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Ministerial Statement: A future strategy for Scottish agriculture – 5 June 2018

August 27, 2019


thank you very much two members of the minister we’re gonna move on now to the next item of business which is a statement by fergus Ewing on the Scottish government response to a future strategy for a Scottish agriculture and the cabinet secretary will take questions at the end of his statement could I encourage all members who wish to ask a question to press their request Street buttons as soon as possible and I call on fair issuing officer my first royal highland Shaw’s rural economic secretary was in June 2016 was somewhat surreal on the Thursday I presented key themes emerging to develop a new strategy for Scottish agriculture themes which were upbeat positive and I hope visionary and I believe people left the session generally with a spring in their step however the following day on Friday we were all reeling from the outcome of the EU referendum and few felt like springing anywhere when it became obvious that brakes it was more a slogan than a plan it was clear that this outlook and work would be needed more than ever so in June last year I appointed four champions to build on these themes to make recommendations for a future strategy for Scottish agriculture Archie Gibson on food and drink Henry Graham on Education and Skills John Kinnaird on sustainability and Marion McCormick on public value the champions established working groups with a broad range of contributors from across Scotland 55 individuals to part in those groups and I would express my gratitude to the mall for generously giving of their time their knowledge and expertise in November last year the champions published an interim discussion document to which 25 organizations responded using all the information view x’ and ideas received they then developed their final report which was published last thursday with a full set of recommendations on cheer up laughs I want to record my sincere thanks to all four champions who have invested so much energy personal time and resource in the task that I set them between them they have lifetime’s of experience and expertise which they applied to their remit but they also listened and took onboard wider views from right across the farming and food and drink sectors and I welcome their report in particular I welcome the three statements of ambition for Scottish farming Scotland’s form of Agriculture will be envied abel for its alignment with our land and other assets in all their biophysical diversity supported by tailored policies that lead to real commercial results Scottish farming will take the actions that forearm it for difficult times and justified support from the public purse and Scottish farming stewardship of the countryside will protect and enhance our natural assets and will be valued and supported by society I also welcome the reports 18 headline recommendations I don’t have time to go over them all presiding officer but key ones include that the public must be better informed about Scottish farming and what it delivers and policies must be guided by real evidence about what the public values and I agree a top priority starting immediately is a change of mindset to help farmers and crafters become more progressive entrepreneurial and resilient this is a proposition one which we must address and I’m conscious that change is also at the heart of nfu Scotland’s recommendations for the future there is no doubt achieving this while also taking people with us will be difficult but I commit today to seeking to achieve that stewardship of the countryside should be a key part of future policy I’ve always maintained that farming has twin roles farmers are producers of food and also custodians of the country site and these roles are complementary in the future we must maintain those two roles and ensure that farmers and crafters not only play their part in that stewardship and in contributing to our climate change ambitions but as the champions also wreak meant that they are recognized for their positive actions farming must be more visible as a career option and must attract more young people this recommendation is key we must ensure that our young people see and grasp the opportunity of working on the land and in related industries as both a positive and a rewarding one government parliament industry and others must cooperate on a 10 to 15 year strategy for Scottish farming all must work together to get the best outcomes and facing up to harsh realities I welcome the realism here in this report the champions and others are acutely aware that farming needs this strategy with the timescale longer than one parliamentary term and I hope we must all agree with that and work together to the benefit of Scottish farming in the future and they also recognized that we potentially face the most challenging of times and that leads me to breaks it if we leave the EU and c.a.p because it breaks it it will take time to create a future policy framework for Scottish farming so I also welcome the champions recommendation for a transition period I’ve previously signaled my preference for such a phase the champions set out related proposals and measures and again I will consider them carefully of course the lack of certainty and clarity from the UK government on what Scotland might expect should we have two breaks it does make all this rather difficult we were promised that all lost EU funding would be replaced despite constant continued pressure from myself