Edward Mountain, MSP for the Highlands and Islands and convener of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, calls on the Scottish Government to ‘accept Brexit is happening’ and start planning for it.
With less than a year until Brexit, it appears that the Scottish Government still has no long-term plan for the future of Scottish agriculture.
They are showing a complete lack of urgency in grasping the opportunities and dealing with the issues which Brexit brings.
It appears they are more interested in playing politics than promoting and protecting the industry.
Farmers are bored with hearing Fergus Ewing MSP saying ‘if Brexit happens’. Frankly, he needs to accept, whether he likes it or not, it is happening.
We need a long-term plan which follows a smooth transition period, allowing farmers and the industry to adapt to being outwith the EU.
A Freedom of Information request in January 2018 confirmed the Scottish Government has carried out no modelling or planning for a new system. As the saying goes – if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.
The situation could not be more different in the rest of the United Kingdom. Defra Secretary Michael Gove has started to set out his ideas, with the aim to lay an Agriculture Bill before the UK Parliament this year.
This is exactly what the Scottish Government is failing to do, blaming their in-action on a lack of clarity.
Now while the Scottish Government remains inactive, I was delighted to see NFU Scotland launch its latest policy document ‘Steps to Change: A New Agricultural Policy For Scotland’.
The industry is stepping forward to provide the leadership farmers need, reminding the Government they should also be bringing solutions, not just a list of problems, to support their siren calls for independence.
It is not too late for the Scottish Government to follow the NFUS example, but the options are narrowing as they continue to focus on grievance rather than substance.
Time is marching on, spring is here and despite the inclement weather and late sowing, many farmers are already looking forward to 2019.
Plans are being made for next year’s calving and lambing, so it would be good to have an idea of where we are going.
Long-term uncertainty caused by political games will damage the industry and we need to start securing our markets, both within the UK and the world.
That cannot be achieved if the internal squabbling that we have seen in the last two years continues.
Now I agree with the First Minister when she says ‘a no deal Brexit might cause harm to the industry’.
But let me be very clear; to have no plan will be worse, much worse, and that is the very position that this Scottish Government finds itself in.
This Scottish Government needs to find solutions and develop a long-term plan for Scottish agriculture post-Brexit.
We owe it to our farmers and industry to stop the politics and get on with making Brexit work. My message to the Scottish Government is simple. If you are stuck for ideas, start talking.