Policy Manager Blog - 8 August

 Last week saw the gathering of around 100 young enthusiasts at the Rural Youth Ideas Festival. The event saw a line up of inspiring speakers, showcased great Scottish produce and launched the results of the Rural Youth Project (RYP) Survey.

The passion and enthusiasm of all attendees was clear for all to see and when an issue such as isolation is felt by so many in the countryside, it is great to gather so many together who can then share their experiences and perhaps feel a little less alone. I always enjoy going to events where people are positive and optimistic, looking for solutions rather than only presenting problems. It is always encouraging to be involved in such things, and the Ideas Festival was no exception.

The purpose of the RYP is to engage with 18 to 28 year olds, who are living and working in rural areas, and support and inspire this future generation. There has been a large focus recently on rural areas with the work of the National Council of Rural Advisors (NCRA) which in conjunction with the RYP, again highlights the issues that many encounter. The survey results came as no real surprise; highlighting issues such as broadband, housing and employment as barriers for young people in rural areas. The RYP survey showed that only 13% of the respondents had access to high speed broadband. Whilst this has a huge effect on rural isolation it is also hindering the growth of rural businesses, farms do not have the option to relocate to areas with adequate infrastructure.

There were several reasons why the survey respondents lived in a rural area with a total of 639 of the 755 respondents identifying themselves as coming from a farming family and of these 235 (37%) identified as still living on the family farm. This is where farming is often unique with many living at their place of work. There is a worrying trend where many rural events lack farmer representation and their input is often a minority. Discussions around rural areas should be reflective of the rural population and lack of young farmers at an event focussed on rural youth is a concern. It is increasingly important that the voice of farmers is hear, which is why NFUS viewed it as vital that we were represented at the event. Sarah Allison, NFUS Next Generation Vice-Chairman spoke at the event and along with organisations such as CKD Galbraith, Davidson and Robertson and The Scottish Farmer, the next generation of farmers and crofters voice was heard. However, if young farmers and crofters want their voice to be heard then they must participate, and events need to ensure that they are encouraging them to attend.

The RYP and the NCRA continues to discuss the wider rural economy but more needs to be done to recognise that Scottish agriculture and crofting is the backbone of rural areas. Whilst farmers and crofters are not the only occupiers of rural areas, it is them who maintain the countryside, provide employment, housing and business opportunities to many. This must be recognised.

Scottish food and drink is a real success story, but we will not see this grow without farmers and crofters receiving the necessary support. With great uncertainty in farming there needs to be wider engagement with young people living and working on farms as they are nervous for their future and the issues they face must also be addressed to ensure the continuation and success of Scottish agriculture.

I am lucky that my role at NFU Scotland includes Policy Manager for the Next Generation Working Group. The drive and passion of the group is infectious and makes working with them a real joy. It’s not hard to be optimistic about the future of farming and crofting in Scotland when you meet these young leaders.NFUS’ Next Generation group is a great example of young people working for the long term advancement of new entrants and young farmers, making sure there is a place for those who follow behind them. The group consists of young and passionate people from all sectors of agriculture across Scotland, from cereal farmers on the East Coast to Crofters from Shetland the group covers the many issues facing the future of the industry. Whilst we can learn so much from others and the knowledge and experience of older generations, we cannot devalue the enthusiasm and optimism of the next generation and working together will help Scottish agriculture to thrive.

Full details of regional reps and committee reps can be found on the Next Generation page at along with a link to sign up to our quarterly newsletter, summer edition coming soon!

Author: Jenny Brunton

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DMA Smythe

228 days ago

Thanks for your coverage of the event at Kinross. Perth and Kinross Rural Leader funded the event and it is vital that this stream of rural development funding be maintained after Brexit. Farming and rural development are both key factors in an economically sustainable countryside.
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About The Author

Jenny Brunton

Jenny Brunton joined NFU Scotland in early 2018 as Policy Manager for CAP Schemes and Post Brexit Agricultural Policy. Jenny is responsible for developing policy for both Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 schemes, ensuring the members are represented through NFU Scotland’s policy. Having been raised on her family’s mixed farm, Jenny studied History and Politics at University before travelling abroad, returning to work on a nearby farm in Fife. A keen member of her local Young Farmers Club, Jenny will also be responsible for the Next Generation Working Group and looks forward to engaging with the future leaders in Agriculture.

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