Speaking at yesterday’s launch of NFU Scotland’s manifesto for the Scottish election - which lays out how the union would like to see rural policy develop - president Martin Kennedy acknowledged that there would be huge demands on the UK Treasury and Scottish budget as the country recovered from the economic ravages of the Covid pandemic.
However, he remained adamant that supporting the sector was a copper-bottomed investment for governments seeking a green recovery. “Quite simply the farming sector is in pole position to deliver on all fronts - economic, environmental and climate change. But we need investment in the sector to do this – and given the right sort of incentives to change, the industry can deliver real returns.”
Suggesting that the same support, delivered to active farmers, could be justified even when budgets were tight, Kennedy added: “And with the huge range of outcomes which the industry is being asked to supply, it is has a stronger case now for continued investment than it ever has before.”
The manifesto, which sets out the union’s priorities for the next Scottish government and Parliament over the next five years, also called for a viable and rewarding agricultural sector for current and future generations, a transparent supply chain and food system which supported Scottish producers and recognises the public benefits that agriculture provides along with a resilient and enterprising rural economy which offered opportunities for all.
Arguing that positive progress on rural policy in Scotland had been stymied by the Brexit debate over the course of the past five years Kennedy said that it was time for the industry to move out of the shadow of Brexit and the CAP.
“Central to that will be addressing the climate change challenge, which will clearly set the policy agenda over term of the next Scottish Parliament.”
However, he warned that hitting the targets for GHG emission reductions had to be viewed alongside the ambition to double the value of the country’s food and drink sector to £30 billion by 2030, arguing that they had to be addressed simultaneously.
“For that to happen, we need the Scottish government to work collaboratively with UK ministers on favourable trade deals and to prioritise our standards of production in these. We also must ensure the integrity of the UK’s internal market is upheld, as this is critical to Scotland’s agri-food interests.”
Stating that there was no doubt that Scottish agriculture was entering a transformational time in which the farming industry would shoulder more responsibility than ever before, Kennedy concluded: “The industry’s willingness and ambition to adapt and change must be matched by a political agenda that is positive, ambitious and supportive.
"The next Scottish Parliament and government must enable and ensure farmers and crofters can deliver Scotland’s needs.”