Estate owner recognised for promoting rural skills

Lucy Beattie, Fergus Ewing MSP, Gordon Robertson at Scottish Parliament
Norette Ferns

A West Highland estate owner has been awarded for her outstanding work in preserving and promoting rural skills education.

Lucy Beattie, who owns Leckmelm Estate near Ullapool, was presented with the Scottish Land & Estates' Highland region 'Helping it Happen' award for the exceptional assistance she has been providing to help pupils from Ullapool High School gain a Rural Skills Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ).

Taking into account the one-off events arranged with the school, Lucy estimates that approximately 300 young people have visited Leckmelm since 2007.

Lucy was presented with the award at the Scottish Parliament recently by Fergus Ewing MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism.

She said:

"To gain recognition through this Helping It Happen award is wonderful, but I am even more delighted to see such a fruitful partnership between rural estates and the community being highlighted.

"Ullapool High is a very forward thinking school. They wanted to get the community involved with the curriculum and talked to me about their idea. I was very happy to take part because I’d been thrown into running the farm at the age of 21. I was keen to do what I could to help young people in the area.

"I’m very glad I became involved. Having grown up here, and now having three children of my own, I try to do what I can. I am a member of the Community Trust in Ullapool and have employed some of the children who have taken part in the Rural Skills programme in the summer holidays to do grass cutting, general maintenance and so on. I feel very strongly about helping to secure a successful future for this part of the world."

Lucy was contacted by the school who wanted to find a venue where students could be brought by teachers to learn. In 2011, when Highland Council’s circumstances changed, she stepped in to play an active part in the youngsters’ tuition. Now, Lucy runs the course for West Highland College as part of its schools link programme.

In another development, the school’s additional support for learning department approached Lucy and asked if they could bring pupils to work side by side with the rural skills learners. Those students were able to take part in the SVQ modules, as well as achieve John Muir awards.

Lucy was also able to offer a placement to a young man who still attends the farm twice a week with his support worker and does all types of work from livestock husbandry to forestry and logging.

The placement allows him to live and work in his own community. His wellbeing and verbal skills have improved, and he has used his experience to work on a horticultural project at home where he aims to grow produce for sale to a local café.

Gordon Robertson, chairman of the Highland Region of Scottish Land & Estates, said:

"Helping It Happen is an initiative to showcase the outstanding work that estates across Scotland do to help their local communities, day in, day out. There are few more worthy recipients for this award than Lucy.

"Lucy’s commitment to the sensitive management of her land, and the wider role it plays within the community, is outstanding. By engaging with Ullapool High School and West Highland College, she has provided a secure base and a launch pad for students to develop their knowledge and skills in an effective and practical way."

Sarah-Jane Laing, Director of Policy and Parliamentary Affairs, said:

"The Helping It Happen campaign continues to go from strength to strength, with landowners and land-based businesses of all types and sizes producing case studies on the many activities they are engaged with, delivering a diverse range of public benefits. Communities and agencies are also now starting to engage, and we want to encourage any business or group who is playing its part in rural success to get involved in the initiative."

Plans are also underway by Scottish Land & Estates to launch national Helping It Happen awards in the coming months.