I attended the National Farmers’ Union Scotland conference in St Andrews to show support for the industry which is facing challenges on a number of fronts.
The most pressing of these is the lack of urgency by the Scottish Government to process the CAP payments to farmers with more than 60% still waiting to receive cash, despite government promises to do so by the end of January.
I met UK farming minister George Eustice and NFUS president Allan Bowie at the conference to discuss the way forward for helping rural constituencies such as my own, who are really feeling the effects of delays to payments.
This is a completely unacceptable situation for farmers and the government’s inability to carry out this task was shown when an internal document was released to all researchers at Scottish Parliament. The time for politicking on this issue should have ended a long time ago and instead be replaced by delivering real action for farmers across the country.
A £20million loan hardship fund announced by Richard Lochhead is a start, although many farmers would argue that it is too little too late. However, these funds now have to be processed as a matter of urgency.
Earlier this week I headed out to Africa to visit Mozambique and Malawi in my role as Secretary of State for Scotland where I am spending my time promoting Scottish interests in these two countries on a variety of subjects.
I spent the first part of the week in Mozambique where I promoted Scotland’s links in the oil and gas industry with the country, whilst also celebrating the culture of Scotland with my colleagues and guests.
I have since moved on to Malawi – a country with long-standing links with Scotland and I look forward to continuing this relationship during my visit.
You will be able to read more on my trip in an upcoming edition of The Southern Reporter where I will go into more depth about my visit and the benefits links with these countries can bring to Scotland in the future.