23 June 2000
Scots parliament ‘failing farming’

By Shelley Wright

SCOTLANDS parliament has allowed farmers to voice their concerns direct to politicians, who have in return done little for agriculture, says a farmers leader.

The parliament was officially opened one year ago this month. Scottish NFU president Jim Walker said it coincided with a hellish year for Scottish agriculture.

He added: “Those standing for election for the Scottish parliament created such an air of expectancy, but they have failed to live up to that.”

Although access to Scottish rural affairs minister Ross Finnie other MSPs is excellent, key decisions are still being taken in London, said Mr Walker.

“We have had an extremely sympathetic hearing from our own minister, who wants to make a difference. He is hampered and frustrated by this situation.”

Access to London-based ministers is hopeless and the relationship on farming between central government and Edinburgh is a worry, said Mr Walker.

MAFFs failure to inform Scottish ministers about the GM contamination of oilseed rape seed is just one example of the communication problems, he added.

Mr Walker said the Scottish parliament tinkered with issues on the periphery of agriculture, rather than confronting the main problems affecting the industry.

“We have huge problems in agriculture and the rural economy,” he said.

“The lack of any strategy to allow us to start exporting meaningful quantities of beef is crippling us, and we have huge issues like the cost of transport.”