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President's New Year Message - 24 December 2019

We are leaving the 2010’s in a far different place than we entered it and 2020 doesn’t just bring a New Year, but a new decade and a new world for Scottish farming and crofting writes President Andrew McCornick.

Apparently, we are going to “Get Brexit Done” and that means a massive change in how we look at our markets, our support and our people.



Moving away from the cocoon of the EU after almost 47 years will be no easy task and will require significant negotiating skills and resolve to get the right outcome.

Even at this stage, Scottish farming cannot escape the politics. The decisive Westminster position for the Prime Minister will allow him to move on with Brexit.  But Scotland returned more SNP MPs which creates a paradox. Both the Prime Minister and the First Minister believe that they have the ultimate answer to all our problems.

Physician and science writer Ben Goldacre summed it up beautifully in the title of his 2014 book: “I Think You’ll Find It’s A Bit More Complicated Than That”.

And if you want a bit of festive fun, look up the Dunning Kruger Effect and see how many of our current crop of politicians you think this may apply to!

NFU Scotland’s role is not to get involved in political machinations.  It is purely to get on with fighting for the best future for farming and crofting in Scotland regardless of the politics.

So, my wish list for 2020 and beyond is based on the old adage: “Plan like you’ll live forever and live like you’ll die tomorrow”.

The clear priorities we set at the very beginning of the Brexit process over three years ago were free and frictionless trade; access to competent labour, the same quantum of support for the industry and an appropriate agriculture policy,  And that mantra was strengthened by the feedback we received at the recent round of member roadshows in November.

How do we achieve that?

  • NFU Scotland needs access to the entire cast of Scottish MPs and Westminster Ministers to ensure that Westminster take our perspective into account.  The letters are already in the post!  Primarily, we must avoid a No-Deal outcome to Brexit and then work through major bills coming forward on Agriculture, Trade, Migration and Environment.
  • The five-year promise made during the election campaign that our funding will be equivalent to what we would have received as part of the CAP must be fulfilled.  It must be ring fenced and delivered to Scotland for agriculture. 
  • We want a competent labour supply, both on farm and off-farm, seasonal and more permanent or we will not be able to harvest and process our produce.
  • We need an agricultural policy for Scotland from the Scottish Government sooner rather than later.  That must meet the massive challenge of hitting the Scotland Food and Drink export target of £30bn by 2030 and the 75% emissions reduction by the same year. That policy must drive in profitability, or we will lose the enthusiastic, entrepreneurial next generation and farmers and crofters will be the next endangered species in Scotland. We need economic drivers that are market orientated to be foremost and the delivery of public goods as a complementary co-product. 
  • Europe is our primary market beyond the UK and any trade deal with the EU on agri-goods must be as free as possible.
  • The UK is the biggest market for Scottish produce so there must be commonly agreed frameworks that allow normal trade to function and prevents market distortion. 
  • The promise of a Standards Commission must be delivered.  The need for it is even greater now that future trading agreements are going to take centre stage from the Withdrawal Agreement after 31 January. We cannot be asked to produce product to the highest of world standards then allow our markets and viability to be undermined by competition from places where these standards are disregarded. That cannot be bargained away.

But in conclusion, and quoting The Spice Girls, “What I want; what I really, really want” for the future 2020 and beyond….

Over the last three and a half years, I have been deeply frustrated by the rhetoric and intransigence that has been pervading our political landscape. There has been too much focus on polarisation and not enough time delivering for the electorate.  That climate sees many well-meaning parliamentarians at grass roots level unable to deliver to their ambition.

The binary view of life is undermining the respect due our elected representatives and opens the door to keyboard warriors who ramp up the rhetoric, bluster and incitement.

I truly believe we have more that brings us together than divides us and NFUS is a template to follow.

Our members are a coalition of views that come together to fight for the greater common good. We have members in the highest hills; the remotest of islands; the best of land and everything in-between.

Our members all have different challenges and ambitions and yet, as an industry, we are interdependent on each other.  In many ways, this is our strength and something that the political process can learn from.

It is the season of goodwill. Our politicians need to take time out from politicking and bickering, get on with the day job, and deliver for the greater good across all parliaments in these challenging times.

I wish you all a prosperous and healthy New Year from myself and the entire NFUS team.

Author: Andrew McCornick

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About The Author

Andrew McCornick

Andrew, who is married with three sons and a daughter, was born and brought up on a dairy farm in Wigtown. Andrew and wife Janice farm their 230+ ha unit with 160 suckler cows and 600 breeding ewes with a small herd of pedigree Charolais cattle. Andrew's sons farm a nearby tenanted unit which frequently provides replacement breeding stock for Barnbackle. For as long as Andrew can remember, he has been a member of the Union, and got more involved when the consultation for Nithsdale NVZ came out. From there he went onto become vice chairman of the Dumfries branch, and then onto his previous role of Regional Board Chairman for Dumfries and Galloway. He also sat on the LFASS committee. Andrew was elected Vice President in February 2015.

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