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Scottish Ministers have wasted two years before starting a consultation on Brexit policy

The Scottish Government has been too busy locking horns with Westminster to bother putting together a post-Brexit strategy for farming, says Mike Rumbles, North East MSP.  

Guaranteed payments until 2024, a five year transitional period and a full consultation on the future of rural support for our farm businesses.

 

That is what is on offer and it has taken the Scottish Government two years to come up with it.

 

Until now, distracted Ministers have failed to comprehend what many rural industries and some of us in the Scottish Parliament predicted as soon as Brexit was announced.

 

Robust

 

To protect the available funding and make the most of it, we must have robust leadership and a custom-built system of support that works to the strengths of Scottish agriculture.

 

In January last year, the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed a Scottish Liberal Democrat amendment, in my name, calling for the Government to establish an independent stakeholders group tasked with setting out the principles for rural support beyond 2020.

 

That was eighteen months ago.

 

Clear

 

There is no need to ask why it has taken the Scottish Government so long to start the consultation. The answer is clear.

 

Every decision this hopeless Government makes is a calculation about whether it will help or hinder their obsession with independence.

 

The SNP want Brexit to be a catastrophe. That is why Fergus Ewing, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs has taken every opportunity to lock horns with his counterpart in Westminster.

 

Alarming

 

It is alarming that Mr Ewing has only now given his unequivocal support for farm support payments to remain at £500 million after Brexit.

 

Meanwhile, his shambolic handling of farm payments has had a destabilising effect, leaving many farm businesses reeling while uncertainty over Brexit damages our rural economy, which is particularly important to us here in the North East.

 

The industry has finally said enough is enough, and quite rightly open criticism of the Scottish Government is now the norm.

 

U-turn

 

I have no doubt the First Minister had a hand in the Cabinet Secretary’s recent U-turn. I for one hope that this change of attitude will be a lasting one and we can now start to tackle the challenges of Brexit in a constructive way.

 

I am sure many in the industry will be watching to see if the budget for rural support is reduced and swallowed up by other Scottish Government departments.

 

Needless to say, the next few years will be difficult. More difficult than if we had stayed inside the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), but there is good reason to believe Scottish agriculture can flourish.

 

Recovery

 

Figures published this month show a significant recovery in the sector during 2017. Farm income rose from £672 million in 2016 to £917 million in 2017, following an 8 year low. Meanwhile production outputs rose from £2.8 billion to £3.2 billion in the same period.

 

Scottish produce is already world class and our farm businesses are working hard to be greener and more viable.

 

These facts prove there is still room for ambition and growth in many areas of our rural economy.


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Ewing says Brexit is a great threat to farming, but so are late CAP payments Ewing says Brexit is a great threat to farming, but so are late CAP payments

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