably, they have a countryside in their sights which has far too many people in touch with life’s challenges for their liking. Legislation and bureaucratic interventions are legion in their attempt to try and impose urban priorities on rural Scotland. The situation has worsened with the Scottish Greens, dominated by power-fixated urban bourgeois agitators, now sharing power with the separatists.

Blackett quietly expresses incredulity at the hold a gaggle of adventurers and con-merchants have acquired over some working-class communities in Scotland’s central belt. The evidence is mounting that radical Green commissars would be happy to see produce derived from the soil done away with altogether and instead the proletariat be required to subsist on gloop manufactured in bio-factories, no doubt augmenting the profits of the corporate food giants busily investing in food technology based on artificial ingredients.

The book appeared too early to cast an eye over the campaign of Henry Dimbleby, scion of the BBC media dynasty, to sharply cut the intake of meat. He made a multi-million pound fortune this April with the sale of his fast food chain and thanks to preferment from Prime Minister David Cameron, what he thinks counts in parts of Whitehall. The author shows the link between supposedly idealistic campaigning for a healthier Britain and big profits for food corporations. Veganism is the best thing that has happened to the processed food industry: huge profits are being made by ‘turning cheap vegetable oils, sugars and carbohydrates into fake meats and milks’.

Woke consumerism has shifted wealth from small livestock farms to giant food producers on arable prairies and in biotech laboratories. Blackett describes its middle-class and metropolitan exponents as Neo-Roos, modern day followers of the 18th century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Neo-Rousseauism ‘with its heady mixture of climate change activism and anti-capitalist rebellion’ has swept up the disaffected. They no longer want to nationalise the factories but instead impose communism in the countryside. Without star promoters in the BBC who offer specious arguments for civil disobedience and other non-electoral means to ‘save the planet’, it is unlikely the neo-Roos would ever have got this far.

Government-sponsored quangos, set up or re-energised, to implement EU directives on agriculture, have become as self-important and myopic as any faraway Brussels commissioner. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds insists on curtailing the controlled burning of upland peat moors. The golden plover which prefers to nest on recently burnt patches because its eggs are more easily camouflaged, is an ornithological casualty of this stance. The increase of vegetation inevitably means more extensive peat fires and releases of carbon emissions in times of drought.

He contrasts the misanthropes of Extinction Rebellion, disrupting the streets, with law-abiding and stoical farmers ‘driven out of business by badger-borne TB, keepers and shepherds being laid off in the hills as they are planted with forestry, and keen young huntsmen robbed of their future’ by meddlesome jobsworths.

He speaks up for livestock farming and its wider benefits, such as increasing topsoil and therefore taking carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it in the soil. It is perhaps no surprise he rejects fifty years of nutritional advice that demonised saturated fats from meat, dairy and eggs and promoted instead carbohydrates as healthy foods. The result, he claims, ‘has been an obesity epidemic, a dip in fertility and soaring diabetes, cancer, heart disease and dementia.’

In 2020-21 Blackett formed an unconventional but effective alliance with the left-wing maverick George Galloway to take on the SNP in the devolved election of May 2021. Alliance for Unity put together a manifesto with concrete proposals to clip the wings of separatism to make it very difficult to hold regular referenda on breaking up the state and to give the overlooked regions of Scotland the option to remain within the British union. The initiative was shunned or disparaged by the media and failed to secure a breakthrough. Nevertheless, it brought together a talented and committed group of pro-UK Scots of whom more is likely to be heard in the future, and breathed much life into the anti-separatist movement (which in Conservative hands has often been insipid).

A pragmatic streak is often displayed by Blackett. He is prepared to reach out to the environmental lobby if there are initiatives such as re-wilding where some common ground can be established. A Remain voter in 2016, he believes the onset of free trade can benefit small farmers , as EU ‘gold-plated’ regulations favoured the big farmer and gigantic meat-producing factories to the detriment of small abattoirs.

He is quietly confident that, as a decade of disruption possibly ensues, high-profile BBC presenters and Guardian columnists, along with civil servants, quangocrats and charities will not be the ones who bend the countryside to their own sterile futuristic will. He thinks the true custodians of the countryside, the farming community, have a chance to throw off the dead-hand of bureaucracy and interference from ideological groupings. As well as being an eloquent manifesto for saving the countryside from the unhappy fate that has overtaken large parts of urban Britain, this is a stirring evocation of rural life which will be a revelation to not a few urban readers who are lucky enough to obtain a copy.

You can buy the book here.

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