Scottish farmers were left under no illusion that they are fighting for their post-Brexit financial future.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell warned delegates at NFU Scotland’s autumn conference at Battleby that unless the industry argued a strong case in the forthcoming negotiations, others – who didn’t have their best interests in mind – would do it instead.
And while he welcomed the publication of the union’s initial views on Brexit, he insisted the industry needed to continue to make the case and secure the best deal for the farming community.
“And you need to make it loudly,” he said.
“You need to tell us what you want and don’t want and you need to tell the public too. If we get it right, farming will emerge into the next decade as a sector full of opportunities, many of which will be new opportunities abroad. And yes that does mean access to EU markets, This will be the first topic discussed when the Scottish Government meets with the UK Government and other devolved administrations in early November.”
Mr Mundell also made it clear that he backed the continuation of financial support for the agricultural industry and said a replacement for the Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) was a priority, although it was too soon to say what the eventual support system would look like.
Mr Mundell said that once all the “noise” surrounding Brexit was stripped away, only two questions really mattered.
“The first is where do you want the industry to be in 20 years time? And the second is what is the journey to get there?,” said Mr Mundell.
In response to a question from Carnoustie fruit grower James Porter on the need to guarantee the farming industry access to seasonal workers, Mr Mundell said he couldn’t envisage any circumstance in which European workers would not be allowed in to the country.
He also guaranteed that the review into the convergence uplift, the extra Cap monies totalling around 230million euros (£207million) which were allocated to the UK from the EU to bring Scotland’s per hectare subsidy support figure more in line with the European average, would be completed by the end of the year..
Scottish farm leaders have long disputed that the distribution of Cap monies within the UK is unfair and say that Scotland should have been given this money.