Combinable Crops Vice Chair's Blog - 27 June 2019

After a record breaking Highland Show, NFU Scotland Combinable Crops Vice Chair Willie Thomson sees the public’s appetite for Scotland’s food and drink story and looks at the vital role our arable sector plays in that story.

Last week’s Royal Highland Show highlights the great public interest in the food and farming story.  With record breaking crowds of 195,000 over the four days, it is clear that the public, and particularly young people, are passionate about the countryside.  

Organisations like RHET are invaluable at telling the ‘farm to fork’ story but more needs to be done to raise the profile of farming in Scotland and the wide benefits that this brings, not only in producing food but also through benefiting the environment, supporting rural communities and employment in the food and drink industry.

According to recently published research commissioned by the Scottish Government and announced at last week’s Royal Highland Show, public support of Scottish farming is growing. 86 per cent of the public stated that farming is vital for the success of the Scottish economy and 83 per cent agreed that Scottish farming provides a vital public service.  The Scotch whisky industry alone directly employs more than 10,000 people in Scotland.

Earlier this year the Scottish food and drink turnover statistics were announced, with Scotland’s food and drink sector generating an annual turnover of £14.8 billion in 2017 - an increase of six per cent, or £836 million, on the previous year.

The cereal sector is not only a vital part of the agriculture industry, but the grain it produces forms the foundation of Scotland’s incredible food and drink industry.  Tax on Scotch Whisky in the UK currently stands at 74 per cent, meaning £3 in every £4 spent on Scotch Whisky in the UK goes to the HM Treasury in excise and VAT.

One hectare of barley can produce 2,200 litres of malt whisky and Scotch Whisky.  With tax in 2018/19 totalling £3.81 billion this would fund the annual salaries of 160,000 nurses or 157,000 police officers, something we all benefit from.  We need the wider public to continue to ‘buy into’ farming and to do this we must fill the knowledge gap and ensure both politicians and the wider public understand that a future support system must allow farmers and crofters to drive productivity gains, improve their bottom lines whilst delivering higher value produce to the food and drinks sectors whose growth hinges on provenance and quality.

We really do have a great story to tell, so let’s shout about it.

  • 41 bottles of Scotch Whisky are shipped from Scotland to 175 markets around the world each second, totalling over 1.2Bn every year.
  • Laid end to end those bottles would stretch about 350,000km - that's 90 per cent of the distance to the moon!
  • Scotch Whisky exports are worth £4.7Bn per year.
  • More than 10,000 people are directly employed in the Scotch Whisky industry in Scotland and over 40,000 jobs across the UK are supported by the industry.
  • 7,000 of these jobs are in rural areas of Scotland providing vital employment and investment to communities across the Highlands and Islands.

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Andrew Moir

1763 days ago

Well said Willie and with the SQC audit backing up the provenance and quality you so eloquently described we have a world class product and the expectation of a premium price to reward that hard work is our members expectation.
John M Lawrie

1762 days ago

Brilliant Blog, thank you! I speak to school children about the value of our barley crop and now I have the figures to back up what I say!
R Simpson

1758 days ago

Cheers , well said. I’ll drink to that ,
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