Written by Harry Porter
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Topics: Scotland, Hospital

Tuesday, 13 July 2004

image for Berry Pickers Face a Price Tag on their Painful Punnets
Mr McConnell - 'A seasonal epidemic.'

Hospital staff in Scotland are gearing up for their busiest time of the year - berrying. But the hordes who hit the Highland hills now face being hit in the pocket.

This historic tradition sees parents, usually with young children, heading into the countryside, armed to the teeth with Tupperware, to be cheerfully ripped to shreds in search of raspberries and brambles.

For hundreds of years, Scots have paid this heavy price to gather the fruit for their jam.

Blood is always shed, clothes are snared, eyeballs are scratched and sometimes entire families are separated for months by miles of thorn.

All for a punnet of berries.

Now Scotland's First Minister, Jack McConnell, has called time on the berry-pickers and is set to impose charges of up to £1,000 for every single one hospitalised.

"In areas like Perthshire, August and September can see casualty departments stowed to the gunnels with injured berry pickers," said Mr McConnell.

"They sit there, oozing blood and berry juice all over the floors while ordinary people who have fallen off mountains, or children with their heads stuck in pots, are forced to wait to see a doctor.

"This is selfish behaviour and it has to stop; we're no longer going to pick up the bill for this seasonal epidemic of wanton self-wounding."

Now accident and emergency departments have been briefed to check for soft fruit stains and all admissions will be required to show their tongues before any attempt is made to remove embedded thorns or stitch up gashes or dangly bits of flesh.

The victims, if still conscious, will be required to sign a form guaranteeing the full payment of any treatment.

But the fines haven't met with approval everywhere.

Ruby McFarlane, Chairwoman of the Fife and Tayside Domestic Jam Industries Circle, said: "Berry picking is as much a tradition as Hogmanay in Scotland and these new penalties reek of someone out of touch with ordinary people.

"Generations of Scots have trampled the heather for the fruit and it's taken its toll - I've lost two husbands and a sister to the berrying.

"But we all know jam doesn't taste like jam unless there's some of the bairns' blood in it."

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The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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