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Farming (Support for Environmental Sustainability)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 4th December 2019.

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Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

8. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure that farmers are supported to operate in an environmentally sustainable way. (S5O-03864)

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

Environmental sustainability is a key concern for the Scottish Government, and we continue to support our farmers and crofters through direct payments and the Scottish rural development programme.

We have taken an ambitious approach through actions and schemes such as greening, agri-environment and climate initiatives and the Farm Advisory Service. In addition, we have supported and continue to support initiatives including our flagship Farming for a Better Climate initiative and industry-led programmes, such as the Quality Meat Scotland and Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board monitor farm network, in order to support and promote environmental sustainability.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

Does the minister agree that the current broad-brush condemnation of red-meat production does not recognise the vast difference between Scotland’s predominantly grass-fed red-meat production system and the intensive feed systems that are used in much of the Americas and Asia, and that we should be supporting our farmers in their continued drive for more sustainable and environmentally friendly food production?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

Absolutely. I could not agree more. I believe that Brian Whittle is referring to a programme that aired last week in which there was little, if any, mention—just some throwaway references—of how we farm in the UK. It did no justice whatever to our food production methods, and it did not draw clear enough parallels to highlight how the systems are so intrinsically different.

How we farm in Scotland is completely different to systems in other parts of the world, and we have among the highest animal health and welfare standards. We need to shout about that and spread the message that what we do here, and what we produce, is the best anywhere in the world.

Photo of Richard Lyle Richard Lyle Scottish National Party

Does the minister share my concern that if the Tories win the UK election and we are forced to Brexit, our current high environmental standards, which protect plant and tree health and animal welfare, will be driven down and abandoned in a race to the bottom in order to win dodgy trade deals?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

I share that concern, especially in the light of my previous answer, in which I talked about our having some of the best animal health and welfare standards in the world. We are absolutely committed to maintaining those standards, which is why the Scottish Government is adamant that future trade deals cannot undercut the high agricultural and environmental standards that we proudly uphold in Scotland.

Sustainability and inclusion have to lie at the core of our future trade policy, so we must take a robust approach to monitoring those considerations at all stages of the negotiation and implementation processes.