Sustainable Scotland: Agricultural shows are back – let’s support them, says Scottish rural affairs and islands secretary Mairi Gougeon

Next week sees the welcome return of the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston with a packed programme of events and displays.

Many of the agricultural shows that are a fixture of the rural calendars across Scotland are back for the first time in more than two years.

It has been a challenging time for show organisers and I would like to pay tribute to the hard-working teams, often volunteers, whose year-round efforts ensure these events are a success and enjoyed by locals and visitors from all walks of life. There is something for everyone.

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These events showcase the incredible range of high-quality ingredients and nutritious food and drink made in Scotland.

We are taking action to ensure that consumers can access these products because high quality, nutritious food that is locally and sustainably produced is key to our wellbeing – in economic, environmental, social and health terms.

Last August we published our first ever draft local food strategy, which sets out the wealth of initiatives we are taking to improve access to local food, including launching the ‘Scotland Brings so much to the Table’ campaign, to drive increased sales and awareness of Scottish produce, and the Food for Life Programme, which now operates across 18 local authorities in Scotland, supporting the provision of more locally sourced, healthier food being served in schools.

Our vision for agriculture – published in March this year – is for Scotland to become a global leader in sustainable and regenerative farming. Many farmers and crofters in Scotland are already taking action and farming in this way.

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Agricultural galas, including the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston, are back in force this year -- some for the first time since the outbreak of Covid-19 -- so we should do our best to support them, according to Scottish rural minister Mairi Gougeon. Picture: David Moir

To support that vision we’re rolling a national test programme this year, supported by £51 million of Scottish Government funding.

The programme will be a twin-track approach. In the first track, Preparing for Sustainable Farming, every farm in Scotland will be supported and encouraged to undertake baseline measures over the next few years that will start with a carbon audit and soil testing for their individual farm business. These can both help businesses understand how they can reduce emissions, but importantly also how they can improve efficiencies and reduce costs.

With the second track, Testing Actions for Sustainable Farming, we’ll be working with a focused group of farmers and crofters from across Scottish agriculture to design and test how we will measure and reward sustainable farming practices in the future.

In addition, funds for farmers and crofters, such as the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme and the Sustainable Agriculture Capital Grants Scheme, are already supporting farmers, crofters and landowners to adapt to climate change, reduce their emissions and become more sustainable.

We are also providing advice and support through the Farm Advisory Services and Farming for a Better Climate, and we’re developing the Agriculture, Biodiversity and Climate Change Network, a new network for farmers and crofters, to highlight and share actions that are being taken to tackle climate change and lower emissions.

Our intention is that Scotland's future agriculture support regime from 2025 onwards will be one that delivers high quality food production, climate mitigation and adaptation, and nature restoration.

Brexit, the pandemic and the terrible events in the Ukraine have all thrown into sharp focus the need for food security and we will support and work with farmers and crofters to meet more of our own food needs sustainably and to farm and croft with nature.

Agricultural shows are a tradition that stretches across generations and are eagerly anticipated, but they can only continue if they are supported and I would encourage people to go along and enjoy one if they can – they are a fantastic way for consumers to learn more about farming, engage with industry leaders in person and perhaps even look at career opportunities in this exciting and diverse industry sector.

Mairi Gougeon is rural affairs and islands secretary for Scotland

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