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Supporting Scottish Agriculture

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 6th March 2019.

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Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

I certainly hope that that will be the case. It is interesting that the figure has actually risen in the most recent budget, which is a matter of concern.

We also need reforms to support a more equitable distribution of the funding that is available, irrespective of the cost of running the system. The current emphasis on direct payments provides large and often wealthy landowners with significant sums of money, while 45 per cent of farms generate income that works out at below the minimum agriculture wage. Funding needs to be allocated more fairly and according to the principle of public good for public money. It should promote inclusive growth and a wide range of social benefits as well as economic and environmental ones.

Support needs to be in place to compensate for natural disadvantages such as biophysical constraints and remoteness. LFASS is currently a lifeline for many farmers and crofters, and the cabinet secretary must not only guarantee protection against the upcoming 60 per cent cut but make it clear that there will be a source of support of that kind in the long term.

Our future support system should also be used to improve support for animal welfare by, for example, better incentivising those who make the choice to keep calves and cows together for longer and by supporting the rearing of male dairy calves instead of exporting them. There is growing concern that the live export of animals for fattening and slaughter does nothing to positively promote Scottish agriculture. We should bring that practice to an end; otherwise, the Government’s claims to support the production of meat close to where animals are born and reared are worthless.

There needs to be a clear commitment to a replacement for LEADER funding. Crucially, our new agricultural support system must also work to tackle the scandal of food poverty in Scotland. It is an absolute disgrace that, in a country with a world-class food and drink sector, children still go to bed hungry. The new agricultural support system must help the sector to fulfil people’s basic human right to food, and I once again call on the Scottish Government to enshrine that right in law.