Director of Policy's Blog - 29 July 2019

As NFU Scotland continues to juggle the day-to-day jobs which most affect members with their long term goals, Director of Policy Jonnie Hall discusses the Union’s ‘Big Six’ priorities and why they are so important.

What is it they say: ‘Live each day as if it were your last, farm each day as if you were to live forever’.  Sound advice in this age of instant, where so much of life is about right here right now.  

There’s also another adage that I’ve tried to instil into my two sons: ‘You can do anything, but you can’t do everything’.  So, what has such ‘wisdom’ got to do with the work of NFU Scotland?

A clear function of NFU Scotland’s is to support and promote its members’ and their interests. As a membership organisation, so much of the Union’s work is dealing with the here and now issues that face individual members or particular sectors.  

The ‘firefighting’ is endless, and we’re exceptionally good at it.  We work on the front-line to deal with the things that matter today – right now, the Union is dealing with about 250 separate policy workstreams that affect members across Scotland in one way or another.

In addition, the Union is all about ‘influence’ – with a clear purpose to bring pressure on policy makers to gain favourable outcomes for all of Scotland’s farmers and crofters.   

As well as dealing with the urgent issues of today, the Union must be much more strategic in thinking about the bigger picture – the issues that affect Scottish agriculture now and in the future.  We need to understand what those issues are in order to wield influence to get the outcomes we want.  Let’s face it, there’s a lot that Scottish agriculture has to meet head on and engage in.

Over recent months, the Union has set out the Big Six – the key policy issues that affect each and every farm and croft in Scotland to a significant degree and will do for some time to come.

In no particular order, the Big Six are: Brexit, Current CAP, Supply Chains, Land Reform and Agricultural Holdings, Climate Change and Species Management.

All big headline issues of their own right.  All complex, and often very political.  All attracting increasing public interest. All subject to greater political and public scrutiny.

At the same time, it would be understandable for any farmer or crofter to question the relevance of such weighty matters to their individual circumstances or daily demands. But the links are very real.  And policy decisions and actions under any and all of the Big Six will – and do – have a fundamental influence on the prosperity and practice of all farms and crofts.

Despite the shopping lists of policy matters the Union deals with, week in and week out, coming up with the Big Six was relatively straightforward – it’s simply the distilled version of at least 99 per cent of all the matters raised by members and which affect their own interests.  They are the frontpage headlines driving the demands and direction of the Scottish agricultural industry.

Having articulated the Big Six, it’s been very assuring to have these confirmed, time and again, by the questions, concerns and, often, frustrations of members at branch meetings, commodity committees, regional boards and the like.

I know it can be difficult to relate such ethereal subjects to the stark realities of life on the land. But by doing exactly that, NFU Scotland will lead the way and will continue to exert yet more influence on the political and policy developments that will inevitably shape Scotland’s agricultural industry and determine the future prosperity of individual businesses.

It’s increasingly important that the work of the Union, by and for its members, where goals are set and actions undertaken are better coordinated and more coherent.  That can only be achieved if there’s a shared understanding of challenges and common purpose.  And we all have a role to play.

Your Union will always champion the individual and focus energy on your issues today.  But never has it been more vital that NFU Scotland also maps out the Big Six and ensures everything it does, no matter how small or concealed, makes a valid and positive contribution to achieving our common goals.

Author: Jonnie Hall

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About The Author

Jonnie Hall

NFU Scotland’s Director of Policy Jonnie Hall has been involved with agricultural and rural policy for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (BSc. Honours in Agricultural Economics and an M.Phil. in agricultural policy research) and Oxford University (MSc. in Agricultural Economics). Following an academic and consultancy career, Jonnie joined what was the Scottish Landowners’ Federation in January 1998, leading their policy work on agriculture and land use issues. Jonnie then joined NFU Scotland in May 2007, and has overall responsibility for the policy work of NFU Scotland as Director of Policy and Member Services. He has served on all key rural and agricultural policy stakeholder groups.

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