The Scottish Conservatives have pledged to end the uncertainty over future agricultural policy by holding a public consultation within 100 days of winning next month’s election.
Leader Douglas Ross launched his party’s rural manifesto on an Aberdeenshire farm, where he said the SNP had “dallied and delayed” over farm policy for too long and insisted the Tories would focus on a blueprint policy for the industry.
“We would work with the farming sector to design a simple and fair system that works for Scottish farmers and crofters,” he added.
Until this new agricultural policy could be implemented, the manifesto states the Scottish Conservatives would support the industry to reduce carbon emissions by reversing cuts to the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme and extending it.
There is also a commitment to reviewing the value of the Agricultural Transformation Programme, and supporting funding for low emission farming.
Other ideas include re-opening young farmers and new entrants start-up grants as well as the new entrants capital grant scheme, and the manifesto says the party would encourage partnerships via mentoring schemes, and focus on supporting women in the sector.
Under the Scottish Conservatives, funding would be available for a national agricultural institute of technology to deliver both online and face-to-face training courses for existing farmers.
The manifesto adds: “We would invest an additional £10 million a year in agricultural research and development and support pilot farms to trial new ways to improve farm efficiency and spread best practice across Scotland.”
The party commit to reviewing sentencing and penalties for rural crime and supporting the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime.
At the launch Mr Ross claimed rural communities had been held back by “poor infrastructure, diminished services and a lack of clarity for farmers”, and insisted rural areas shouldn’t be left behind as Scotland recovers from the pandemic.
“We want to create jobs in these areas, so that no one needs to move away from where they have grown up to find work,” he said.
“From rolling out full fibre broadband to ensuring councils receive fair funding, the Scottish Conservatives will give rural areas the support they need to thrive.”
There is also a commitment to a review of “farm to fork” policy.