my cabinet colleagues in Scotland and indeed ministers in the other devolved administration’s current guarantees and commitments fall short of honoring that promise despite my best efforts we cannot even make progress on the convergence review despite mr. golf promising last year to say that up and without such a review and getting a better payment rate agreed we have very little chance of getting a fair funding settlement that acknowledges and provides for Scotland’s needs and interests this lack of information over funding matters signing off so any this plan with no numbers in it is simply not worth the paper it’s written on nor is there any clarity on future trade arrangements that are so important not just for beef and lamb but also for daily produce and for our burgeoning fruit and vegetable sectors there is still a lack of detail about the position of EU nationals who contribute so much to our farming and food businesses and generally to rural life in Scotland we don’t even yet know if we will be able to exercise devolve powers over farming and food production powers that were devolved to Scotland in 1998 and which the UK government is determined to grab for itself on spurious grounds there might well be a need for frameworks in some areas where powers are pooled for everyone’s benefit on these islands but the conservative arguments come unstuck when you realise that there are currently no barriers to trading in the UK from within SCA P which allows each of the four nations to operate different support schemes and that there is collaboration on animal health and welfare conducted through relationships of mutual trust and understanding among officials particularly the chief veteran the officers without resorts to legislation or single systems selling off so people including members of this Parliament want to know what the future for farming and food production in Scotland will look like however agriculture is part of the much wider rural economy and future farm policy should reflect that reality this Parliament asked me to establish an independent group involving relative relevant stakeholders to provide advice as to the principles and policies that should underpin options for appropriate rural supports beyond 2020 i Julie did so and the National Council of rural advisors has been working to deliver this I expect to I I expect to receive a further report from the council shortly and want to consider its recommendations and proposals alongside those of the Agriculture champions any change we take forward must also as the champions point out be guided by real evidence about what the public values we should therefore involve the wider public in determining future policy and seek their views and opinions – in conclusion presiding officer I will consider the champions report fully and carefully as I explore and plan for all eventualities in our future and while the champions themselves make clear that no change is not an option I want to offer this reassurance wherever Scotland’s future lies and whatever our future holds in the absence of stability and security from elsewhere this government is determined to provide as much certainty and clarity for rural Scotland as we can thank you very much we’ll try and load up to 20 minutes for questions starting with Donald Cameron Thank You presiding officer I’d like to thank the cabinet secretary for advanced light of his statement and I also refer to farming and crofting in my register of interest it is absolutely clear to these benches that the cabinet Secretary’s words today and a report published last week do little to alleviate the concerns held by the agricultural sector across Scotland which is becoming increasingly distressed at the lack of any concrete proposals for funding arrangements post brexit not least when the Scottish government know the amount of cap funding that Scotland is guaranteed to receive until 2022 the SNP government’s approach is weak and lightweight and sits in stark contrast to the comprehensive approach of both Defra and the Welsh government who have both published detailed proposals with various options for post brexit support in England and Wales respectively the cabinet Secretary’s statement ends with a wish to provide certainty and clarity well with respect Scotland’s farming sector remains incomplete limbo because of the dereliction of duty from this government when it comes to laying out the substance for future support almost two years after brexit vote Scotland’s farmers and crafters don’t want talk about power grabs they want detail so my question is a simple one to ask and a simple one to answer when will detail proposals for Scotland’s agricultural support system be produced cabinet secretary I think it would have any member of this Parliament to address the content of the statement and the agricultural champions report I think it would have displayed a bit of respect to for individuals for experienced individuals who were regarded as impartial who have expertise in their fields to pay some regards to the content of the report which is the content of this statement and I would suggest that if mr. Cameron has not implied them applied himself to read the report he should do so because unlike him I want to listen to what people have to say in Scotland about the future of our policy it is not my desire to dictate policy from top to bottom but to listen to experts and others and that’s why I appointed the agricultural champions and it’s also why following a resolution following a motion of this Parliament that I appointed