The Scottish Government began working on future farming policy far too late, but farmers and crofters may finally start to get some of the answers they crave next year, says Mike Rumbles, Liberal Democrat MSP for the North East.
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Each time I sit down to write my contribution for Farmers Guardian, our national politics seems more chaotic and the future less clear.
Unfortunately, uncertainty in our economy is even more damaging for industries which plan years in advance, such as with our agricultural sector.
Over the past month, I have met several key organisations in our food and drink sector and only this week, the Rural Economy Committee began the process of hearing evidence on the new Agriculture (Scotland) Bill.
One thing which has struck me is organisations across the board are all singing from the same hymn sheet.
Our rural businesses are desperate to know and get on with the changes they will be required to make over the coming years.
It is one thing for Governments to set targets on issues such as cutting carbon emissions or doubling our food and drink exports, but it is quite another to plan out how our producers will deliver them.
We are, of course, in the middle of a General Election campaign, and while the parties are setting out their stalls for the next five years – if we get that long without another election – the result could dramatically alter the course of our country for decades to come.
In Scotland, for example, the Liberal Democrats are the only party campaigning against both Brexit and another divisive independence referendum.
It will come as no surprise to readers that we believe any form of Brexit will be worse for the UK than our current arrangement with the EU.
I can tell you one thing for certain, there is no such thing as ‘getting Brexit done’.
Even if the Withdrawal Agreement sails through and we leave on January 31, there will be years of negotiations and legal wrangling ahead of us.
Two consequences of this for our rural economy are that firstly, it will continue to distract Ministers from the vital work of running our country.
And secondly, there will be years of continued uncertainty for our farm businesses.
I have been very clear about my view, regardless of whether we leave the EU or not.
I want to see a new bespoke system of farm support, based on the very specific needs and strengths of the Scottish agricultural sector.
The key to delivering this is to allow the people who are best-placed to understand our rural economy to develop the policy.
I believe that is the only way we will get ‘buy-in’ from all parts of our rural economy.
I first called for the future policy group to be set up in 2016, and this year the Scottish Government’s Rural Economy Minister finally agreed.
The work of this group of producers, consumers and environmentalists has begun very late, with the need for a new system of farmer support to be in place by 2024.
But I’m pleased the group are due to report at the Royal Highland Show next year.
Hopefully, we will then have at least some greater certainty about our future.