Farmers Markets

Environment and Rural Development – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 7th December 2006.

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Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat 2:15 pm, 7th December 2006

To ask the Scottish Executive what action it is taking to support and encourage farmers markets. (S2O-11360)

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

The Executive welcomes the development of farmers markets in Scotland, and support services for the Scottish Association of Farmers Markets are provided by the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society, which receives core funding from the Executive.

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat

The minister may be aware that Edinburgh's award-winning weekly farmers market attracts 300,000 shoppers and contributes £1.6 million to the rural economy and £800,000 to the city centre economy each year. Farmers markets represent a good opportunity to buy local. What is the Scottish Executive doing to increase the procurement of local produce within the public sector?

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

I am well aware of the Country Life award, and I congratulate all those involved in the Edinburgh market on both showcasing Scottish produce so well and providing the consumer with such a satisfactory product.

Purchasing local is a clear element of our food strategy, and it is important that we promote Scottish produce in all cases. As the member will probably be aware, we have reviewed public procurement arrangements and we are keen to ensure that, for example, the project carried out in Ayrshire in collaboration with the education authority is replicated throughout Scotland. We have issued material to enable people to understand how better to ensure the procurement of local goods.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

In asking this question, I must declare an interest as a farmer and a past chairman of the Scottish Association of Farmers Markets, which has already been referred to.

Will the minister do all that he can to encourage rural diversification by ensuring that at least one of the programmes yet to be agreed under tier 3 of the land management contracts supports diversification into retail, such as farm shops, food networks and farmers markets?

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

Final decisions on the content of tiers 1, 2 and 3 will depend ultimately on the funds that are available, and as the member is well aware that is still subject to negotiation between ourselves and Europe. However, I will certainly bear in mind the fact that diversification has to be part of that, and I will take into account his comments on entry into retail and other similar businesses.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

The minister will be aware that farmers markets form an important tourist attraction in many other countries—France springs to mind. What liaison has been undertaken with VisitScotland with a view to marketing farmers markets in a more co-ordinated and effective manner?

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

I am unable to give an answer. I am aware of some discussions, but I am unaware of the detail. My best course would be to write to the member and advise him of the up-to-date position.