the National Council of rural advisors and I can confirm to the member in providing a response to his his question that following a full and careful study of the report that has been published last week from the agricultural champions and following the publication in the coming months of the final report of the National Council of rural advisors then of course we shall respond to those recommendations and put forward our views as to the future but I would point out that the documents he referred to from the UK contains no figures at all no figures as to the future post brexit and it was his party his party that promised post brexit that the totality of the funding for rural Scotland would be at least touched on that key issue on that key pledge made by Mr Gove mr. Eustace and many other breaks to tears there has been total silence once and only once we receive confirmation about that information is will it be possible to put forward any detailed proposal but we are of course working hard in order to look at the best options for the future for Scottish agriculture despite the enormous uncertainties that are thrown up by the brexit bungle that has been pursued by the UK government Colin Smith Thank You presiding officer and thank you to the cabinet secretary for the vine state of his statement can also place on record my appreciation to the for agricultural champions for their work and report much of which Lieber can support also here the Scottish Government’s concerned at the lack of certainty not only on what the final negotiated breaks a settlement between the UK and the rest of the EU will be but frankly the lack of certainty and what the final negotiated settlement will be within the conservative partly on the UK government’s position and those negotiations but presenting officer that can’t be used as a shield by the Scottish government not to say all clearly what etsu vision is for post breaks his support for agriculture and rural Scotland I see in the chamber last week that there is frustration among Scotland’s farmers in the lack of detail from the Scottish Government on this issue organizations such as the n fu Scotland and Scottish Environment a link are leading the way exploring alternatives to the Common Agricultural Policy and say no clear principles behind what that support should look like so does the cabinet secretary agree that it’s time for the Scottish Government to do the same to bring all key stakeholders together to agree a shared vision of what Scotland wants to see that support look like and then take that case to the UK government instead of waiting for the UK government detail as what to think in other words isn’t it time for the Scottish cog to stop we and and start leading on this issue cabinet signature well I appreciate the suspicious acknowledgment of the good work that the champions have done I think that’s quite respectful and in contrast to the approach of the Conservatives sadly we have of course and we constantly stakeholders together and both myself and Rosanna Cunningham have done so on numerous occasions in order to discuss the best way ahead and that led to the appointment of the agricultural champions whose recommendations in Chapter three I would have thought Merritt a consumer at considerable a careful consideration rather than the political approach that the Conservatives have adopted to take mr. Smith’s a question there are really three key elements for any business that are fundamental there are costs revenue and workforce now in relation to breaks it it appears almost certain that if we are dragged out of the single market there will be tariffs costs will go up this was commented on by numerous spokespeople at the NSA event recently at Ballantrae not least by Jim McLaren of QMS so costs are likely to go up secondly revenue is likely to go down and thirdly with regard to the work force the continuing availability of those people who give a give of their lives their effort and their family life to work here in Scotland as they are welcome that future has been under a cloud of uncertainty since the breaks that referendum so the three fundamentals for every single business are shrouded in uncertainty and as soon as the UK government can get round to deciding something that breaks it and putting forward some sort of plan perhaps it may be possible to address the realities in response to that but until that there are no figures there is no clarity and there is no capacity therefore to deliver any clear plan at all and that must be a statement of the blindingly obvious Colin Stuart Stevenson to be filled by Edward mountain and presiding officer I draw your attention to my ownership of a very small registered agricultural holding can the cabinet’s entity clarify if the champions and recommendations apply only after we’ve left to you or whether there are some that we can start work on before then cameras Akagi yes I can confirm that the champion assay recommendations apply to the future whatever it may hold and that is I think why I’m surprised that the Conservatives don’t appear the slightest be interested in the work that’s done by these leading figures in Scottish rural life is it’s very sad really but the champions have a great deal to say about future’s future on sustainability on productivity on skills they have a lot to see but about the need for new entrants about the need for increased productivity they have a lot to say about the contribution that farmers already make to the stewardship of the environment of course one of their main twin purposes and I