Scottish agriculture must get a good deal

Andrew McCornick.
Andrew McCornick.
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Ahead of the ‘Brexit Election’ on June 8, NFU Scotland has used its manifesto to call for the next UK Government to deliver a good deal for Scotland’s agriculture, food and drink industries from forthcoming negotiations.

Speaking after the manifesto’s launch, NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said: “The current Government is on record stating that ‘a good deal will be one that works for all parts of the UK’ and we will want to hold the Government formed after June 8 to that commitment.”

According to the Union’s manifesto, a ‘good deal’ for Scottish agriculture will depend upon securing three priorities:

•Bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreements with the EU and international trade partners, which upholds exacting standards, limits regulatory divergence and protects the UK market from cheap imported produce.

•A re-drawn agricultural policy with a ringfenced budget that is geared towards active, efficient and productive agriculture – with the policy priorities developed and delivered by Scottish Government.

•A sensible approach to “controlled immigration” which allows the Scottish agriculture and food processing industries access to EU workers for seasonal and permanent, skilled and unskilled posts.

Andrew McCornick added: “We have used our manifesto to define what a ‘good deal’ will look like for the Scottish agricultural and food and drink industries, and how NFU Scotland will work with the new UK Government to achieve this objective.

“NFU Scotland is under no illusion about the challenges presented by the negotiations to leave the EU, undoing more than 40 years of the Common Agricultural Policy in the process. Brexit will undoubtedly present us with opportunities and the chance to look forward but that needs UK negotiators to secure a good deal in the months ahead.

“Irrespective of the decision to leave the EU, Scottish agriculture remains very vulnerable to fluctuations and shocks, threatening profitability and the ability to invest in the sector.

“The latest figures show that Scottish farm incomes have fallen by a devastating 75 per cent over five years. The need to secure new trading deals, policies and support arrangements that put the prosperity, profitability and stability of farming and crofting businesses top of the agenda has never been more important.

“It is clear that agriculture is vital to Scotland and the UK’s future.

“The new UK Government must recognise the diversity and unique challenges that Scottish agriculture faces as it takes forward its vision for the United Kingdom.

“In Scotland alone, farming generates an annual turnover of £3 billion and is the driving force behind a food and drink sector turning over more than £14 billion. The raw materials produced by the 65,000 people employed in Scottish farming are the cornerstone of a further 75,000 businesses and 360,000 jobs in the food and drink industry.

“It is important that the new UK Government also recognises that the agricultural industry in different parts of the UK will have different needs.

“NFUS wants to work with all parties to develop robust policies that are fit for modern day Scottish agriculture, securing its viability and vitality in the longer term.”