Over 400 farmers travelled from all over Scotland to attend a rally outside the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 2nd of November.
The rally at the Scottish Parliament was staged to coincide with Scotland’s farmers and crofters being consulted by the Scottish Government on a future agricultural policy for the nation.
The farmers were joined by the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Mairi Gougeon MSP and about 40 MSPs including Orkney Constituency LibDem MSP Liam McArthur. Afterwards he said:
“While the Agriculture Bill is an important step in delivering a post-Brexit framework, critical detail over what future agricultural policy and support will actually look like remains thin on the ground.
“Despite repeated warnings from the sector over an ‘information vacuum’, Scottish Ministers have given little away. This is creating uncertainty and preventing farmers and crofters from planning ahead.
“The situation is made worse as input costs soar and confidence plummets. We are already seeing the consequences of that loss of confidence locally with a worrying reduction in suckler cow numbers. Retaining the critical mass of Orkney’s beef herd is crucial, not just for farm businesses but for our wider island community.
“Orkney’s agricultural sector has built an enviable reputation for quality. It has a workforce committed to playing its part in delivering food security while also addressing the climate and biodiversity emergencies. To do this, however, our farmers need to be supported by Scottish Government.
“Early payment of subsidies to some farmers is only a sticking plaster when what is required is urgent, long-term direction from Ministers. The sector could also do without the uncertainty created by a further Scottish Government review into livestock transport arrangements on Northern Isles ferry routes.
“It was good to see Orkney well-represented at the rally outside Holyrood, driving home the message that food needs a farmer. Scottish Ministers need to heed this message and act.”
At the same time as the rally in Holyrood was taking place, NFU Scotland’s Director of Policy Jonnie Hall was at Westminster meeting many Scottish MPs who took part in #BackBritishFarming day. MPs were asked to wear their wheatsheaf pin badge, now an emblem of the day, to show their support.
The Scottish Government’s climate change plan has committed to reducing agricultural emissions by 31% by 2032. The consultation , Delivering our Vision for Scottish Agriculture. Proposals for a new Agriculture Bill, is open for responses until 21 November.
Commenting on the consultation Rural Affairs Secretary, Mairi Gougeon said:
“We are supporting our farmers, crofters and land managers to produce more high quality and sustainable food, as well as ensuring our food system is more resilient.
“The fact is that high quality food production is very much a part of meeting our net zero targets and dealing with the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.
“We have ambitious targets and right across the agriculture sector we have the talent and skills to meet our aims.
“I would urge people from all walks of life to get involved and make their views known – these issues affect us all.”
The consultation covers a range of key themes including:
- high quality food production;
- ensuring a fair income for farmers;
- environmental care with powers and other mechanisms to allow future payments to farmers, crofters and land managers to support delivery of national climate change adaptation objectives;
- nature restoration and protecting biodiversity;
- vibrant rural areas;
- protect food and health quality;
- fostering knowledge and innovation.
Speaking at the rally outside the Scottish Parliament, NFU Scotland President, Martin Kennedy said:
“Farmers and crofters have delivered a clear message that any new policy created by the proposed new Agriculture Bill must put food production front and centre when it comes to delivering all the economic, social, and environmental benefits that all agricultural businesses will be asked to provide.
“At a UK level, we have taken our eye off the ball on energy and look at the mess we have got ourselves into. We cannot repeat that same mistake with food or the food and cost of living crisis we are all currently enduring will simply get worse. Food security is now a global issue, and we have a moral obligation to produce it.
“The ‘win, win, win’ for the Scottish Government is that investing in this nation’s food production will deliver the wider environmental goals we all want to provide.
“We thank the many politicians who joined our rally today and urge them to take away the message that investing in active farming and crofting will reinvigorate the rural economy at a time when, in many parts, it is shrinking.
“We call on them to acknowledge that active farming and crofting have the answers when it comes to putting high quality, local, sustainable, and affordable food on the table and at the same time delivering for the nation on climate change and biodiversity.
“It is within their gift to deliver a future agricultural policy for Scotland that supports active farming and crofting. That will build our communities and keep the lights on in rural villages and areas.”
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