would commend as mr. Stevenson obviously agrees to every member that they read carefully the contents and recommendations of this report as I think they’re extremely valuable in informing a pathway ahead for Scotland whatever happens in relation to breaks it Edward mountain to be filled by code innovation Thank You presiding officer and I’d like to thank the cabinet secretaries the size of his speech I’d also like to declare members to my register of interest softly presiding officer we’ve had a statement from the cabinet secretary that says nothing about a plan or a policy and I do want to quote the agricultural champions let me quote it specifically brexit amplifies and makes more urgent some fundamental challenges that farming was already facing they have also accepted the EU will reduce cap funding over futures and we know that the UK government had protected subsidies until 22 2022 farmers need a plan for the next five years that means cabinet secretary you’re going to have to stop dithering and start delivering so where is the policy will you be consulting with farmers before next year’s crops are planned and planted and when will we see encourage members to speak through the chair but camera secretary thank you for saying officer mr. Martin says that UK government’s protected subsidies until 2022 that’s simply not accurate the facts are that the assurances provided do not relate to the totality of rural funding the relate primarily to the pillar one and they relate to the phrase farm support all of the elements of support I wouldn’t use the word subsidy because I think what they do is valuable and subsidy implies that mr. mountain disagrees but the assurances simply do not apply to the totality of pillar 2 payments so to say that all subsidies as he puts it is protected to 2022 is simply yet another false premise from the Conservatives and I say again that I think it really would be more respectful if some attention were played to the substance of the reports that we’ve had rather than nitpick and make party political partisan points which seems to be the Scottish Conservatives only contribution to this debate encourage shorter questions shorter answers will tend to for this session Claudia we wish to be followed by Kate Forbes Thank You presiding officer well I welcome the champions report food banks are Scotland shame can the cabinet secretary reassure the chamber and this country they’re ending food poverty through the principles and structures of the support and development of local affordable fresh food for our communities in a way that fuses the twin roles of food production and stewardship of the countryside will be at the heart of the Scottish Government’s future policy whatever happens with brexit Cabrio second yes I think Claudia Beamish raises a more sensible point than we’ve had from the conservator day sadly and of course food poverty is a blatant our country and tackling it is a priority for us all and farmers of course play a direct part in addressing that by contributing food for the nation and I’m also engaged of course in encouraging and working with public bodies including to ensure so far as possible that food is procured locally for school meals for example and some local authorities have had enormous success in that and we’ve seen the proportion of food procured locally increase and that I think does contribute to a sufficient healthy nutritious diet for our children in particular and address across the board of the Scottish Government with my colleagues the topic that Chloe be mrs. yesterday key followed by Mark Russell thank you the cabinet secretary will be aware of the UK government’s white paper on the future of farm support are there areas in that report which the Scottish Government is likely to support or adopt a signature well I want to study the report carefully as I said and I wish also to do so in conjunction with study of the second report from the National Council of rule advisors and here of course billing officer the NCI report what the NCRA was set up at the behest of this Parliament following an amendment accepted from mr. rumbles to emotion and therefore that is something I think it’s correct that I should do in order to implement the will of Parliament and it’s therefore correct I think logically that since Parliament has asked me to do this that we allow time a for the ncra to deliver its final report and be pay them the respect that they deserve and that parliament deserves by studying it carefully before announcing conclusions so we will do precisely that mark Roskilde to be followed by John Leeson presiding officer if I heard the cabinet secretary correctly just fifty five people have been feeding in to this critical work on the future vision of Scotland’s food and farming disappointing given that over eight hundred people farmers and growers food businesses and communities have been meeting from the Scottish Borders to shut London kitchen table talks to talk about their vision of food and farming now pulled together and published in a critical report there seems to be something missing here presiding officer so can I ask the cabinet secretary why is the Scottish government failed to meet its promise to consult on a good food nation bill in 2017 when is this now going to happen camera singers well if I may just correct the member of presiding officer the first phase of of consultation by the champions involved early work with the number of individuals and I referred to the fact that there were 55 individuals who meet specific contributions secondly and