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“We need recognition of where we are”

Orkney’s farmers packed into the Albert Hotel to share their views on the Scottish Government’s future Agriculture Bill.

The Scottish Government has been consulting for months on the Agriculture Bill which is needed to provide a legal framework for farming and farm payments now we have left the EU.

This was a last minute addition to the in person events as Orkney was not originally included for them. By the numbers who turned out on Monday night, 28th of November, it was probably the largest meeting held for this consultation with 65 in attendance.

After watching a short video presentation from the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands  Mairi Gougeon, the officials explained how the evening would work and what the consultation was about.

The attendees were asked to focus on what powers would be needed and what the payment framework should look like.

There were lively discussions round all the tables and facilitators were on hand to make sure everyone had a chance to speak and that the main points were recorded.

The new Bill sends a strong message about the environment. Orkney’s farmers said that they already farm regeneratively and sustainably but they challenged the parts of the Bill which refer to tree planting. They were concerned that Orkney would lose out if money is being allocated towards tree planting and to increasing public access.

They also questioned the use of some of the words in the documents which implied that they were not farming sustainably or with nature in mind, which they argued they were already doing. They also made the very strong point that in all the papers they were being asked to discuss the word ‘island’ did not appear.

The farmers stated that they wanted to be successful and to encourage young people into the sector. Orkney’s lack of an abattoir was also raised.

Flexible payments were needed and divided into regions. Additionally it was noted that Islands have extra costs for instance ferry transport. It was also stressed that the system needs simplified.

There was consensus at the meeting that Orkney’s farmers manage the land and the soil well. There needs to be a recognition of the islands farmers as ‘good stewards of the land,’ they said.

In pulling the meeting to a close Ewan Scott for the Scottish Government said that Ministers were committed to develop the Agriculture Bill in tandem with those who are producing Scotland’s food.

The consultation closes on 5th of December. If you wish to share your views click on this link Delivering our Vision for Scottish Agriculture. Proposals for a new Agriculture Bill

Fiona Grahame

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