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Scottish Election 2016: What are the parties saying?

Scottish Election 2016: What are the parties saying?

NFU Scotland members may rightly think that not a year has gone by in recent memory without at least one visit to a polling station. However, with agriculture, food and drink policy and rural development all being devolved to the Scottish Parliament, the interests of our industry in the election on Thursday 5 May are clear.

NFU Scotland has enjoyed strong and positive links with Scottish parliamentarians from across the political spectrum throughout the lifetime of this parliament. In the last 12 months alone, the Union has met with over a quarter of Holyrood’s MSPs, contributed evidence to 10 parliamentary inquiries, and has been mentioned on countless occasions in parliamentary debate.

The fall-out over the delay in support payments proved that agriculture is not a Cinderella industry that can be used as a political football. Governments must now be willing to lead the charge to ensure that the success of Scotland’s Good Food Story – a meaningful and laudable achievement of the most recent government – is shared right down the supply chain.

At NFU Scotland’s rally at the Scottish Parliament in March, MSPs of all colours queued up to lend their support to the industry. “We are listening”, they said. And dissecting the policies for agriculture and rural Scotland as set out in the manifestos of Scotland’s six main political parties, there is an encouraging richness of detail which reflects many of the priorities set out in the Union’s own Manifesto for Rural Scotland 2016.

Headlines are as follows.

The SNP’s policy-heavy section on rural Scotland offers a range of measures to build on the SNP’s current record on the food and drink industry – pledging to introduce a Good Food Nation Bill to draw together food standards, public procurement and food waste. Essentially, the party also states that it will “ensure lessons are learned to improve the payments system” whilst fighting for a simpler and more flexible with CAP that – interestingly – focuses on dysfunctional supply chains.

The Scottish Labour offering majors on reforms to tax and devolving powers to local authorities and communities, encouraging the development of cooperatives where possible. On food and farming, the party pledges to undertake an immediate review of CAP and to argue for reforms which strengthen the rural economy and deliver reductions in agricultural climate change. These aims will also form the central focus of a Scottish Food Commission as well as a Food and Farming Bill which will put the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board into statute.

In a bold move, the Scottish Tories open their manifesto conceding that they will not win this election. Rather, party leader Ruth Davidson is ‘applying for the job of opposition’. The party pledges to support producers in the marketplace and provide better promotion and support for local producers from the public sector. Closer to home, the party unequivocally calls for an immediate, independent inquiry into problems with support payment delivery, and to reverse some of the measures in the recent Land Reform Bill.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat manifesto is more detailed than its opponents on science and innovation, with promises to establish a scientific basis for GM crop policy, as well as recruiting to fill the role of the Chief Scientific Advisor promptly. On food and drink, the party will make moves to reform procurement rules to encourage purchase of local food and help smaller producers and farmers access large public sector markets, whilst also pressing for increased powers of the Groceries Code Adjudicator.

Keen to be seen as the only party offering a “bold” alternative in Holyrood, the Scottish Green Party manifesto has a key focus on changing agricultural systems so that they go further to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance biodiversity and increase carbon storage”. The party pledges to shorten supply chains by supporting social enterprises, cooperatives and employee-owned businesses. As radical land reformists, the party will support a right to buy and will campaign to give children equal rights to inherit land.

Whilst the five manifestos of the mainstream parties generally support continued European membership, the UKIP manifesto is unapologetically pro-‘Brexit’. The manifesto focuses on policies that should be implemented by a government that is freed from political integration with Europe –introducing a modified agricultural support payment scheme and promoting individual liberties by rolling back government regulation – abolishing SEPA in its entirety. UKIP will also support research into GM cultivation and will allow a free vote on the subject in the Scottish Parliament.

A full digest of the party’s rural and agricultural commitments can be found by clicking here

Author: Clare Slipper

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About The Author

Clare Slipper

Clare Slipper joined NFU Scotland in 2014 as the Union’s first dedicated Parliamentary Officer. Within her role, Clare briefs politicians in the Scottish, Westminster and European parliaments on key issues impacting Scottish food producers and represents members interests in the policy-making process. Clare started her career working for a public affairs and communications agency, where she worked with clients in the renewable energy and planning sectors. She graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in Politics and Sociology in 2012.

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