I don’t think mr. Russell picked this up but I did say in my statement that after they published their initial work last year they then consulted on that with the number of organizations I think around 25 they included ring link the RSPB Scotland the scruffty Scottish crofting Federation as well as statutory bodies the Scottish Wildlife Trust and and therefore these are bodies some of the membership bodies some of them not some of them statutory bodies that I think reach out to a large number of people so you know I I think it’s maybe slightly unfair to trade them for a lack of consultation they were very open in their work and they remain so so I think that’s a little bit unfair so far as the the second part of statement and it’s not really the topic of off today but obviously we wish to progress all of the the matters that we have undertaken in due course and I’m sure we will come back to the specific topic a in in due course John may seem to be filled by my grumbles hey thanks very much I wonder if the cabinet actually feels that the champions put enough emphasis on climate change in the recommendations well I think they have taken that vital matter into full account and many of the recommendations can indeed help reduce greenhouse emissions and I commend a careful reading of the report their approach is strongly consistent with that set out in the agriculture chapter of the climate change plan earlier this year for example improvements in efficiency benchmarking and more integrated land use can each help to lower the emissions intensity of Scottish produce and as the champions have said in the reports and I quote reducing waste will lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions per unit of outputs and I would also add that can help to improve prom farm profitability as well and that’s why I think that these two documents complement each other in the future my grumbles before by Emma Harper presiding officer the cabinet secretary just said in a statement people including msps want to know what the future of farming and food production Scotland will look like to true but it’s his job to tell us not anyone else’s why hasn’t he involved relevant stakeholders for his advisors as Parliament told him to do in January of last year he has the producers but where are the consumers and where are the environmentalists he’s wasted nearly two years when will he stop making excuses about not knowing the figures and start making the actual decisions he is being paid to make on our behalf cameras imaging the motion to which mr. rumbles refers as a motion passed by Parliament and my belief in understanding is that I have obtained perd the obligations incumbent upon us in that amendment to the letter and I’ve said so before and I say it here again so far as the the primary question is concerned at the moment resigning officer we don’t actually know whether there will be a break sit we don’t know if there will be a break that deal we don’t know if there will be no deal well well the the UK took us on this course Scotland voted against this right okay we don’t know whether there will be tariffs we don’t know whether it’ll be a regulatory barriers to perishable goods we don’t know if our Scotch lambs which for which Europe European markets are so essential we’ll be able to access those markets as Jim McLaren and many others said in much more trenchant terms that I’m using today quite frankly at Ballantrae at least according to the SAF reporting of them and we don’t know if the workforce who we value in Scotland from countries throughout Europe continue to be welcome here so in the light of the fact that we have a complete complete lack of clarity about brexit because of the way that the UK cabinet and Prime Minister have completely failed to indicate any clarity at all it is somewhat premature to expect me to have a clear plan in the outcome of all of that Emma Harper Thank You presiding officer main chamber I am the PL or to the cabinet secretary the cabinet secretary has just spoke about tariffs and increase costs and decrease revenue and the uncertainty of breaks at for farmers what steps as the Scottish Government taken to prepare for the Tories Armageddon break set which newspaper reports even suggested would result in Scotland running out of food on the second day after it breaks it exit de cabrito well I mean that that that reference to the Armageddon option is actually not a product of the Scottish government has been doctors or officials it’s actually an option set out by advisors to the UK government its advisors the UK government that actually said that Scotland and I think parts of England me run out of food within just a couple of days I Briggs I mean this shows how serious it is and all we get from the law over there not one of them incident it will say a word against the way that UK is handli or mishandling this all we get is a political rant that we’ve got to produce a plan when we’ve got no idea whatsoever and no one else does in Scotland it’s got a new voted against Briggs anyway about what exactly is happening down so it is their complete and utter shambles thank you and that concludes our escape this afternoon apologies to mr. Scott miss Martin there’s no time left to that we’ve used up all the time available for flexibility in is that News debate our next debate will be a debate in motion one two five six one in the name of Angela Constance on celebrating Scotland’s volunteers we’re just a few seconds from members to change seats

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