NFU Scotland was in Westminster this week to press home the industry’s Brexit priorities.
In discussions with David Jones MP, minister of state at the department for Exiting the European Union, NFUS officials, led by president Allan Bowie, reinforced the message that Scotland’s agriculture had its own distinct priorities.
We must make the most of the opportunities that Brexit presentsAllan Bowie
Bowie said the UK government was in the process of establishing its priorities and it was vitally important that they were clear on what Scottish farmers and crofters required.
He said: “There is strong recognition that Scottish agriculture’s needs from Brexit negotiations will differ from the rest of the UK and that this must be a factor under any future arrangements.”
Bowie said that these distinctions were already exhibited in key differences in the country’s support schemes, adding: “In Scotland, for example, we have opted to use part of our existing support package to target key sectors like beef and hill sheep, and the ability of Scotland to make such decisions will clearly need to be maintained.
He said that while assurances had been given over support levels during the Brexit negotiating period, the union had pressed the case for funding levels to be maintained once the UK had left the EU. Such measures went hand-in-hand with the wider agricultural policy, and should be focussed on active production which fitted Scottish agriculture’s needs.
He added: “That requires a future UK agricultural policy that is truly representative of all parts of the UK and recognises the differences and the drivers of the industry in Scotland.”
Bowie said that the importance of a trade deal with Europe, future trading arrangements with the rest of the world and access to non-UK labour were also among the issues discussed with the minister.
The importance of key areas such as research funding and ensuring the capacity to underpin innovation; the protection of branding for renowned Scottish products, and the regulatory framework that governs standards were also pressed home.
Bowie said: “We must make the most of the opportunities for our farming, food and drink sectors that Brexit presents. We can support jobs and grow income but only if we prioritise the needs of farming.”
• Speaking at a Farm Advisory Service meeting last week, Scotland’s minister charged with feeding into the EU discussions, Mike Russell, said the outcome of the referendum had created huge uncertainty for rural communities.
He said: “The Scottish Government supports remaining in the EU precisely because so many of our key sectors – such as farming – benefit from our membership. We are therefore pursuing all options to maintain Scotland’s place in and relationship with the EU.”
He said that the benefits of EU membership, such as tariff-free trade and the free movement of labour, were essential for the economic prosperity of Scotland, especially in rural areas.