The importance of protecting and maintaining Scotland’s unique farming industry in the Brexit negotiations has been highlighted at NFU Scotland’s first meeting with the UK Government’s Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Andrea Leadsom MP.
At the constructive meeting, held on November 2, Union representatives outlined the importance of engaging and consulting with all parts of the UK and all sectors of the food and farming industries as the UK Government formulates its position ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU.
Union officeholders highlighted the importance to Scotland of securing a robust trade deal with the EU and other trading partners as this will profoundly influence future agricultural and rural policy in Scotland.
Representatives pressed for higher trading costs, customs controls, barriers and tariffs to be mitigated in any new trading arrangements, and sought reassurances that Scottish provenance, quality and high production standards will be protected.
The Union welcomed the positive dialogue with the Secretary of State and will look to build on the discussion through further face-to-face meetings in the weeks and months ahead.
Speaking after the meeting, President Allan Bowie said: “We welcome the Secretary of State’s inaugural visit and our opportunity to cover a lot of important issues in the time we had with her.
“The Secretary of State is clearly aware of the unique challenges that our Scottish industry will face in the next few years and we were encouraged by her straight talking and willingness to engage. We have confidence that she is someone that we can work with to capitalise on the opportunities that Brexit can bring to Scotland.
“As a Union, we look forward to working positively and constructively with her and her department over the coming weeks and months, as we enter a hugely important period for the future for our sector.
“That engagement is crucial. In Scotland, agricultural production is just the start of a supply chain which underpins a successful food and drinks sector, which has grown into the biggest manufacturing industry that we have. Farming and crofting in Scotland not only produces the vital raw materials necessary for our food and drink manufacturers, but does so in a manner that works with nature, delivering huge environmental and biodiversity benefits.
“It also abundantly clear the degree to which a profitable farming sector underpins the whole rural economy, maintaining fragile communities in Scotland’s most marginal areas.
“That is why we were keen to impress on the Secretary of State our desire to see agriculture at the heart of Brexit negotiations. There are opportunities ahead for our industry that can be realised if we secure the right trading arrangements with Europe; prioritise the countries for which we want to secure new trade deals; ensure we continue to have access to employees to meet our labour needs and have a domestic agricultural policy that prioritises production.”