Scotland’s rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead has hit out at the UK government’s long-term vision to end farm subsidies and shift support funding into rural development programmes.
Speaking at the Scottish National Party conference in Inverness on 18 October Mr Lochhead said the UK vision would be a disaster for Scottish agriculture.
“We can’t allow London MPs to make their vision a reality. To ensure we can feed the nation, we need to support agriculture.”
He added that it was a “travesty” that Scottish ministers were frozen out of UK negotiations with Europe on the future of farming policy.
Mr Lochhead also announced an initiative to promote Scottish food to the 16m tourists who visit Scotland every year.
“I want to see every single overseas visitor introduced to the best of Scotland’s larder and those holidaying at home given more opportunities to experience their own nation’s produce,” Mr Lochhead said.
“The lack of Scottish food at tourist destinations is sometimes disappointing and where we do serve local produce, we don’t let folk know it’s local and Scottish.”
Representatives of Scotland’s main visitor attractions are being brought together in a bid to transform every Scottish visitor attraction into a showcase for the best of Scotland’s food and drink.
Planned measures include a new charter to promote the use of seasonal produce and guidance to help buyers source Scottish produce.
“Reaching out to 16m customers will provide a further boost to the sector and further enhance Scotland’s image overseas,” said Lochhead. “Let’s step up the food revolution and take advantage of producing the best food and drink in the world.”
Sales of Scottish brands in supermarkets across the UK have increased by 21% – worth more than £300m a year to the Scottish economy – since the SNP took office three years ago, Mr Lochhead claimed.
Pledging the Scottish government’s support for agriculture, Mr Lochhead said it was vital that food production remained at the heart of agricultural policy.