Mairi Gougeon replaces Ewing to lead Scotland’s farm policy

Mairi Gougeon has replaced Fergus Ewing as the Scottish government’s rural affairs cabinet secretary.

The SNP MSP said it was an “incredible honour” to take over the position from Mr Ewing, who had held the cabinet secretary post for rural economy since 2016.

Ms Gougeon’s new role covers a wide remit including farming, fisheries and aquaculture, food and drink policy, and policies for Scotland’s island communities.

See also: Scottish elections: Parties set out plans for food and farming

“I follow the inimitable @FergusEwingSNP and know first hand how hard he worked on behalf of Scotland’s farmers and fishers,” the MSP for Angus North and Mearns said on Twitter.

Speaking after the cabinet reshuffle was confirmed, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said the immediate focus was on the coronavirus recovery and the part that all cabinet ministers can play.

Pivotal time

NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy welcomed Ms Gougeon’s appointment at what he said is a pivotal time for agriculture.

“We are emerging into a post-CAP, post-Brexit, post-pandemic era where the Scottish government has a unique opportunity to put the nation’s farming and food industries at the very heart of our green recovery and our response to addressing climate change and protecting biodiversity in Scotland,” said Mr Kennedy.

Farm policy priorities for Mairi Gougeon

  • Establish the implementation board to drive forward the recommendations of the farmer-led climate change groups. The five groups – Hill; Upland and Crofting; Suckler Beef; Arable; Dairy and Pigs – were created to develop advice and proposals to the Scottish government on how to cut emissions and tackle climate change. Reports that reducing suckler cow numbers by 300,000 out of the 1.2m animals in Scotland was to be the way to cut carbon emissions have been described as “without foundation” by the Scottish government.
  • Oversee the development of a single marketing brand for all Scottish produce – Sustainably Scottish. The SNP said in its manifesto the branding would be available to all Scottish-based producers, manufacturers and suppliers and there will be a new £15m fund to support transition to low- or zero-carbon operations.
  • New entrants and women in agriculture. The SNP said it will bring in new law to ensure equal rights of succession for women in agriculture, and introduce a specific new entrants fund.

Mr Kennedy thanked the outgoing cabinet secretary Mr Ewing.

“As a hard-working cabinet minister, Fergus was always very supportive of Scottish food and farming and made himself freely available to meet with farmers, crofters and stakeholders, regardless of the issue or crisis.

“His decision to create farmer-led climate change groups to give farmers and crofters a clear say in setting their future roadmap to a sustainable and profitable future provides a legacy that we will look to our new cabinet secretary and her team to drive forward with a degree of urgency.”

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