Rural leaders yesterday issued urgent appeals for Brexit negotiations to be kick-started in the wake of the inconclusive general election.
Both farmers’ union president Andrew McCornick and landowners leader, Lord David Johnstone bewailed the lack of clarity the election brought and insisted the interests of the rural economy had to become a Government priority.
Mr McCornick also reiterated his belief that Brexit was the biggest challenge facing Scottish agriculture.
“Our members want to know what will happen now with the proposed Great Repeal Bill, the timescale on Brexit talks and where commitments given by all the parties during the election on policies to support food and farming now sit,” he said.
“It is vital that, whatever the shape of the new administration, or the timing on negotiations starting, the industry is given a clear and early signal that its priorities around trade, labour, future policy and support will be recognised.”
Mr McCornick added that the union would be back in Brussels next week, discussing Brexit with fellow European farming unions and Commission officials.
Scottish Lands and Estates chairman, Lord Johnstone, pointed out that rural and land-based businesses were moving towards a situation where there would be less direct support.
He said: “That will mean increasing the profitability of rural businesses will be key to ensuring that they are robust to withstand the challenges ahead.
“Where there may still be some support available for industries such as agriculture, forestry and energy, we expect it to be directed differently and for support to be directed at the provision of public goods – something we endorse. It would be of widespread benefit to help create the best business climate possible in rural Scotland.”
The Highland Show looks set to become a focus for Brexit for a second successive year. NFUS said it expected both the new Scottish Secretary and the Defra Secretary to commit to attending the event.
One casualty of the election was the SNP’s former Westminster rural affairs spokesman, Calum Kerr whose speech to the Oxford Farming Conference in January was widely praised both north and south of the Border.