The Farming and Food Production Future Policy Group (FFP-FPG) – set up by the then rural economy secretary, Fergus Ewing in 2019 – was the subject of particular criticism after a draft version of the report was published on-line, following an environmental information request - despite the fact several members had not been happy with its contents.
NFU Scotland president and group member Martin Kennedy said that it had been “frustrating to say the least” to see the document published while several members – including himself - had not signed up to the report.
Speaking to The Scotsman, Kennedy said that when the group was set up hopes were high that it would be the vehicle which would deliver the “how bit” for future policy – but he felt seriously let down as the document proposed no delivery plan.
“I find it disheartening when those that are involved in the industry, who are the ones who face the consequences of decisions made, are invited to discuss and debate the issues and are not listened to,” said Kennedy.
His thoughts were echoed by the Sutherland sheep farmer, Joyce Campbell who had resigned from the group in protest over the report’s direction.
“I felt like a ewe with Fluke when I was on the group, with the life blood draining away,” said Campbell, who has considerable experience of government working groups.
“I resigned from the group because I did not want my name associated with that document in any way.”
Both Campbell and Kennedy added that they felt the work of the group had been superseded by the reports drawn up by the Farmer Led Groups (FLGs).
“If the government wants the farming and rural sectors to play their important role in improving the environment and tackling climate change, they will listen best to the ideas of people who are involved in the industry and who know the real story on the ground,” said Campbell.
“They won’t take the industry with them if farmers feel policy is being led by a middle class hippy agenda which insists on talking down to them.”
And Kennedy added that the key to success was through the engagement, transparency and collaboration which had been exhibited in the Farmer Led Groups as they outlined a course for each sector.
“These recommendations were endorsed by the very people who are working in the industry, who have the experience to know what will work.”
While expressing some optimism that the current rural affair secretary, Mairi Gougeon had committed to setting up an implementation board to take the FLG groups’ findings forward, Kennedy added: “However, if this board does not include the right people who are determined to deliver a meaningful agricultural policy, with food production at its core, then we will find it extremely difficult to be involved.”