NFU Scotland has called for politicians of all parties to recognise and protect the huge economic and environmental contribution of Scottish agriculture in the Brexit negotiations.
That was the strong message delivered at an NFU Scotland fringe event staged at the Scottish National Party conference in Glasgow this week.
This week’s attendance at the SNP Party Conference follows on from a fringe event staged at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester last week. The fringe events are the first that NFU Scotland has ever staged at political party conferences and are a clear indication of the work, commitment and resources that the Union is directing towards Brexit negotiations.
The SNP event was addressed by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing, and chaired by NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick. Those attending the fringe event were rewarded with a feast of the finest Scottish produce including soft fruit from Blairgowrie; cheese including Mull cheddar, Strathdon Blue and Clava brie; and Dalwhinnie malt whisky.
Mr McCornick has just returned from the North American/European Union Biennial agricultural conference held in Washington DC. Mr McCornick’s lobbying effort on Brexit has seen him in four parliaments in the past fortnight – Capitol Hill in Washington; the European Parliament in Brussels; Westminster and Holyrood.
Speaking from the SNP conference, Mr McCornick said: “With a value of more than £14 billion, food and drink is a bigger driver of Scotland’s economy than oil and gas. But with big ambitions to grow the industry to £30 billion by 2030, that means striking a Brexit deal that gives confidence to Scotland’s farmers and crofters for the future.
“Scottish farmers and crofters are the foundation on which our booming food and drink sector is built. Having toured the length and breadth of the country this summer, I can tell you we are up for the challenge, but to deliver on these ambitions we must be supported by all governments as we deal with the uncertainty of a future outside of the EU.
“The quality of debate at today’s event further underlined the important role Scottish farming plays. But we cannot take this for granted. The whole industry must unite to deliver strong messages to all governments about what policy tools we need in the toolbox.
“And setting out Scotland’s Brexit priorities is a challenge that has taken me to Washington, Brussels, Westminster and Holyrood in recent days.
“Equally, Scottish farmers and crofters must make their voices heard in the debate. NFUS will shortly be embarking on a nationwide Brexit roadshow and it is more important than ever that members engage with us, so that the union can make a clear and unambiguous case to politicians and policymakers.
“We already know from the significant amount of engagement we have had with members in recent months that any new agricultural policy for the UK after we leave Europe and the CAP must have significant inbuilt flexibilities to deliver at a devolved level. This approach will allow the right policies to be developed for the right areas, allowing Scotland’s active farmers and crofters to improve productivity and the environment – rather than incentivising inertia.
“Conferences are where the foundations of party policy begin. Attending two party conferences in this important year for Scottish agriculture is giving NFUS greater access to key decision-makers.”