NFU Scotland Presidential Address Maps Out Five Key Asks Of Governments, Retailers And Consumers

Speaking at NFU Scotland’s National two-day conference, AGM and annual dinner in Glasgow, President Martin Kennedy highlighted five key asks governments but retailers and consumers alike.

Industry news
Published: 08/02/2024

Speaking at NFU Scotland’s National two-day conference, AGM and annual dinner in Glasgow, President Martin Kennedy highlighted five key asks governments but retailers and consumers alike.

Ahead of Under Secretary of State John Lamont MP addressing delegates online, Mr Kennedy called on the UK Government to commit to an enhanced agricultural budget on a multi annual financial framework to be delivered into the rural economy.

Recognising that this will be a General Election year, Mr Kennedy unveiled plans for a national hustings event where the UK agricultural spokesperson from each party would be invited to attend and state their vision for Scottish farmers and crofters.

He added: “Our national hustings will see where all UK parties stand on support for Scottish agriculture. We have already made our case clear that we need at least another £1b to be added to the UK budget for agriculture.

“Under the current financial arrangement, that would see at least another £170m to go into the Scottish agricultural budget. We already have the backing of the Lib Dems on this extra £1b and they have agreed to this in their manifesto.  We want that same commitment from all other parties when manifestos start to emerge.

“However, the current arrangement that sees 17 percent of the UK’s agricultural budget come to Scotland must be revisited. Scotland, right now, is doing the heavy lifting in terms of the environment, especially with current tree planting and peatland restoration targets. Our members can be reassured that in our regular visits to Westminster, the case is being made to increase that current allocation.”

Mr Kennedy also used his speech to push Scottish Government for a Scottish first programme when it comes to public procurement, stating: “We now have a fantastic opportunity to address this through the Good Food Nation Act whereby undisputed transparency of where our food comes from will allow our consumers to make real informed choices. When lock down happened in 2020, our consumers showed real loyalty to our products and in many instances chose not to buy imports, so we know we have their support if they are properly informed.”

In support, NFU Scotland has been supporting a labelling proposal that would more clearly identify products in retailers and food service menus where more than 50 percent of ingredients had been sourced from outside the UK.

Mr Kennedy’s third key ask was for Scottish Government to fully return £61 million of deferred funding to Scotland’s agricultural budget.  The contentious deferral of funding has caused anger in the industry.  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.  Ahead of Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf MSP addressing the conference (Friday 9 February), Scotland’s future agricultural policy and how the agricultural budget will be allocated in the future was also highlighted.

Mr Kennedy said: “Hopefully after tomorrow 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 percent of the budget as direct payments within tiers 1 and 2. It must be remembered that Scottish Government have committed to 50 percent of direct support having extra management options attached so the need for that vast majority of funding being retained within tiers 1 and 2 is all the more important.

Fourthly, Mr Kennedy called fairness throughout the whole supply chain, with the main focus of this year’s AGM being around market returns and how we achieve fairness from primary producer all the way through to the consumer. That saw the launch of the initial analysis of NFU Scotland’s new ShelfWatch campaign (See Separate News Release).

Mr Kennedy said: “This campaign, which will run all year, will give our consumers a real informed understanding of where their food comes from.”

Having previously called at the Highland Show in June 2023 for the Bute House agreement between the Scottish Government and the Green group in the Scottish Parliament to be reviewed, Mr Kennedy’s final point was to call for the agreement to now be scrapped.

He said: “The topic that is on every farmer’s mind across Europe and beyond, is the green agenda. It is little wonder that across Europe discontent around some of the draconian measures now in place have driven them to protest in such fashion, who can blame them. From a Scottish rural perspective, the Bute House Agreement has been a disaster.”

Highlighting the cost incurred in several of the failed Green party policy recommendations, Mr Kennedy 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. All kinds of businesses that are so important to the Scottish economy are agreeing that this simply cannot continue.

“If the SNP government wants to continue to support the biggest part of our economy and genuinely care about our fantastic environment, then I urge them to listen to us as the true economic drivers and custodians of the land and ditch the Greens.”

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