Food for thought at the Highland Show.
Is the Royal Highland Show just for fairmers?
Well traffic approaching from Edinburgh city is a lot quieter than the massive queues of Land Rovers, 4X4s, horse boxes and cattle trucks approaching from the Forth Road Bridge and the more agricultural north.
And despite soaring temperatures, carefully-laid wooden walkways and a complete absence of mud there are still wellies, deerstalkers and wee bits of straw everywhere.
There’s a slight scent of dung in the air and more checked shirts than anywhere outside Nashville. But increasingly, the Highland Show is more like a cross-section of Scotland than any other single event.
Why? Because the whole food business is five times more important to the Scottish economy than it is to the UK as a whole. And that means more folk than just farmers care about the land and the food we eat.
Food is the key to changing Scotland’s unwanted profile as Sick Man of Europe. It’s also big, big business.
Food and drink in Scotland has soared in value, despite the recession, to be worth £13.1bn that represents growth north of the Border three times greater than the rest of the UK. Nae bad.
Farmers’ market sales are up by a third since 2007, likewise sales of Scottish food and drink to the rest of the UK.
And before cynics suggest Fried Mars Bars must be catching on in London, the saturated fat approach to Scottish food production is also changing.
Chalmers Bakery from Aberdeen, for example, has changed its meat pie recipe to contain half the salt and a third of the fat.
There’s been a 50% increase in the number of protected Scottish food names so the likes of Scottish wild and farmed salmon, Orkney cheddar cheese and Stornoway black pudding are now regarded across the world as extra-special brands.
There are rapeseed oil growers trying to persuade Scots to switch from olive oil and support their homegrown product and firms like Stoats who’ve taken over the world with their award-winning wee pots of porridge.
Local food growers are also here with 150 allotment and organic producers helping to shorten the current crazy food chain which means delicious grub grown in Scotland too often heads off on trains, planes and automobiles to central supermarket distribution centres before finally making its way back “home”.
Farm and rural energy is also big business if you can’t sort your biomass boilers from your solar PV panels the Highland Show is now the place to come.
And of course there is food to taste at every corner, strange breeds of sheep and massive bulls to marvel at, horse showjumping and kids fascinated by the simplest critters, ducks and hens. There’s wilderness survival training and zorbing (birling around inside big inflatable balls).
And if you’re very lucky there’s the VIP experience of roaring across the massive, sprawling camp on a wee golf buggy.
The Highland Show organisers have embraced the referendum campaign. I was here for a debate that started with bacon butties at 8am to a full house and questions that ranged much wider than the expected worries about subsidy payments.
Agriculture Secretary Richard Lochhead has had his title changed to include ‘Food’ in the title and the new Scottish Rural Parliament has a stall.
Soon, representatives from islands, villages and crofting townships will be meeting to hammer out policies to revitalise Scotland’s rural communities.
With the firm promise of a Land Reform Bill before the next Holyrood elections, it really does look as if the country is perking up.