Following Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead’s resignation yesterday, the First Minster has appointed Fergus Ewing as Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity and Roseanna Cunningham as Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform.
With further appointments to come, ‘food’ has yet to be specifically named as part of a ministerial brief.
With the Scottish food and drink strategy a success story for Scotland’s economy, and a ‘Good Food Nation’ Bill part of the SNP manifesto, NFU Scotland said it was keen to see where work on building food and drink and fairer supply chains might lie.
Richard Lochhead has held the Cabinet Secretary post for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment since 2007.
NFUS president Allan Bowie said: “The redesigning of roles on matters that affect the Scottish rural economy and the environment brings a fresh dynamic. We look forward to engaging with Fergus and Roseanna and working with them on behalf of farmers and crofters.
“Their appointments come at a hugely challenging time for the industry. Volatile markets across every sector mean that we have seen farm incomes fall three years in a row and the huge problems encountered by Scottish Government in delivering new CAP support blew a huge hole in Scotland’s rural economy this spring.
“But, with both Ministers, we want to move forward and share the vision for Scottish farming and crofting that we mapped out in our manifesto for the election as the new parliament beds in."
Mr Bowie said there was ’unfinished business’ to be done in delivering outstanding support payments to all farmers before the payment window closes in June.
"As a union, we will be looking for the new Government team to provide a guarantee that there will be no repeat of the IT debacle seen in 2015," added Mr Bowie.
"A clear timetable for support payment delivery in the future must be set and adhered to and proper accountability needs to be established.
“We would want to see progress made on addressing the levels of red tape that plague our industry; commitments made to remove unnecessary regulation and fully implement the recommendations of Brian Pack’s ‘Doing Better’ report.
“And we want to see action that delivers a food chain which shares the risks and rewards and allows farmers and crofters to prosper. It is important that, at this time of uncertainty and volatility in the agricultural industry, we have strong voices within Scottish Government that look to build on a food and drink sector success that has yet to connect with the farm gate.”