The Church of Scotland has announced it will be appointing its first ever dedicated ’farming minister’ to help support people in the struggling farming industry.
The moderator of the general assembly, Rev Dr Angus Morrison announced the ’innovative and creative’ post during a visit to Ayr Mart this week.
Dr Morrison, who grew up in the Highlands, said: "I am delighted to announce the creation of this new ground breaking post to reach out to people in the farming community in Ayrshire.
"It is hoped that through this new position the church can meet farmers where they are and build relationships that will allow an understanding of the issues and stresses related to modern day farming.
"The Church cares deeply about people in all our communities and I am confident that whoever fills this important role will make a substantial difference to the lives of many people."
The announced has been welcomed by the NFU Scotland and RSABI who said the state of the farming sector is taking a serious toll on the health and well being of farmers, many of whom suffer in silence.
Union leaders say low produce prices and major problems with Common Agricultural Policy payments were contributing to high levels of stress and mental health issues among farmers, who often feel isolated and cut off from other people.
Nina Clancy, chief executive officer of RSABI, said: "I applaud the Church of Scotland for its support of the new rural ministry in Ayr.
"The farming industry is facing challenging times and many farming families are struggling.
"RSABI is experiencing a substantial increase in the number of people looking for support and financial assistance.
"Having someone to talk to is so important because a problem shared is often a problem halved. But unfortunately many in the industry suffer in silence.
"I hope that having someone local to talk to in confidence will encourage more people to seek support."
The pioneer minister, who is expected to have a keen understanding of rural affairs, will visit farms to provide spiritual and family support, counselling and champion the industry, workers’ rights and encourage people to buy local produce.
They will also interact with young farmer groups, NFU representatives, visit the weekly livestock mart, annual agriculture shows and draw together groups of people linked to the industry like vets, mart staff and estate workers.
The Minister will be based at Craig Wilson Livestock Mart in Ayr, which has agreed to provide office space.