NATIONAL FARMERS Union Scotland president John Kinnaird is in no doubt that Scotland‘s farmers are in a stronger position to face the future than those in England.
“We as a union, and the industry as a whole, are much closer to the Scottish Executive than happens elsewhere with other administrations,” he said.
“Although it doesn‘t mean we always get our own way; the positive thing is that we can always make sure our voice is heard. Being able to get through the door and talk to ministers and officials is paramount.”
DEFRA, as the department that takes the lead on behalf of all UK countries in EU debates, tends to think that it represents all views, he said.
“But sometimes it is guilty of not seeking the opinions of farmers in the devolved countries. That is why it is so vital for us to put our views to the Scottish Executive.”
Mr Kinnaird agreed with the comments of rural development minister Ross Finnie on the compilation and publication of the Forward Strategy for Scottish Agriculture standing Scotland in good stead on CAP reform.
“It‘s unique that we have so many differing organisations, at times with very different views, who came together to create this strategy.
“It proves the absolute need to talk with other organisations. There is no point in keeping groups whose views differ to ours at arms‘ length.
Talking can quickly identify common areas which can then be taken forward,” he said.
Mr Kinnaird believes that colleagues in other UK farming unions must be envious of NFU Scotland‘s strong and close working relationship with the Edinburgh-based Scottish government.
“It‘s a two-way flow of information and I don‘t think that other unions have that relationship, although I doubt very much that they would admit that.”
Scotland‘s farmers‘ needs were secured by Mr Finnie during the final CAP negotiations in Luxembourg last year, said Mr Kinnaird.
“The essential thing was that we ensured that we won the right to implement CAP reforms on a regional basis. We lobbied extremely hard for that and we were successful.
“And that is why we arrived at the situation where Scotland will base the single farm payment on an historic basis, compared with the area option imposed in England.
“Going down the historic route was always going to be the best for our industry. It gives people time to adapt.”
Mr Kinnaird is upbeat about the future for Scottish agriculture.
“CAP reform is a massive opportunity that‘s not to be missed. It‘s an opportunity to get rid of the shackle of subsidies and an opportunity to drive our industry forward.”