The Heart of Galloway group was formed in June 2001 by people who experienced first hand the Foot and Mouth problems that devastated Dumfries and Galloway.
Their aim was to campaign against the appalling mass cull policy adopted by the government, which caused so much grief and suffering, both to humans and animals.
Following a public meeting in Wigtown, the group has built up a large membership throughout the region and further a field, representing all walks of life.
The common thread in this diversity is a conviction that work urgently needs to be done to create a humane, secure and sustainable future in the countryside.
We strive to give a stronger voice to those who care about the countryside, but who feel unrepresented by existing bodies. We see the group not only acting as a lobby group on matters that affect those living in the countryside, but also as a group promoting a way of life that cares for the area around us, the animals and people.
We recognise that large scale agri-business and so called free global trade is the root cause of many rural problems and therefore support and encourage small, environmentally sustainable businesses and the production and marketing of local produce.
During the last year the group has run a stall at the monthly Wigtown markets, selling fresh local produce, organic meat, herbal remedies and crafts. These market days are a great success, encouraging and enabling environmentally conscious local businesses to sell their produce.
RURAL FUTURE WEEKEND
The Rural Futures week-end was the opening event of the Machars' spring, and identified us as a credible and organised voluntary group expressing the views of rural dwellers in Galloway. We received encouraging feedback from supporters and widespread respect from the most important pillars of the Machars community.
It brought together a number of influential people to share their vision for a sustainable future for rural Galloway. With many small local businesses showing off their produce and a crowd of over 1000 in attendance, the day allowed people to air their ideas on rural diversity and was a great success.
MEETINGS AND VISITS
We have organised a number of meetings ranging from visits to producers, to talks and discussions with local politicians. It has provided an interesting, entertaining way to explore rural life and problems.
LOBBYING AND CONSULTATIONS
We continue to lobby for the rights and needs of rural people and animals and have been invited to attend a number of conferences and inquiries on FMD and rural issues affecting the countryside.
We have been invited to debate and present our views on the media.
We recently met with Ross Finnie, the Scottish Executive minister for Rural Affairs, at Kirsty and Andy Hurst's farm near Whithorn. Andy Hurst is the Chairman of HOG and along with Kirsty, Pam Groves the Secretary of HOG, Chloe Bruce Organiser of the 'Rural Futures Day', Mary Mckenzie and Chris Ballance owner of 'Byer Books' in Wigtown.
We had a productive discussion lasting over 2 hours on the following points;
- Last year's FMD disaster must never be repeated and we looked for reassurances that mass cull was no longer the policy for dealing with FMD.
- There should be increased support for organic production in Scotland, particularly in the form of support for distribution and sale networks. A proper organic strategy should be developed.
- Agricultural subsidy should move away from large-scale production and be targeted to support small-scale producers in agriculture, food and other sectors.
- That Mr. Finnie should re-visit his pro-GM stance.
- That the members of HoG are people who feel thoroughly marginalised in the rural debate, even though we represent a large number of country-dwellers, and must be more fully consulted in the future.
- That our politicians must press for radical changes in the Common Agricultural Policy.
Although Mr. Finnie shares our concerns for the problems effecting rural areas, it would be fair to say that there was no great meeting of minds on most of these points, but we were able to ensure that our views were listened to, and he promised to return.
Three members of the group have recently been invited to attend the Third World Congress for Rural Women in Spain from 2nd and 4th October.
MARKETING CO-OP AND RURAL COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AND ENVIRONMENTAL BUSINESS CENTRE
We have formed a secondary marketing co-op to help small-scale producers in the area who are unable to economically market their own produce, find outlets for their produce.
We are developing plans to set up a community project to house the many projects that HoG are supporting. Many people and producers are unable to fulfil the innovative projects that they want to pursue because regulation and bureaucratic measures prevent them. HoG sees these steps as vital to reverse the decline in rural diversity that is holding back rural prosperity.
We are at present exploring ways of funding the project and looking for a suitable property.
The group is positively looking forward to a better future for rural communities but recognises the need for everyone to be involved in the process and be given a voice.
WE WELCOME NEW MEMBERS WHO SHARE OUR AIMS
If you wish to become involved then come along to our next meeting and AGM.
Robin Harper, Scotland's Green Party MSP will be addressing the floor with his vision on 'Regenerating Rural Economies'. Monday 9th September 2002, at 7.30pm Wigtown Primary School.
Click here to read about Heart of Galloway's Recycling and Renewable Energy Day held on 7 June 03