Senior SNP minister says UK rural affairs secretary has ignored her for seven months

A senior SNP minister says she has been ignored by her UK Government counterpart ever since he got the job

Rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon says she has been “ignored” by her UK Government counterpart for seven months.

Speaking from the Royal Highland Show on Thursday, Ms Gougeon said the UK environment, food and rural affairs Secretary Steve Barclay had not responded to any of her letters, and they had not met in person after he cancelled a meeting at the last minute.

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She said this showed a “complete disrespect” for Scotland and the rural issues the country faces.

Speaking from the showgrounds in Ingliston, Ms Gougeon said: “Since Steve Barclay became Defra secretary, he’s completely ignored not just me, but all the devolved administrations. I haven’t had one response to a piece of correspondence.

“We have an inter-ministerial group with the other devolved nations and we have rearranged that to fit around the secretary of state, and he pulled out at the last minute, so I’ve never had a meeting with him.

“It’s just a complete disrespect, not just for Scotland, but for Wales and Northern Ireland and all the issues that we’re facing.”

The latest polling suggests Mr Barclay will not be the Defra secretary after July 4, as Labour are predicted to win a massive majority at the polls.

Ms Gougeon said whoever took over the post needed to speak to the Scottish Government more about rural issues, and stump up the money they needed as well.

She said: “First of all, engagement with the devolved administrations - I think that would definitely be a step up on where we’ve been, but we need to see budget commitments.

“We want to see a multi-annual commitment to that funding as well so we can plan for the future. That would be one of the key things I would be raising with any new counterpart that I see in the UK government.”

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While Ms Gougeon made her comments, only a few hundred metres away at the Royal Highland Show the Scottish Conservatives launched their rural manifesto.

Ahead of their full Scottish manifesto being unveiled next week, this document focused specifically on the issues in the rural seats they are hoping to win in the Borders and the north-east.

Some of the highlights of the manifesto include increasing the UK-wide farming budget by £1 billion, allowing Scottish farmers to use gene editing technology, introducing a young person’s agri-enterprise fund, and tackling rural crime with a Rural Theft Bill.

It was unveiled by the party’s rural affairs spokeswoman Rachael Hamilton.

She said: “Our dedicated rural manifesto clearly shows how we are the voice of these communities who feel abandoned by ministers in Holyrood. That feeling is particularly strong among our farming and agricultural communities.”

Ms Hamilton added: “Rural Scotland has so much potential, but is being failed by nationalist representatives who are completely out-of-touch with their needs.”

The manifesto includes a pledge to scrap a ban on wood burning stoves in new build homes - a restriction first introduced by the Scottish Government from April 1, but one that is now under review.

The Stove Industry Association (SIA) welcomed the support, with chair Andy Hill saying: “We are delighted to see support for a full reversal of this damaging and ill-conceived policy.

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The SIA will be providing further evidence directly to the minister for climate action and her team in the coming weeks as the review progresses. We have stressed the importance of expediting the review in order to protect businesses and livelihoods and ensure that the residents of Scotland can continue to rely on their wood burning stoves to keep their families warm this winter.”



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