Future welfare concerns over lack of Scottish farriery funding

  • Concerns have been raised across Scotland and the industry about a possible future lack of qualified farriers. H&H speaks to governments, farriers and authorities to find out more

    CONCERNS have been raised around funding for Scottish apprentice farriers, as a potential decrease in farriers and long-term welfare consequences are feared.

    The topic of farriers was raised in the Horsescotland manifesto, as the organisation said one of its aims for 2021–2025 is to address farriery issues in the country. The only Scottish farriery department at Oatridge Agricultural College closed in 2009, so apprentices must train at one of three English colleges; Myerscough, Herefordshire and Ludlow, or Warwickshire.

    While course fees for Scottish apprentices attending were once publicly funded, since 2017 Scottish apprentice farriers have had to pay their own fees. Those attending the colleges from England or Wales have their fees paid by the UK Government.

    A spokesman for the Farriers Registration Council (FRC) told H&H many potential apprentices cannot afford the training.

    “Young men and women in Scotland who wish to pursue their chosen career are being disadvantaged through lack of access to public funding, which may limit their life chances,” he said.

    “There is a risk that over time, the number of registered farriers practising in Scotland will decrease to such an extent that owners may not be able to access the hoof care needed by their animals in a timely manner, with welfare consequences. There may be a requirement to import skills from elsewhere in Great Britain to manage the consequences.”

    Horsescotland chairman Grant Turnbull told H&H funding for apprentice farriers is a “very significant” medium- to long-term issue.

    “It’s on our radar as to how we can achieve support for apprentices and for approved training farriers,” he said.

    “We’re conscious that there is an adequate number of farriers in Scotland just now, but the projection of the medium to the longer term is the difficulty.”

    Mr Turnbull added that Horsescotland is looking into re-establishing a full-time or part-time farriery training school in Scotland.

    “It’s interaction with the Government and possible venues that could provide this. I’m aware of three potential venues, but it’s about us being able to present a package to demonstrate that there are these facilities, and a need and thirst for the development of apprentice farriers, so we have a robust case,” he said.

    Approved training farrier David Newall, who has two apprentices, told H&H not all apprentices are in a position to pay the fees and added it is another obstacle for Scottish apprentices who are being “penalised”.

    “There’s going to be a welfare issue in terms of actually having enough qualified and registered farriers in Scotland doing work,” he said.

    Third-year apprentice Grant Nelson, 19, who is self-funding his £15,000 fees, told H&H the cost was in the “back of his mind“ before starting his course and it could put others off.

    “It feels unfair; I’m going to college and paying for it while others get it for free,” he said. “It’s tricky to get an apprenticeship anyway because there are not lots of approved training farriers, but when it’s as hard as it is and you’ve got to self-fund, some probably won’t do it.”

    A spokesman for the Scottish Government told H&H farrier that training at Oatridge college ceased owing to lack of demand and that prior to 2017, the Scottish and UK governments had an “informal agreement” on reciprocal funding, which allowed training to be delivered in England to Scottish applicants.

    “This agreement ceased in 2017 when England adopted new guidelines for funding apprenticeships, which required those receiving funding to work over 50% of their time in England,” said the spokesman. “We continue to press the department of education to resolve this matter and reinstate our previous agreement.”

    On low demand, the FRC spokesman said “this is something of the chicken and egg argument”.

    “Where there is no public funding, this is likely to (or even will) suppress demand. However, given that demand may be low – and relative to elsewhere in Great Britain it may be – there is no compelling financial reason not to make public funding available to Scottish applicants,” he said.

    A spokesman for the UK Government’s department for education told H&H the department is responsible for apprenticeships and funding in England, while the Scottish government is responsible for those in Scotland, adding that apprenticeship policies are devolved.

    “An apprentice based in England for more than 50% of the time is eligible for funding through the English model,” he said.

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