Science-led farming policy vital, says Moredun chief

With time tight, Scotland urgently needs to find a route to make sure its agricultural industry's growing call for a science-led farm policy is included in the discussions currently under way at UK level to map out the post-Brexit strategy for the sector.

Professor Julie Fitzpatrick said science-led policies 'can be to the benefit of all'. Picture: Contributed
Professor Julie Fitzpatrick said science-led policies 'can be to the benefit of all'. Picture: Contributed

While yesterday’s press briefing at the Moredun Institute could easily have concentrated on the loss of access to grants worth more than €9 million (£7.7m) over recent years that is likely to result from Britain’s exit from the EU, scientific director Professor Julie Fitzpatrick concentrated instead on the opportunities to put “something more intelligent” into place on agricultural strategy.

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“This is an opportunity, perhaps like no other ever before, to allow us to show how science-led policy decision-making within Scotland can be to the benefit of all,” she said.

“Let’s hope we can combine with other industry leaders and innovators to be sure that, at the very least, the Scottish aspects of the imminent new agricultural strategy are fit for purpose.”

But while taking an upbeat attitude, Fitzpatrick admitted that she had fears over the voice of Scotland’s farming industry being sufficiently heard – or listened to – at Whitehall and Westminster.

“The Scottish Government is willing to listen to our views – but we do have worries as to whether we will be able to get the Scottish perspective accepted by the UK government in time to have them included in the over-arching policy which would then allow the devolved administration to implement it.”

Fitzpatrick said that in order to secure a future for Scotland’s livestock producers, it was essential that work continued on the control of endemic diseases which often acted as a limiting factor on production in many areas of Scotland.

And she said that it was essential that any policy recognised the key role which controlling such impediments could play not only in meeting environmental objectives, but also in improving animal health and welfare – and the economic viability of agricultural production across Scotland.

Her call for such an approach to lie at the heart of future support policies was supported by Ian Duncan Millar, Perthshire farmer and chairman of the Moredun Foundation.

“Facing a future which is likely to see less support paid to farmers, we need to arm ourselves with the tools which will allow us to make our industry more efficient at producing lambs, calves or whatever – and at the same time improving animal health and welfare,” he said.