Fergus Ewing calls for clarity on farming issues

Expressing concerns that the UK government was 'neglecting the day job', Scotland's rural economy secretary, Fergus Ewing, has called on Westminster to provide clarity on a number of key food, farming and fisheries issues.

Fergus Ewing urged Westminster to provide certainty for Scotland's rural economy. Picture: John Devlin
Fergus Ewing urged Westminster to provide certainty for Scotland's rural economy. Picture: John Devlin

The cabinet secretary said that many of these loose threads had been sitting with UK ministers since the referendum, adding that the uncertainty created by this information hiatus was denting confidence throughout the rural sector.

“My number one priority is to protect the future of our rural economy and communities that are particularly vulnerable to the uncertainty caused by the result of the EU referendum,” said Ewing, adding that answers were needed on key points now.

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“This ranges from our calls for the UK government to extend its EU funding guarantee and pass on in full the convergence uplift to Scotland, to acting on the recommendations of the Red Meat Levy Forum report and the Fisheries Concordat.”

He said that the Scottish Government was acting to provide certainty and build growth in Scotland’s rural economy – and urged the UK government to do the same. Writing to both Defra and the UK Treasury he called on them to address a list of outstanding issues which he said required “immediate clarity”.

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A Whitehall spokesperson said the UK government would work with the devolved administrations to ensure the interests of all parts of the UK were properly taken into account.

“In 2014, the Scottish people decided to remain part of a strong UK. And that is how we will approach our negotiations now for leaving the EU: together as one United Kingdom.”

However, on this side of the border, Ewing was accused of “showboating” by North East MSP Mike Rumbles. He said: “At best this is an attempt by the Scottish Government to draw attention away from its own bungling over farm support payments, at worst it’s an admission of their cluelessness over how to deal with long-term issues facing our rural economy.”

On the specific issue of the red meat levy, Quality Meat Scotland chairman Jim McLaren said that an agreement had been reached between the levy boards last year.

However, he added that the legal framework meant an amendment to legislation in England, Wales and Scotland would be required – and the proposal was currently lodged with ministers: