NFU Scotland President Calls for Politicians to Make Food Security the Number One Priority

Presidential address to #NFUS2023 AGM in Glasgow commits to lobbying in best interests of farmers and crofters

NFU Scotland President Martin Kennedy has used his address to the Union’s AGM, Conference and annual dinner in Glasgow to call on politicians to ignore ill-informed rhetoric and focus on what farming and crofting can and will deliver for Scotland in the future.

The Union’s event, which returned to an in-person format for the first time since 2020, will be held on Thursday 9 February and Friday 10 February at the Radisson Blu hotel with more than 420 attending the annual dinner on Thursday evening.

Addressing delegates, Mr Kennedy said: “We, as a union are absolutely committed to lobbying Governments to make sure correct political decisions are made in the best interests of our members.  We will also take responsibility for addressing the challenges we face around delivering on climate change and for the environment and we will deliver more for the wider benefit of society. 

“However, there is still too much ill-informed rhetoric from a loud minority within our population on our industry and there are government decision makers on both sides of the border who are unaware of the unintended consequences of their policies. 

“All too often, our ability to produce food, not just ourselves but for others who are less fortunate, is placed at the bottom of the priority pile and viewed as least important.  That fails to recognise that without food production, we will not be able to address any of the many challenges ahead as we will not have the people on the ground with the skills, knowledge and technology to do it for us.

“I have major concerns when it comes to the lack of understanding of what happens in Scotland’s countryside.  As food producers, we are only one per cent of our population.  We deliver the most important energy source of all and yet there is a far bigger percentage who claim to be the experts. 

“Thanks to farmers and crofters, the vast majority of the population go about their daily lives with few concerns about how their food arrives on their plates because of a remarkable, underestimated industry with primary producers as its cornerstone, that has risen to the challenge of keeping our shelves full.”

In his speech, Mr Kennedy highlighted that many of the political decisions made at a UK level currently affecting the industry were made by those no longer in post.  Since the Union’s AGM was last held in person in 2020, the industry has dealt with three different Prime Ministers, three Chancellors, three Secretaries of State for DEFRA and three Home Secretaries.

“The lessons learned from Brexit, the Covid pandemic and the devastating war in Ukraine, must open government’s eyes in terms of what is important right now and the critical role that the nation’s food producers play.” he said. 

From a Scottish perspective, as a result of the Bute House agreement, Mr Kennedy also identified a real hardening of the green agenda as: “seriously worrying not only from a food security point of view, but also from an environmental perspective due to the lack of understanding of how our rural landscape works.

“If we get our future policy for Scottish agriculture wrong, and listen to the ideology of those blinkered people who cannot see the wider picture, then we will go in a backward direction in terms of delivering the wider benefits to society that we all want to see.  Poor policy will drive change on an unimaginable scale and it will not be farmers and crofters that will be jumping, it will be our consumers who will point out that this happened on the watch of a government who were taken in by false rhetoric.    
“To get our future policy correct, we must listen more to those who live and breathe this industry.”  


Contact Bob Carruth on 07788 927675

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 11/23

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About The Author

Bob Carruth

A dairy farmer’s son, I joined NFU Scotland in 1999 after 13 years as an agricultural journalist. Following spells as a regional manager and policy lead on milk, livestock and animal health and welfare, I became Communications Director in 2008.

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