Agriculture Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:12 pm on 10th October 2018.

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Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray 6:12 pm, 10th October 2018

Several right hon. and hon. Members have mentioned that this is the first time in over 40 years that our UK Parliament has discussed and debated UK agricultural policy. For us younger Members, it is the first time in our lifetime that this Parliament has been able to discuss such matters, which I welcome greatly. As someone who, from leaving agricultural college to being elected, had not just a job in farming but a passion for farming, this legislation is important to me.

That passion has continued in my time as the Member of Parliament for Moray, which is a rich agricultural community. Farmers from Glenlivet to Garmouth, and from Keith to Kintessack, are extremely positive about several of the Bill’s elements, because there is a great deal to be positive about. However, what we have unfortunately heard from SNP Members throughout the debate has been doom and gloom. We heard from Deidre Brock for 20 minutes, and I would have liked her to have spoken for longer, because we heard absolutely nothing about a SNP vision for Scottish agriculture—[Interruption.] I will come to their holding up of bits of paper in a moment.

All we got from the hon. Lady was petty political point scoring and absolutely no answers for Scottish farmers, who are looking for Scottish MPs to come down to Westminster to stand up for farming. I believe that they are getting that from Scottish Conservative Members, and I think they got that from Jamie Stone in his earlier intervention, but from SNP Members they got nothing but criticism. The SNP highlighted the omissions from the Bill and the failures regarding briefings, but there was nothing about what the SNP would do for agriculture in Scotland.

I really do wish that the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith had spoken for a bit longer, because that would have given us more than just her holding up documents, saying that the Scottish Government are consulting. In reality, there is a vacuum in policy from this tired SNP Scottish Government. They do not have the answers. Our Scottish farmers and my Moray farmers deserve better.

I urge the SNP Members here—all three of them—to join us and start working together to set things right. Give Scottish farmers the guarantee of inclusion in the Bill while Nicola Sturgeon and her Ministers work on their own long-overdue proposals. The NFUS made it clear in its briefing for the debate that another schedule should be inserted in the Bill. Local farmers in Moray and farmers across Scotland are greatly disappointed that the SNP would rather play party politics than get around the table, work with Ministers and accept the offer that was accepted by the Welsh Government.

It is becoming more and more evident to Scottish farmers and rural Scotland in general that it is the Scottish Conservatives, not the Scottish National party, who are truly standing up for their interests. That has been clear in today’s debate. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith thinks that farming is a matter for her to laugh at. It is a serious matter for our constituents, and that is why so many of us are here today, trying to ensure that this important Bill is passed. I am sure it will be improved as it goes through Parliament. It is unfortunate that, time after time, the SNP simply wants to talk down what we do in Westminster, rather than talking it up and working for our farmers, who deserve more than they are getting from the SNP.