Scotland is in the grip of a land grab as hundreds of farmers from the north of Ireland snap up swathes of cheap property
A number of farmers are preparing to cross the Irish Sea and join their countrymen, who already own half the farms in some parts of Dumfries and Galloway.
Land in Scotland sells for as little as £3,000 an acre, less than a third of the price of comparable land in Ulster. Scottish farms are so popular with Irish farmers that one property lawyer claims 95% of his clients are from Ulster.
Another agency, ATM Property Services, which buys Scottish farms for Irish farmers, said it has £30m ready to invest in Scotland and 150 farmers on its waiting lists.
According to the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland, the Irish invasion has spread from the southwest of Scotland, with increasing numbers buying on the east coast.
Savills, the estate agent, said that 30% of the farms sold in the northeast of Scotland this year have been to Ulster farmers. One farm near Stranraer, which sold last week, had 33 prospective buyers of whom 28 were Ulstermen.
Robin Spence, vice-chairman of NFU Scotland in Dumfries and Galloway, said soaring demand for Scottish farms among Ulster farmers is down to simple economics.
“Generally speaking they will sell a small farm in Ireland and come and buy a bigger farm with us, which makes them a lot more viable,” he said. “There’s a section of road between Lockerbie and Dumfries where every second farm has an Irish owner.”
The trend is being fuelled by an exodus of Scots dairy farmers who have seen their incomes plummet. “We have seen a huge number leaving in the past few years because the price of milk to farmers is 18p, when it’s 56p in a supermarket,” added Spence.
Richard Huston of ATM, the Armagh-based property agent, said that Irish farmers had a more optimistic outlook on the future of the industry than their Scots counterparts.
Earlier this year 100 farmers had expressed an interest in buying a property in Scotland when the firm set up a stand at the Balmoral Show in Belfast.
Fred Connolly, 42, bought a farm near Moffat, in Dumfries and Galloway, after deciding to leave Northern Ireland with his wife and two children.
“The Irish prices were three times that of Scotland,” he said. “I sold part of a farm in Ulster and was able to move over. The farmers in Northern Ireland have to work very hard. The farms are much smaller and there is no scope to expand.
“It’s still not easy in Scotland but it’s a good life.”
Connolly’s brother has also settled on a Scottish farm.
One Scots farmer who recently sold his farm near Stranraer, but did not want to be named, said he was selling up because he had nobody to pass the farm on to. “I’m a reluctant seller but I feel I still have a few years in me to try something else,” he said. “The changes in agriculture, such as the supermarkets price differential, are not going to change so I’ve decided to get out.”
David Hall, of Dale & Marshall, an agricultural law firm based in Galston, Ayrshire, said: “Of all the farms we have bought this year, I have not bought one for a Scot.
They have all been from Northern Ireland.”
Let us hope that these migrating farmers are from the British colonial population and not from the indigenous Irish one. The more British colonists that leave the Six Counties, the sooner British colonial rule in Ireland can be brought to an end.
Small increase in Scottish land but supply still short