7 April 2000

Scots offer strategy challenge

THE first steps towards developing a future strategy for Scotlands agriculture industry were taken this week when farm minister Ross Finnie challenged everyone with an interest in the future of Scottish farming to contribute.

Launching a consultation paper yesterday (Thur), Mr Finnie said: "This is an industry which has the potential to play a valuable role in a modern Scotland, but it faces a number of challenges.

"If we are to tackle these and assist the industry to fulfil its potential, there must be a common view of what needs to be done and how that can be achieved."

The consultation paper says that, for many years, there has been some uncertainty in society about the role of farming. "Some argue that farming should be seen as just another private business, while others suggest that its main role should be in respect of the environment. Scottish farmers in this new century need to know what is wanted of them."

In the foreword to the paper, Mr Finnie adds: "At this time of change, Scotland needs to be clear about the way forward and how it will help farmers to deliver it. Is the industry to be measured in terms of profitability? Or is it to play a part in protecting the environment? Or is it to have a social dimension, contributing to the sustainability of our most fragile communities?

"If, as I suspect, the answer in many cases will be yes to all three, then we need to ensure that public policies are working towards these goals."

Mr Finnie says the establishment of the Scottish parliament means there is now an opportunity to develop a farming policy that meets Scotlands particular needs.

of Scotland.

"It needs contributions from everyone with an interest in the industry as the final result will be important, shaping the (Scottish) executives own future actions and determining our response to new UK and European policy developments," he says.

A final policy document, based largely on the responses to the consultation, should be published towards the end of the year.