29 June 2001


Adapt to survive. Its a familiar message but one which was delivered with renewed vitality to Scottish farming with the publication of the Scottish Executives A Forward Strategy for Scottish Agriculture.

It was produced jointly by representatives of all the leading stakeholders in Scottish food and farming, together with environmental groups and rural development agencies.

The strategy is emphatic that Scotland needs a successful farming industry. But a change in mind-set is needed. More income from the market, rather than relying on subsidies, is the way ahead. Farmers economic, social and environmental roles in their communities will become the key to support.

Scotland is determined to introduce a whole-farm support system that is flexible enough to reward the contribution of a crofter in Lewis as well as an arable farmer in the Lothians.

Individual land management contracts will reward producers, probably with an annual lump sum, based on the economic, social and environmental benefits they bring to their area.

This radical approach is possible only because of the co-operation of all those who are determined to secure a solid future for rural Scotland. Surely producers in England and Wales deserve a similar, co-ordinated approach?

A prime example of the difference in attitude between Scotland and the rest of Britain also emerged this week. A new electricity and biodiesel production plant is planned at Motherwell which will use animal by-products.

Although Argent, the firm behind the venture, has its head office in England, Scotland was considered the only place that the development could happen. That was because of an attitude of co-operation and encouragement from the Scottish Executive and NFU Scotland.

There was no interest in Whitehall or Cardiff, according to Argent. Perhaps ministers south of the border should look to Scotland to see how a positive attitude can make so much difference?

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