Although the rural sector might yesterday have been forgiven for thinking that cabinet secretaries are like buses – wait for ages and then two come along at once – NFU Scotland was meeting and greeting Fergus Ewing MSP, the new man in charge of rural economy and connectivity.
The union said that the meeting had drawn a clear understanding that farming was primarily about food production.
Relishing what he saw as an opportunity to “reset the agenda” in a way that would take forward Scottish farming and crofting issues, union president Allan Bowie said that Ewing’s appointment came at a hugely challenging time for the industry.
Volatile markets, falling incomes and the difficulties surrounding delivery of support payments had, said Bowie, created massive problems for Scotland’s rural economy.
“Given last week’s damning report from Audit Scotland into the CAP IT delivery programme, sorting out the mess was always going to be top of the agenda today,” Bowie said.
“There is much unfinished business to be done. We want outstanding support payments delivered to farmers and crofters before the payment window closes in June. And we are looking to the cabinet secretary and his team to ensure we learn from the mistakes that have been made so that they are not repeated.”
Bowie said he hoped that the Scottish Government’s history of gold plating regulations would be addressed by the new cabinet secretary and encouraged him to consider the business impact before such decisions were taken.
Ewing, who termed the meeting “very positive” said shared the union’s aim of resolving the difficulties affecting 2015 CAP payments, and ensuring that the 2016 run went more smoothly.
“This is my top priority,” he said. “What I want to do is get matters sorted out.”
He said that he hoped to establish a close and constructive working relationship with union and looked forward to working with the agricultural industry as a whole.