The Scottish Association of Master Bakers (SAMB) conference, from 24-27 May, saw George Stevenson, MD of of Mathiesons of Falkirk, with 32 shops and mall cafés, and a growing wholesale business, take over as new president.

Highlighting the main issues of concern to bakers, he echoed those of Arthur Rayer, head of skills training. Stevenson told British Baker: "I am really concerned about the drastic underfunding of bakery training by government in Scotland. It leaves the industry facing a real skills issue in recruiting and training bakers."

Asked about lobbying government, he said: "We are working with skills sector council Improve, and have met the Scottish government minister for lifelong learning, but it is also essential that we enlighten careers officers and students about what satisfaction and rewards bakery can offer as a career.

"At the moment, it is left to local companies to try to almost force their way into schools. We need to create demand earlier by working with careers officers."

Stevenson said fuel and commodity prices were also big issues. "But the media is full of information on rising prices," he added, "so bakers must be prepared to pass them on."

Past president Bill MacLaren told British Baker that "the huge tide of never-ending government legislation by individuals who had never run a business in their life and wouldn’t know how to" was one of the biggest concerns of all.

Changes to the board

As incoming president, Steven-son also saw the voting-in of a new resolution to change the make-up of the main board. This will allow all members to stand for the board as opposed to it being principally made up by those who head up various committees. It also means that, as president, he has been invited to become board chairman.

The new board make-up coincides with the departure of Ian Hay, past chief executive, former president, former treasurer of SAMB, who has also been awarded an OBE for services to the baking industry.

Stevenson paid him special trubute telling delegates: "This is Ian Hay’s 20th conference. His tremendous period of service is coming to an end. He has been so supportive of training, among other things and his attention to detail ensured we set up one of the best training organisations in the UK. Apart from helping to put the SAMB on a very sound financial footing he has sat on the Low Pay commission, representing smaller firms and, as president, visited over 200 bakeries. If he has set his mind to something, he has given it 110%. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude."

Ian Hay thanked the conference for their kind words and praised outgoing president Joe Macdonald, whom he said been "immensely helpful friendly and sociable during his year of office". It was later mentioned that Joe Macdonald has also made a tremendous contribution in recent years in setting up working bakeries in poor parts of the Ukraine.

The SAMB 40 group for bakers aged 40 and under, held its own AGM, chaired by Brian Sarafilovic who told delegates that, during the year, 20 members had been on a study tour to visit six bakeries in Northern Ireland.

SAMB 40 Group

At the BIE exhibition in Birmingham, the 40 Group had hosted a Chinese banquet for 50 people. Afterwards, members had held a karaoke night at which the singing "would have made rejects for the X Factor look unsuccessful"! said Sarafilovic.

He told delegates that five new members had joined the 40 group, then he handed over the chain of office to incoming president Iain Campbell, of Campbells of Crieff, who said he was looking forward to the next two years and hoped to increase membership.

At the evening banquet, at the Peebles Hydro Hotel, Keith Houliston, national sales director of Bakels, was made an honorary lifelong member of the SAMB for his support of the craft baking industry. He received a standing ovation in front of the packed dining hall of over 120 members and guests.