Humza Yousaf accused of being 'out of touch' with rural Scotland for failing to mention farming and fishing in speech

Humza Yousaf has been accused of being 'out of touch' with rural Scotland as his first major policy speech fails to mention farming and fishing (Philip Silverman/Shutterstock)Humza Yousaf has been accused of being 'out of touch' with rural Scotland as his first major policy speech fails to mention farming and fishing (Philip Silverman/Shutterstock)
Humza Yousaf has been accused of being 'out of touch' with rural Scotland as his first major policy speech fails to mention farming and fishing (Philip Silverman/Shutterstock)
Scotland’s first minister has been accused of being “hopelessly out of touch” with the country’s rural communities after failing to mention farming or fishing in his first major policy speech to parliament.

Humza Yousaf delivered his “New Leadership, A Fresh Start for Scotland” statement on Tuesday in which he mentioned plans to delay the controversial Deposit Return Scheme and spoke about a six-month trial seeing peak rail fares scrapped across the ScotRail network from October.

Each department, including Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands Mairi Gougeon MSP, also submitted written statements to parliament referencing their plans.

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But the new first minister was criticised for failing to address matters concerning those living in rural and coastal communities, particularly at a time when the consultation for the government’s controversial Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) proposals came to a close on Monday.

The marine plans would place strict limits on some human activities, such as fishing and aquaculture. Ministers insist HPMAs will conserve marine ecosystems while providing economic and social benefits but the plans have caused heavy backlash from fishing communities, with some groups saying the move will pose the biggest risk to island communities since the Highland Clearances.

Conservative MSP Rachel Hamilton said: “This government’s reckless plan to ban fishing in large parts of Scotland’s seas have been conveniently omitted from today's statement.

"Plans drawn up and implicitly listed in the SNPs deal with the Greens have provoked an outcry from coastal communities, the fishing industry, islanders and anyone who cares about Scotland’s economy."

She said the no mention of agriculture means farmers remain in the dark over SNP plans for future funding, highlighting how “hopelessly out of touch” the party is.

"Details thin as gruel, this latest policy prospectus is more of the same from a government who remains out of touch with the priorities of rural Scotland,” she added.

"No mention of farming, no mention of fishing, no mention of agriculture, and one mention of rural.

"Will the first minister listen to rural and coastal communities and drop the reckless HMPA proposals and will he urgently deliver a new agricultural bill that supports rural Scotland.”

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In response, the first minister said the Scottish Government has “an excellent track record when it comes to working with rural communities, particularly our farming communities.”

He blamed Brexit for the harm rural Scotland has experienced.

On HPMA’s, Mr Yousaf said: “We are not going to impose these policies on communities that don’t want them.

"We will work constructively with them.”

He added: “I know we are in absolute agreement that we will work with our coastal communities, with our fishing communities, that we will find a way forward together.”

Following the closing of the HPMAs consultation on Monday, Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero Mairi McAllan said she recognised there is “considerable strength of feeling on this issue – from those who support it and those who have concerns.”

“It has always been our intention to develop these ambitious proposals in close collaboration with those impacted by them – in particular, people living and working in our island and coastal communities,” she said.

"That’s why we have chosen to consult right at the beginning of the process and why I have committed to now consider the responses to our initial consultation very carefully as we develop next steps.”

Ms McAllan said she will visit coastal and island communities in the coming months to hear directly from those affected.

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“At the moment, we are at the very early stages of developing HPMAs and are yet to consider where they might be located as part of a separate process,” she added.

"There will be further opportunities for individuals, communities and businesses to have their say on where and how we enhance our marine protection and I am determined to ensure that as many voices as possible are heard."



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