A fair deal and supply chain transparency are among the top demands made by NFU Scotland, which has published its manifesto ahead of next month’s Scottish parliament elections.
All 129 seats at Holyrood are up for grabs in the election on Thursday 5 May. Highlighting the importance of farming and crofting to the economy, NFU Scotland’s manifesto warns that agriculture must not be sidelined as politicians seek to woo voters.
“Crippling and ongoing issues in the dairy sector have rightly received much attention from MSPs in the last 12 months,” says the document. “However, throughout 2015 and into this election year there are still market pressures prevailing across the agricultural commodities.
“The volatile market cannot be managed but a fairer margin share can be addressed. Now is the time for politicians to garner a fuller understanding of the complexities of agricultural markets to allow them to be reactive in times of future price downturns.”
Urging union members to build on the momentum of a recent rally which saw 250 farmers and crofters descend on the Scottish Parliament, NFU Scotland president Allan Bowie said he wanted all politicians to engage with agriculture.
“Regardless of their politics, we will engage with anyone and everyone to ensure that a better future is delivered for the next generation,” said Mr Bowie. Prospective MSPs should recognise the potential for farmers to deliver that future – and strengthen Scotland’s economy, he added.
For the first time in the 17 years since devolution saw responsibility for agricultural policy transferred from London to Edinburgh, a national rural hustings event for prospective MSPs will take place at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston on Thursday (7 April).
The manifesto maps out more than 40 bullet points that NFU Scotland wants incoming MSPs to address to drive forward the industry and the rural economy. Scottish agriculture produces £3bn of food and drink annually, and the sector is currently valued at £14bn, it says.
Demands include: improvements to the delivery of farm support; land reform; a stronger, fairer food and drink supply chain; appropriate environmental and land management systems; a crofting system fit for the 21st century; less red tape and improved connectivity, including broadband.
Mr Bowie said: “In the next parliamentary term, we need the Scottish government to look at how we can deliver fairer supply chains, help farmers better manage price volatility, and encourage new tendering for local produce here at home.”
It was important to tap into the massive potential for inward investment to add value and, along with others, drive forward exports of Scottish produce. “Success in these areas is key to growing our agricultural output,” said Mr Bowie.