With a new intake of MSPs preparing to take up office at Holyrood this morning, the country’s farming union has underlined the key rural issues facing them.
NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie said this week: “This Scottish Parliamentary election has fallen at an unprecedented time for Scottish farming. The sustained downturn in farm incomes across all sectors and the failures encountered when implementing a new agricultural support system means that farmers and crofters are justifiably asking how the Scottish Government plans to address our pressing issues.
“These were the key themes at NFU Scotland’s hustings roadshows held in recent weeks and attended by hundreds of members across the country.
“With agriculture, rural affairs, land reform, environment and food policy being devolved to the Scottish Parliament, there are key decisions to be taken by this new crop of MSPs which will be extremely significant for NFU Scotland members over the next five-year term.
“NFU Scotland has enjoyed strong and positive links with parliamentarians of all colours since the Scottish Parliament was established, and we look forward to continuing this engagement in the new parliamentary term.
“We congratulate all new and returning MSPs on their election and will shortly extend invitations to them to meet with NFUS members across the country – either on farms throughout the summer or at upcoming agricultural shows, including the Highland.
“We pass on our very best wishes for the future to those MSPs and candidates who are not returning to the Scottish Parliament. Several of those have been vocal and keen advocates for Scottish farmers and crofters since the start of the Scottish Parliament and some have been heavily involved in rural issues debated at Holyrood in recent times.
“Looking ahead, the Union mapped out its vision for Scottish farming and crofting in our manifesto document for this election and as the new parliament beds in, these are items we will be seeking to progress.
“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 represent Scottish farmers and crofters and look to build on a food and drink sector success that has yet to connect with the farm gate.
“And there is much 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 to provide a guarantee that there will not be the same debacle and any repeat of the IT delivery failings seen in 2015. A clear timetable for support payment delivery in the future must be set and adhered to and proper accountability needs to be established.
“We understand that over the coming days key Cabinet appointments will be made, and we will ask meet with those ministers at the earliest possibility to seek solutions to the unique challenges currently facing our industry and develop the solutions that can return our sector back to profitability.