NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy has urged the Scottish Government to ”ditch the Greens” and listen to the true economic drivers and custodians of the land.
That was one of Mr Kennedy’s five key asks which he addressed to NFU members, farmers and crofters on the first day of NFU Scotland’s (NFUS) annual conference in Glasgow yesterday.
Ahead of Under Secretary of State John Lamont MP addressing delegates online after failing to show up in person, Mr Kennedy said: “The topic that is on every farmer’s mind across Europe and beyond is the green agenda.
“It is little wonder that some of the draconian measures now in place have driven Europeans to protest in such fashion, who can blame them. From a Scottish rural perspective, the Bute House Agreement has been a disaster.”
Mr Kennedy highlighted the cost incurred in several of the failed Green party policy recommendations and added: “Their severe lack of understanding of how the countryside works is staggering. Also, despite on many occasions asking them to come out and look at specific issues, all too often their diaries are too busy.
“Moorland management, hunting with dogs, snaring, shooting and farming and crofting in general have suffered badly under this agreement. Then on top of this we have the issues around National Parks. This simply cannot continue.”
The president also addressed the Scottish Government’s proposed agricultural policy and funding, urging the £61 million of deferred funding be fully returned to the Scottish agricultural budget.
“The contentious deferral of funding has caused anger in the industry,” he said.
“There is a commitment that £15 million will return in 2024/25 but clarity on when and how all funds will return is a priority for NFU Scotland.
“Hopefully after today we should at least know how the budget will be split between the proposed tiers in our new agricultural policy. We have continually said that we need at least 80% of the budget as direct payments within tiers 1 and 2.”
Meanwhile, Mr Lamont ensured the room that the UK Government knows Scottish farmers values.
He said: “I mentioned food security and one of the ways we are underpinning that is making good on our post-Brexit commitment to maintain the funding available to farmers and land managers in every year of the current Parliament, moving on seamlessly from the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy.
“For Scotland under our devolution settlement, the Treasury confirmed that for 2023/2024 and 2024/2025, the Scottish Government will receive £620 million per year on agricultural and rural funding. This consists of £595m in CAP replacement, and the £25.7m uplift as recommended by the Bew Review.
“Now I am aware of the hokey-cokey at Holyrood over its internal agriculture budget, with £33m in, out, ‘deferred’ and generally shaken all about. It concerns me, of course, but it is for the Scottish Government to justify to you, and to the wider Scottish public, the decisions they take.
“For our part, the UK Government has kept its word on supporting farmers via multi-year agriculture funding.”
Mr Lamont said the UK Government will shortly be consulting on a new labelling system – Buy British – to ensure the public are buying home-grown produce.
Aberdeenshire farmer Peter Chapman said the timeline of this new labelling system was a concern with a general election coming up and that it may disappear into a new government.
Mr Lamont replied: “Defra aims to carry out this consultation as soon as possible. We need the Scottish Government to buy into this and we’ll push on with it as fast as we can.”