Fuel Costs (Support for Agriculture and Fishing)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 21st April 2022.

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Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

7. To ask the Scottish Government how it is supporting the agricultural and fishing industries with rising fuel costs. (S6O-00988)

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

It is clear to all of us that Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the justified western sanctions in response are having impacts, not the least of which are the hugely challenging increases in energy bills, which affect households and everyone in the food industry, from farmers and processors to the fishing industry. I am acutely aware of the impact that that has across the food supply chain and of the particular issues that it causes for our fishing industries, which are facing financial hardship as a result. The continued lack of engagement from the United Kingdom Government will lead again to consternation for Scottish businesses that are dealing with an already unsettled international environment.

On 17 March, I announced that we have convened a food security and supply task force, jointly with industry, to monitor, identify and respond to those issues, as well as to recommend actions that can be taken by business and by the Scottish and UK Governments to mitigate some of those challenges. Further to that, on 4 April I wrote to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, requesting an urgent four-nation summit on the impact of fuel prices. Yesterday, he finally agreed to that request during a meeting. We will now work with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to ensure that that happens at pace.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

Although we are all feeling the pinch at the pumps, the exceptional rise in input costs is forcing boats in Orkney to either tie up or leave the industry entirely. The combination of feed, fuel and fertiliser costs threatens the very viability of many farms. Given the importance of food security, which the cabinet secretary has recognised, when would she expect the working group to come forward with recommendations? Will she give a commitment to implement those recommendations with absolute urgency?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

Yes. The task force was set up as a short-life task force to do exactly that—to look at the short, medium and longer-term actions. We had our third meeting yesterday and we will be having what is expected to be our last meeting shortly. We will produce a paper with a report with recommendations from that, which, of course, the Scottish Government will consider carefully.

The Presiding Officer:

That concludes general question time. Before we move to First Minister’s question time, I invite members to join me in welcoming to the gallery the Hon Jonathan O’Dea MP, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Parliament of New South Wales. [