NFU Scotland President Tells Policy Makers to Get Their Heads Out of the Sand

Action needed if the potential of Scotland’s active farmers, crofters and producers is to be realised.

NFU Scotland President says collaboration on key issues will ensure Scottish agriculture rides the post-pandemic storm to boost the economy, sustain rural communities and deliver food security.

Success, however, will only be achieved if policy makers “take their head out of the sand”, listen hard and deliver meaningful, viable support for the industry which has a critical role to play in a successful green recovery.

Delivering his first address to NFU Scotland’s annual conference since being elected in February 2021, the Union’s President, Martin Kennedy, made it clear that Scotland’s agricultural sector has never been under so much pressure.

Scotland’s farmers, crofters and producers are facing crippling, escalating input costs, labour shortages, climate change, imbalanced supply chains, unscrutinised trade deals, and continued uncertainty around future policy and support.  In addition, the sector is dealing with countless ongoing concerns from issues such as slurry storage rules, land reform, rural crime, species management, right through to problems with utility companies, access rights, plastics, carbon credits and largescale forestry expansion.

In his speech, Kennedy highlighted the strength of the Union and how its lobbying powers had never been more needed, claiming that poor decisions are being taken within both UK and Scottish Governments, the EU and globally, by people who have

no real understanding of the consequences their actions have on the livelihoods of NFU Scotland’s members, the environment and the socio-economic makeup of rural communities.  

Saying ‘one size does not fit all’ he pleaded for policy makers to, ‘take their head out of the sand’ and reassured members that, “Our voice needs to be heard not only because it’s in our best interest but it’s also in the best interest of our consumers and our economy.”

To tackle these key challenges, Kennedy explained that the Union is focusing its lobbying efforts over the next two years on eight strategic priorities: future support, rural economy, optimal land use, climate change, public engagement, effective conservation, fairer supply chains and better regulation.  He accepted that the landscape – both on the ground and politically - can change quickly in agriculture so these goals may well shift and adapt to current situations.

“At every opportunity what we must do is highlight the true value of domestic food and drink production in terms of health, climate change, the environment and the economy,” he said.

In an impassioned address, Kennedy, detailed the labour crisis and steps in place to encourage a full work force, good education and employment opportunities.  He called for global collaboration within the beef sector to ensure methane emissions are measured consistently using GWP* rather than out-of-date GWP100. And reflected on the crisis the Scottish pig and poultry farmers have been experiencing.  

Concluding his speech, Kennedy, added, “In Scotland, we have a fantastic opportunity to create a future policy and support structure that focuses on the positives of what we are providing. However, we also have to be mindful that we have an Internal Market Act and a Subsidy Control Bill that may limit what we need to do to fit Scotland’s needs. Focusing on active agriculture is absolutely vital if we are to keep the critical mass that underpins the wider economy that relies on farming and crofting.

Specifically on future policy and support, he added: “There is still a lot of work for the Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board (ARIOB) to oversee and

implement but I am confident the Cabinet Secretary will announce at our conference tomorrow (11 February) some of the progress that has been made and allude to future developments that will be in our interest in the near future.”

Notes for Editors

  • NFU Scotland is holding its two-day AGM and conference virtually.  The programme and recorded sessions from the packed two days of discussion and debate are available to view at:
  • Tomorrow (Friday 11 February) at 11.15am, there will be the traditional address from Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, Mairi Gougeon to NFU Scotland members.


Contact Diana McGowan on 07920 018619

Author: Diana McGowan

Date Published:

News Article No.: 14/22

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About The Author

Diana McGowan

Diana joined NFU Scotland in October 2019 bringing with her over 20 years work experience in communication roles in tourism, events and forestry in both private and public sectors. She is now a key member of the Communications team and is Editor of the Union’s flagship Scottish Farming Leader magazine.

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