01 October 1999
Scots want end to ‘annual pilgrimage’

By Allan Wright

SCOTTISH farmers wants to end their annual pilgrimage for extra government support and replace it with a sustainable future for farming north of the border.

A four-page framework to deliver that future was launched by the National Farmers Union of Scotland on Monday (27 September).

Union president Jim Walker said he wanted to take the industry forward to a future which no longer depends on short-term cash injections.

“Farmers take no pleasure in the present annual pilgrimage to government for support,” he said. “They want to earn their living from the market.”

There was no alternative because subsidies would be reduced over the next five years as a result of world trade talks and an expanding EU.

The union document has been sent to all Members of the Scottish Parliament and industry leaders.

The document will be discussed on Monday (4 October) when Mr Walker meets Scottish Executive first minister Donald Dewar and farm minister Ross Finnie.

“The Scottish parliament has an opportunity to make a difference to an industry which it recognises as important,” said Mr Walker.

“Mr Finnie is as keen as I am to find a way forward which will give us a sustainable agriculture capable of competing with anyone.”

Mr Walker criticised what he termed the policies of the past, which rewarded ever increasing stock numbers without considering whether there was a market.

Scotland needed to think of itself as an exporting country and embrace the disciplines involved.

“We talk a lot about co-operation and that talk must now be translated into action,” he said.

“We need co-operation across the Scottish food industry to do a better job at selling our wares in England as well as abroad.”

Mr Walker accepted there were areas of Scotland where farming would never make enough profit to sustain families.

In those fragile areas he wanted to discuss investment in other sectors which could create off-farm employment.

Taxpayer support would also be needed, but as a reward for caring for the environment rather than filling the hills with sheep.

“The switch from headage to area payments gives us a real opportunity to begin to change things for the better,” he said.