ALBAS24 winners with Minister Jim Fairlie celebrate

The achievements of Scotland’s top land-based and aquaculture trainees were celebrated last night (Thursday 7th March) at Lantra Scotland’s ALBAS (Awards for Land-based and Aquaculture Skills) at the Crieff Hydro Hotel in Perthshire.

Over 200 finalists, event supporters, employers, training providers and industry leaders attended a glittering award ceremony, including Jim Fairlie MSP, Minister for Agriculture and Connectivity.

After an opening address by Mr Fairlie, awards were presented by the evening’s host, the Red Shepherdess, otherwise known as Hannah Jackson. Industry awards were made for agriculture, aquaculture, equine, environmental conservation, game and wildlife, horticulture, land-based engineering, trees and timber and veterinary nursing.

As well as prizes for Overall Winner, Runner-up and Modern Apprentice of the Year, there were also awards for Higher Education, School Pupil and Secondary Schools, CARAS (Council for Awards of Agricultural Societies), a Mentor award for inspirational tutor, the Tam Tod Trophy and the Anna Murray Award for Partnership Working.

The winners and runners-up for ALBAS 2024 were chosen by an independent judging panel made up of influential figures from across the land-based and aquaculture sector, chaired by Rebecca Dawes, Agriculture and Rural Communicator at Jane Craigie Marketing and trustee of RSABI and The Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth.

The evening’s highlights included Aoife Cowburgh receiving the much-coveted Overall Winner Award, the highest accolade of the night. Aoife was also awarded Equine Learner of the Year and was one of three to win a prestigious CARAS award.

Aoife, from Galashiels, has completed an SVQ in Horse Care through SRUC Oatridge while working as a Competition Groom for Rhymer’s Stables in the Scottish Borders.

She said: “It’s a real honour to be chosen as overall winner, and to pick up the Equine Learner of the Year and a CARAS award is more than I could have hoped for. A big thank you to Lantra Scotland for presenting me with these awards, to my tutor Hilary Morton from SRUC Oatridge for nominating me, and my friends and family for all the support they’ve given me over the years. Thank you!”

Overall Runner-up was horticulture apprentice Ross Rutherford from Edinburgh. Ross also won the Horticulture Learner of the Year category and the Modern Apprentice of the Year award. Ross has been doing an SVQ in Landscaping at SRUC Oatridge while working as a Landscape Gardener for Noble Grounds Care Ltd.

He said: “It’s a great feeling to win these awards, and to know all the hard work is paying off. I’d like to thank my employer Alex Noble for giving me an opportunity to work in this sector, to Grant Skillen my tutor at SRUC Oatridge for nominating me, to Lantra Scotland and everyone else who has supported me. I changed careers during the pandemic which was a major shift for me – winning these awards has proved that this was definitely the right move.”
The two remaining winners of the prestigious CARAS (Council for Awards of Agricultural Societies) awards were Jennifer Mitchell and Katrina Coutts. Jennifer from Barrhead in Glasgow is doing her BSc (Hons) in Agriculture at SRUC while working as a Trainee Consultant at SAC Consulting. Katrina from Wethersta in Shetland has been doing an HND in Agriculture at SRUC Oatridge while working as a Livestock Yardsman for Shetland Livestock Marketing Group.

RHASS also supports a Secondary Schools Award in recognition of schools with exceptional standards in rural skills training. This year the award was won by Wallace Hall Academy with Islay High School Runner-up. Wallace Hall Academy is located at Thornhill in Dumfries and Galloway and is working on a school-wide Outdoor Learning Project which includes developing a new learning space for pupils.

The Anna Murray Partnership Working Award went to The King's partnership with Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty. The King’s Foundation is running a secondary school age programme called Food for the Future, tackling the issue of food waste by taking pupils through skills masterclasses.

Receiving the Highly Commended accolade for the same award was East Dunbartonshire Council, who are working in partnership with Glasgow City Council to deliver training for their Modern Apprentices.

Awards for Higher Education went to Harry Evans for HNC level, then Stephanie Bartlett was runner-up for HND level, Katrina Coutts was winner at HND level, Hamish MacLean was runner-up for BSc level, and Jennifer Mitchell was winner of BSc level.

