Strong voice vital, Tory hopeful claims

JOHN Lamont believes when it comes to politicians having farming credentials he has more than proved his in recent years.

The defending Conservative candidate for the Roxburgh and Berwickshire seat in next week’s Scottish parliamentary elections, on a visit to Dolphinston Farm near Jedburgh, outlined his commitment to standing up for the agricultural sector in the Borders.

“Having been brought up on a working farm, I know the issues that Borders farmers face daily. The sector has had more than its fair share of challenges in recent years and it is vital that local farmers know they have a strong voice fighting for them at Holyrood,” Mr Lamont said.

“Over the past four years, I have worked closely with local farmers and industry bodies to protect our rural way of life and support Borders farmers.

“The Scottish Conservatives have been committed to the maintenance and progression of rural Scotland’s primary industries, like farming, crofting, forestry and fishing.

“After the election, there are a number of issues which will confront the party – or parties – which form the next Government.

“Whichever parties are in Government after May, it is crucial that the Borders has a representative who understands the issues affecting farmers and is willing to defend the sector at the local industry at the highest level.”

Mr Lamont said the next five-year term of a Scottish Government will be “absolutely crucial” to the future of Scottish agriculture given the forthcoming reform of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP).

He believes this reform provides a great opportunity to improve the CAP and says he is determined to do everything he can to ensure that any changes are to the benefit of Borders’ farmers and the wider rural economy. “Put simply, future support must be directed towards those actively involved in the delivery of public goods, including sustainable food production and environmental enhancement,” he said.

“There have also been concerns about the operation of farm inspections. We are seeking a more proportionate and reasonable system of inspection and penalties to be introduced.

“It is in the interests both of farmers and of Government to find and promote a different system that can recognise genuine mistakes and apply more reasonable penalties.

“The NFUS’s [National Farmers’ Union Scotland] suggestion that a fixed penalty be introduced would be a more sensible response, and could be backed up by throwing the book at those who deliberately set out to defraud.”

Mr Lamont also commented on the growing interest from consumers in knowing where their food comes from. “This has provided challenges to the industry, but it is also an opportunity to promote local produce. We have made clear that we will work with UK and EU colleagues to introduce honesty in food labelling, which requires the actual country of origin of meat to be clearly and unambiguously displayed on the label, rather than just the country of last processing, so consumers can be confident about where their food comes from.

“This will ensure that meat labelled as ‘British’ is born and bred in Britain, and raised to our high welfare standards and we want the label ‘Scottish’ to be similarly protected.”