Keynote Sponsor Announced for NSA Scotsheep 2024

18th December 2023

One of Scotland’s most progressive agricultural banks, Virgin Money, has announced its commitment to sponsor the National Sheep Association’s flagship Scotsheep event in June 2024. The bank will play a major role in being one of the lead sponsors supporting the activities that make Scotsheep a showcase for the industry and a magnet for sheep farming families from across the country.


Virgin Money has an unrivalled, in-depth understanding of the farming sector, and is leading the way in developing innovative banking and financial planning solutions to support the challenges facing the UK industry today. At Scotsheep 2024, the bank’s agricultural advisory team will be able to demonstrate some of the most effective approaches to investment for a sustainable future using the Hamilton family’s host farm enterprise as a perfect example of best practice.


Scotsheep 2024 will be hosted by the Hamiltons at their 1900-acre Aikengall Farm on the edge of the Lammermuir Hills near Dunbar. Thousands of visitors are expected to seize the opportunity of taking a guided tour with James, Charles, and Harry Hamilton around this leading Scottish livestock enterprise, which has expanded significantly since their father, the late John Hamilton and their mother Vanessa moved to Aikengall from Lanarkshire in 1998.


Since then, the Hamiltons have incorporated the neighbouring 400-acre farm of Thurston Mains in 2004, taken on the tenancy of the 1200-acre (485ha) farming unit of Nunraw farm at Garvald in 2010 and the 600-acre (240ha) farm of Barney Mains, Near Haddington, in 2022. The Hamiltons also contract farm an upland unit of 2000 acres at Heriot, Midlothian with the Walgate family, helping them grow their business to run 2800 breeding ewes and a commercial herd of 900 suckler cows, finishing all progeny on home grown feed and breeding replacements on a closed flock/herd basis, only buying in tups and bulls as required.


Much of the expansion has been supported by Virgin Money and the former Clydesdale Bank, and Virgin Money’s Head of Agriculture, Brian Richardson, hopes that Scotsheep will provide an ideal platform for the bank and the Hamiltons to illustrate the benefits of this long-term relationship.


“We are absolutely delighted to be able to sponsor Scotsheep again, and particularly pleased to be supporting the event on the Hamilton’s host farm. They have been clients of the bank for more than 39 years, and their success is a perfect demonstration of well-planned business investment and management, and of course of their farming capabilities.


“What visitors will see is an excellent example of an enterprise that has stayed ahead of the changing trends in farming, and has always taken the right decisions to meet the challenges of change. We will be reinforcing some of these messages through our involvement with the Seminars available to visitors to the event on the day. The Hamiltons have expanded their core livestock business steadily over the past 25 years, but they have also diversified and they are meeting their carbon reduction targets on a very big scale. It will be a privilege to support the event and I have no doubt at all that the NSA and the Hamiltons will make this a red letter day for the Scottish sheep farming industry.”


The natural environment is treated as an equal enterprise at Aikengall, with a number of stewardship schemes playing a significant role in the development and improvement of infrastructure and habitats on the predominantly upland unit. Much more visibly, the Hamiltons also host Aikengall Wind Farm with Community Wind Power Ltd, comprising 16 wind turbines generating enough electricity to power approximately 31,500 homes and displacing around 54,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide very year.


James Hamilton hopes that visiting farmers will be encouraged to see the combination of environmental and business sustainability that they are achieving at Aikengall. “Driving the productivity and efficiency of our livestock and farming enterprises gives us great pleasure, but I hope we can also demonstrate that what’s good for the pocket can also be good for the environment. It will be a great pleasure and honour for us as a family to host such a prestigious event for the sheep industry in Scotland. We are looking forward to welcoming fellow farmers and seeing friends old, new, and not met yet a Aikengall next June.”


For Colin McPhail, Chair of NSA Scotsheep, the combination of Virgin Money’s sponsorship and the Hamilton’s host farm enterprise adds a spectacular extra dimension to the benefits that visitors will derive from next summer’s Scotsheep event.


“Scotsheep offers sheep farmers a unique opportunity to come and see best practice on the host farm, and share their questions, concerns, and successes with fellow farmers and with expert advisors. All farmers are facing uncertainties and challenges in coming to terms with the post Brexit landscape and the financial pressures of inflation and high interest rates, so we’re delighted that next year we can offer our sheep farming visitors opportunity to discuss these issues, and benefit from Virgin Money’s expertise in funding and managing the business side of farming for the future.


“We are wholeheartedly grateful to the Hamiltons and to Virgin Money for helping to make Scotsheep 2024 what we know will be an outstanding event.”


NSA Scotsheep 2024 will be held on Wednesday 5th June 2024, at Aikengall Farm, Innerwick, Dunbar, East Lothian, by kind permission of the Hamilton family.