Union Council Tackles 'Big Three' Issues

NFU Scotland has used its annual Council meeting, held this year at Battleby, near Perth, to debate the major strategic issues that the Scottish farming industry will face in the coming weeks, months and years.

The Union’s workload is currently dominated by implementation of CAP Reform, land tenure issues and the forthcoming referendum on independence.  Speakers at the meeting looked at CAP implementation in England and Ireland as well as examining the process involved in reviewing land and agricultural tenancy legislation.  Members were also asked to submit questions on independence that they would like NFUS to ask ahead of next year’s referendum.

In his opening speech, NFU Scotland’s Chief Executive Scott Walker said all three had a common theme – members are increasingly frustrated, either by the lack of clear progress or the availability of information.

Speaking at Battleby, Mr Walker said:
“Our CAP Reform journey started more than three years ago and since the Pack review, we have worked flat out and won flexibilities in the recent deal agreed in Europe that take into account the many needs of farmers in Scotland.   We made sure that those making decisions in Scotland, the UK and Europe heard Scotland’s views.

“But now that the high level deal has been done at a European level, we need the Scottish Government to kick start the consultation process that will establish which of the options negotiated it will use.   Feedback from our members underlines how frustrated they are about the lack of progress in this decision-making process. 

“They are looking for greater clarity on key areas such as coupled payments in the beef sector; the pace of transition to new area payments for established businesses; new entrant support; equivalent greening measures and, most crucially, what level of support an individual farm business can expect to receive under the new CAP so that they can start making business decisions now.

“The bottom line is that the move to an area-based payment regime and a low budget per hectare doesn’t fit well with Scottish agriculture.  The Scottish Government must pick up the pace as time is now getting short to develop a fix.

“We will be going round the country in December to talk to our members.  For these meetings to deliver most benefit, we need the Scottish Government to have issued its consultation on its vision for new CAP arrangements in Scotland and the serious debate to have started.

“Discussions on land tenure have always polarised opinions. For the Union there are two issues.   First, the very political and social issue of wider land reform and who should own the land in Scotland. Secondly, there is the Scottish farming issue of how do you ensure that there is land available for existing or new farmers to rent – both now and in the future - and that land rented is done so on terms that are fair to all.

“Progress in this area has been slow, but some is being made.   Our work ahead is focused on two areas.  Firstly, are legislative changes needed to secure tenancies to make them fit for purpose?   Secondly, what changes are needed to ensure that we have the correct vehicle to encourage owners to rent out land that they don’t require for their own farming business.

“It also is important that clear timetables and remit for Richard Lochhead’s planned review of agricultural tenancies emerges shortly to avoid having the brakes applied to an issue where achieving progress is already challenging.

“And lastly, the Scottish independence referendum is dominating political thinking and we can only expect the intensity of that debate to grow towards 18 September 2014.   NFU Scotland is non-political.   We are not choosing sides but we need to ensure that the members hear from both camps, allowing them to make the best-informed decisions.
“None of these three issues have a clear and simple solution and our members don’t have a single point of view on any of them.   But the strength of the Union is that we can bring people together who have strong opposing views and we can hold these debates and discussion.”  Ends

Notes to Editors
 NFU Scotland’s annual council meeting was held at SNH Battleby, near Perth.
 The Union is holding ten open CAP consultation meetings in December.  The dates, times and venues are as follows:
Monday 2 December  1.00pm  Western House Hotel, Ayr
Monday 2 December  7.00pm Urr Valley Hotel, Castle Douglas
Tuesday 3 December  7.00pm The Lodge, Carfraemill
Tuesday 10 December  7.00pm Huntingtower Hotel, Perth
Wednesday 11 December 12.00 noon Garfield Hotel, Stepps
Thursday 12 December 1.00pm Thistle Hotel, Inverness
Thursday 12 December 7.00pm  Lochter Centre, Oldmeldrum
Friday 13 December  1.00pm Tarbert Village Hall, Tarbert
Tuesday 17 December  7.00pm  Lerwick Hotel, Lerwick
Wednesday 18 December 12.00 noon Ayre Hotel, Kirkwall

Date Published:

News Article No.: 134/13

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