Parliamentary Officer's Blog 7 September 2016

Summer recess for Scottish Parliament is well and truly over with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon mapping out a legislative programme that has much for rural Scotland and our agricultural and food sectors to get their teeth into.

For the wider rural community, the First Minister prioritised digital connectivity and we await further detail on the delivery plan. Our members around the country are all too aware that rural Scotland has been left woefully behind the central belt when it comes to digital delivery.

With many farmers, crofters and rural businesses increasingly dependent on a reliable internet connection, it is about time the infrastructure was brought into the 21st century and we look forward to working with government on this.

Looking further ahead, the First Minister’s comments on the EU referendum result are noted. NFUS has been in regular contact with Scottish and UK Ministers since the vote on EU membership and has continually pressed the need for certainty and stability going forward. In her statement, the First Minister offered reassurances to infrastructure projects supported by EU structural funds.  For some rural communities, that is fantastic news and we are looking for the same certainty to be attached to the levels of Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 CAP funding currently available to farmers and crofters as we negotiate Brexit.

We are encouraged by the Scottish Government’s various pledges on food and drink, particularly the review of public procurement (an NFU Scotland Manifesto item) and the forthcoming Good Food Nation Bill, which must be used to redress some major imbalances in the food and drink supply chain.

Scotland’s food and drink sector may have seen a welcome surge in turnover to £14.4 billion, as announced this week, but the fact that farm incomes have halved in the past four years underlines the level of disconnect in our food chains.

Other bills of note include climate change, community empowerment, consultation on Crown Estates devolution, an Islands Bill, drafting a new Crofting Development Plan, preparation for a new entrants’ opportunity programme, a Forestry Bill and a Small Businesses bonus scheme expansion.

The First Minister also confirmed that work is underway to prepare a Referendum Bill looking at a second independence referendum that could be introduced depending on the outcome of the SNP’s ‘listening exercise’ that was announced on Friday.

Overall, this legislative programme contains a welcome amount of attention and measures for rural Scotland which we look forward to working with SG on in the near future. All the documents are online here:

In the short term, it almost goes without saying that the lengthy, ongoing delays around delivery of support to Scottish farmers and crofters remains our focus and the First Minister made reference to this issue in her statement.  It is an unacceptable fact that hundreds of support claims submitted to Scottish Government in May and June of 2015 have yet to be properly processed and settled when we are only a few short months from when 2016 claims would reasonably be expected to commence.

Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing will deliver a CAP payments update to the Scottish Parliament in the near future against the backdrop of worry, anger and frustration from our members that progress remains unacceptably slow.

We will be looking for reassurances that Scottish Government’s commitment to resolve the IT mess is well in hand.

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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