Cock-a-hoop

PALACERIGG Country Park will keep its collection of rare livestock breeds after councillors rejected proposals to dispose of them.

For many years the collection at Palacerigg was the only one of its kind in Scotland and North Lanarkshire Council received numerous plaudits for its work conserving these varieties which had fallen out of favour with commercial farmers as more modern breeds are more profitable.

All that was hanging in the balance at last Tuesday's full council meeting as members debated ways to cut spending, including the possible closure of the rare breeds collection.

This proposal resulted in objections from groups and individuals concerned with the survival of these rare breeds of poultry, cattle, sheep and other farmyard animals, who warned that the loss of the Palacerigg collection could result in the loss of these bloodlines and also of a historically and scientifically important resource.

These objections did not go unheeded as councillors voted not to pursue the closure.

Councillor Jim McCabe, leader of North Lanarkshire Council, said: "The purpose of our savings consultation was to help us identify those services people felt were most important to them, and to use that information to make our final decisions. One of the most frequently occurring objections to the original proposals was to the idea of removing the rare breeds collection at Palacerigg Country Park. As a result, that suggestion is not part of the final savings scheme.

"Palacerigg's animal collection is unique in central Scotland, and is greatly valued by both local people and visitors to North Lanarkshire. It is an important facility and makes a positive contribution to the survival of breeds like Eriskay ponies, North Ronaldsay and Boreray sheep, Shetland and white park cattle, Bagot and Guernsey goats, Tamworth pigs and Scots grey and Scots dumpy poultry."

Peter Titley, president of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, commented after the meeting: "Let's hope that out of this will come a new and invigorated interest in the native breeds in the Park. When one sees an upsurge of enthusiastic and passionate support like this it is actually quite uplifting and puts the whole livestock conservation movement into perspective. The energy shown by people in Scotland and by supporters elsewhere, demonstrates the kind of pioneering spirit that launched the Rare Breeds Survival Trust back in the 1970s."

Another group which spoke out against the closure was online agricultural community Accidental Smallholder, many of whom continue to keep these rare breeds on their land.

Member Karen McKay said: "I'm over the moon that the rare breeds are staying put. They're our link to the past and are so important to our future.

"I hope NLC can draw on the overwhelming level of public support that's been shown for Palacerigg and ensure it becomes a thriving and financially justifiable park once more. I think, in time, that it could become the jewel in North Lanarkshire Council's crown and hopefully a flagship for Scottish rare breeds."