Andrew McCornick: Preparing for NFU Scotland’s AGM

Andrew McCornick

W here does the time go? It certainly doesn’t feel like 12 months since the union gathered in Glasgow last February for its annual general meeting and conference.

It has been a year unlike any other, dominated politically by Brexit while, for many, its was the weather that gave greatest concern.

Unlike many, who have stuttered and stalled following the Brexit announcement, we grabbed the bull by the horns, driven our CHANGE agenda through insightful discussion documents and widespread consultation and engaged in a programme of political lobbying far beyond any that the union has ever undertaken.

Rather than see this upheaval as a problem, we are directly involved in the creation of future agriculture policy in Scotland and we remain firmly on the front foot.

And our priorities have been honed by our grassroots membership.

The new presidential team elected in February 2017, and our policy and regional staff, have been clocking up the miles and made it our mission in the past 12 months to visit as many members in as many different areas as possible.

From our Highlands and Islands Roadshow to attending more than 30 local shows, hundreds of branch meetings and the hugely successful regional Brexit roadshows last autumn, we have been working non-stop to ensure we hear as many of our members’ opinions as possible.

As we approach this year’s annual general meeting and conference in Glasgow on Thursday and Friday, I firmly believe the union’s work has never been more important than it is right now.

While Brexit, quite rightly, remains the focus we have strengthened our resources to ensure that the day-to-day issues that matter to members are still being tackled.

That is work that has secured vital changes to the likes of ill-fitting greening rules; a derogation to the Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ) slurry spreading deadline last winter to reflect the poor weather, and farmers and crofters applying to the Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme (SUSSS) were given a one-off extension when the weather meant they could not gather their hill sheep in time.

And the work and support that we undertake at an individual or local level is seen in the kind of action we are taking to support those affected by the Aberdeen bypass or the closure of the Orkney abattoir.

The key to proper representation is continued engagement with the members and stakeholders, finding out what you want from the union, and events like our annual general meeting and annual dinner are fantastic examples of this.

Spring is just ahead of us and members are gearing up for lambing, calving and cropping.

For us, politicians are moving to the next stage of the Brexit negotiations with Europe and this year will present a host of challenges in securing the best Brexit deal possible for farmers and crofters.

The valuable engagement with members in recent months has only strengthened my resolve.

Across Scotland, all appreciate that change is inevitable but there is agreement that the opportunity exists to develop a prosperous and profitable future for Scottish agriculture.

  • Andrew McCornick is president of NFU Scotland