Scotland Food & Drink chief executive James Withers announces he is leaving post

One of Scotland’s most outspoken figures on the challenges faced due to Brexit is leaving his role after 11 years at the helm.

James Withers has announced he is to step down as chief executive of industry body Scotland Food & Drink.

The industry body was established in 2007 and Mr Withers has been in charge since 2011.

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Scotland Food & Drink chair Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne said: “James has made a transformational contribution to our organisation and his impact has been felt across the food and drink sector in Scotland.

James Withers

"When James joined us in 2011, Scotland Food & Drink was still in its infancy and the industry wasn’t always spoken of as a Scottish success story. Later this year when James departs, his successor will inherit a strong, well-established organisation, a talented staff body and a sector critical to the future of Scotland’s economy and communities.”

Mr Withers will remain in his post until the end of August, to help manage a successor and their successful transition. The recruitment process for a new Scotland Food & Drink chief executive is expected to start in coming weeks.

“It has been a huge privilege to be in this role for over a decade,” said Mr Withers, who was previously chief executive of the National Farmers Union Scotland. “That it has gone in a flash must be a good sign. It has been a very difficult decision to step down, I still consider it one of the best jobs in the country. However, it is exciting that someone else will soon have the opportunity to embrace it.

“My successor will inherit an incredibly talented group of staff and committed partners across the private and public sector. I am sure a change will bring new opportunities for the organisation as well as me personally.

"I have no firm plans for what I will do next. I hope to continue to play a part in Scotland’s economic development story, in the food and drink sector and beyond. It remains something that I am hugely passionate about.”

Scotland Food & Drink’s strategy is being reviewed in light of the pandemic, as well as Brexit and the climate emergency. The body has more than 430 member companies, mainly in food and drink, which range in size from small business to multinationals.

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