The Tam Tod Trophy went to Campbell Strang. This award is made in association with Countryside Learning Scotland to an outstanding young learner and was created in memory of the late Tam Tod, described as a well-loved gamekeeper, ghillie and lifelong friend of the countryside.
Other prizes on the night included the Lantra Mentor Award for most inspirational tutor won by Robert Wallace from Castle Douglas, and the School Pupil Award NPA Skills for Work which went to Hayden Taylor-Ramsay from Kingussie High School through UHI NWH.

ALBAS 2024 winners and runners-up:

ALBAS Overall Winner
Aoife Cowburgh

ALBAS Overall Runner-up
Ross Rutherford
Agriculture Learner of the Year
Winner: Scott Cunningham
Runner-up: Colin MacDonald

SAIC Aquaculture Learner of the Year
Winner: Craig Grounds
Runner-up: Stuart Lavender

Environmental Conservation
Winner Nathan Taylor
Runner-up Monique Llanos

Equine Learner of the Year
Winner: Aoife Cowburgh
Runner-up: Amy Young

Game and Wildlife Learner of the Year
Winner: Campbell Strang

Horticulture Learner of the Year
Winner: Ross Rutherford
Runner-up: Ryan Yuill

Land-based Learner of the Year
Winner: Reece Houston
Runner-up: Spencer Johnson

Trees and Timber Learner of the Year
Winner: Kevin Pearson

Veterinary Nursing Award
Winner: Katie Turner
Runner-up: Elaine Sandhu

CARAS Awards
Aoife Cowburgh
Jennifer Mitchell
Katrina Coutts

School Pupil Award NPA Skills for Work
Winner: Hayden Taylor-Ramsay
Runner-up: Louise Craig

Secondary Schools Award
Winner: Wallace Hall Academy
Runner-up: Islay High School

Higher Education Award HNC
Winner: Harry Evans

Higher Education Award HND
Winner: Katrina Coutts
Runner-up: Stephanie Bartlett

Higher Education Award BSc
Winner: Jennifer Mitchell
Runner-up: Hamish McLean

Modern Apprentice Award
Winner: Ross Rutherford

Anna Murray Award for Partnership Working
Winner: The King’s Foundation in partnership with Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty
Highly Commended: East Dunbartonshire Council in partnership with Glasgow City Council

Tam Tod Trophy
Campbell Strang

Lantra Mentor Award
Robert Wallace

The ALBAS are organised by Lantra, the sector skills council for the land-based, aquaculture and environmental conservation industries.

Agriculture Minister Jim Fairlie said: “It was great to witness all the hard work of the winners and nominees acknowledged by these awards. The breadth of skills across all aspects of our land-based and aquaculture sectors is truly impressive and absolutely vital to continuing to support and celebrate rural life in Scotland.

“Like many of those here tonight, I knew from an early age that my interest lay in livestock farming and working on the land, and it is a passion that has stayed with me. None of my family wanted to follow on, which can quite often be the case, and that’s what makes this event so special. I hope that this recognition for all nominees and winners continues to inspire them to make their lives, raise their families and build their careers in rural Scotland, helping our rural and island communities to thrive in the future.”

Dr Liz Barron-Majerik MBE MICFor, Scotland Director, Lantra, commented:

“Our awards highlight the incredible people who are working in Scotland’s land-based and aquaculture sector, while also encouraging employers to think about their future workforce.

She continued: “I’d like to congratulate all those who were nominated, as that in itself is quite an achievement. The standard of entries this year was again really high, so not everyone can get through to the final stage.

Our learners are literally the best of the best from our sector and crucial to the economy, our communities and for the environment.
We were delighted to be joined on the evening by representatives from industry and skills organisations, including Minister for Agriculture and Connectivity, Jim Fairlie, and to have the Red Shepherdess, Hannah Jackson, hosting the awards for us.

The ALBAS can only take place because of the huge commitment that Rebecca Dawes and her team of independent judges put in, reviewing the nominations and interviewing short-listed candidates.

I’d also like to thank all the generous supporters who have helped make our event possible: SRUC, Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre, Andy Murray, BAGMA, the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, HTA, NatureScot, Equido Horsemanship, Ringlink, Rural Skills Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates, SAOS and the SQA.”