Xavio Vastano won the School Pupil Award and the Tam Tod Trophy at Lantra Scotland's ALBAS awards
Xavio Vastano won the School Pupil Award and the Tam Tod Trophy at Lantra Scotland's ALBAS awards

Successful night for game and wildlife winners

Two game and wildlife trainees and a school pupil have won at prestigious awards.

They took the honours at Lantra Scotland’s ALBAS (Awards for Land-based and Aquaculture Skills), which took place at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Dunblane Hydro.

Charlie Blance, aged 20 from Methven, Perthshire, won the Overall Winner Award, the highest accolade of the night. Charlie also won the Game and Wildlife industry category and was a winner of a prestigious CARAS award.

Stewart Sloss, aged 20 from Tomatin, Inverness, was the Game and Wildlife category runner-up.

And 15-year-old Xavio Vastano from Kincraig, won the School Pupil Award and the Tam Tod Trophy. 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.

Charlie did an HNC in Game Keeping and Wildlife Management through Borders College, then worked at Dunan Estate in Pitlochry. In her time at Borders College, she was awarded HNC Game Keeping Student of the Year, Land-based Best Overall Student of the Year and HNC Workbased Learner of the Year Award.

She said: ‘To be chosen as the Overall Winner, and to win my industry category and a CARAS Award, is more than I could ever have dreamt. It’s really important that women are seen succeeding in this industry and I hope my story will be an example for others looking to do the same.

‘Thanks to all my tutors at Borders College and my employers at Dunan Estate, not to mention my family. Without their support, none of this would be possible.’

Stewart Sloss has just completed his Modern Apprenticeship and is currently studying for a National Certificate in Gamekeeping at North Highland College UHI, while working at Coignafearn Estate.

Xavio has been studying for his NPA Level 5 in Rural Skills at Kingussie High School. He has always had a passion for working in the outdoors and has been focussed on pursuing a career in Game Keeping since arriving at the school.

Xavio said: ‘It’s great to win an ALBAS award. I have always had a passion for the great outdoors for as long as I can remember. My earliest memories of working on the land were with my grandad, who was a livestock farmer. His way of life and close relationship with nature really appealed to me.’

The ALBAS were hosted by farmer and stand-up comedian, Jim Smith, and organised by Lantra Scotland, the sector skills council for the land-based, aquaculture and environmental conservation industries.

Xavio Vastano won the School Pupil Award and the Tam Tod Trophy at Lantra Scotland’s ALBAS awards

Lantra’s Scotland director, Liz Barron-Majerik, believes the awards are a very effective way of recognising the success of trainees in Scotland’s rural sector, as well as getting employers involved in growing the next generation of talent.

She said: ‘The ALBAS showcase the many incredible people who have joined Scotland’s land-based, aquaculture and environmental conservation industries and who are getting their careers underway.

‘I know our judges were very impressed again with the quality of the nominations, so I would like to congratulate all of the finalists, as well as the winners. They were all of a very high standard indeed.’

She went on to thank the people and organisations who make holding an event like this possible, including main sponsor Skills Development Scotland, and Aberdeenshire Council, British Agricultural and Garden Machinery Association, Elspeth Watson, Equido Horsemanship, Marine Scotland, Royal Highland & Agricultural Society Scotland, Rural Skills Scotland, SAOS, Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre, Scottish Forestry, Scottish Land and Estates, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Qualifications Authority, Scottish Salmon Company, and SRUC.

Thanks also went to the independent judging panel, who comprise: agriculture and rural affairs journalist Erika Hay (chair of the panel); HR training officer for the Scottish Salmon Company, Jennifer Allison; smallholder, former agricultural banker and vice-president of RHASS, Jimmy McLean; learning and development manager with Forestry and Land Scotland, Keith Paterson; Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Societies, former chair of the CARAS Scottish panel and farmer, Keith Redpath; head of training with The Scottish Salmon Company, Lisa Connell; Jane Craigie Marketing team member Rebecca Dawes, and fisheries manager with Stirling Council Fisheries, Scott Mason.

To find out more about the ALBAS, visit www.scotland.lantra.co.uk/learner-year.