Union talks Brexit with Lead­som

The Oban Times - - FARMING -

THE IM­POR­TANCE of pro­tect­ing and main­tain­ing Scot­land’s unique farm­ing in­dus­try in the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions has been high­lighted at NFU Scot­land’s first meet­ing with the UK gov­ern­ment’s Sec­re­tary of State for En­vi­ron­ment, Food and Ru­ral Af­fairs, An­drea Lead­som.

At the con­struc­tive meet­ing, held at the NFUS of­fices near Edinburgh last Wed­nes­day (Novem­ber 2), union rep­re­sen­ta­tives out­lined the im­por­tance of en­gag­ing and con­sult­ing with all parts of the UK and all sec­tors of the food and farm­ing in­dus­tries as the UK gov­ern­ment for­mu­lates its po­si­tion ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU.

Union of­fice-hold­ers high­lighted the im­por­tance to Scot­land of se­cur­ing a ro­bust trade deal with the EU and other trad­ing part­ners as this will pro­foundly in­flu­ence fu­ture agri­cul­tural and ru­ral pol­icy in Scot­land.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives pressed for higher trad­ing costs, cus­toms con­trols, bar­ri­ers and tar­iffs to be mit­i­gated in any new trad­ing ar­range­ments, and sought re­as­sur­ances that Scot­tish prove­nance, qual­ity and high pro­duc­tion stan­dards will be pro­tected.

The union wel­comed the pos­i­tive di­a­logue with the Sec­re­tary of State and will look to build on the dis­cus­sion through fur­ther face-to-face meet­ings in the weeks and months ahead.

Speak­ing af­ter the meet­ing, NFUS pres­i­dent Al­lan Bowie said: ‘ We wel­come the Sec­re­tary of State’s in­au­gu­ral visit and our op­por­tu­nity to cover a lot of im­por­tant is­sues in the time we had with her.

‘She is clearly aware of the unique chal­lenges that our Scot- tish in­dus­try will face in the next few years and we were en­cour­aged by her straight talk­ing and will­ing­ness to en­gage. We have con­fi­dence that she is some­one who we can work with to cap­i­talise on the op­por­tu­ni­ties that Brexit can bring to Scot­land.

‘As a union, we look for­ward to work­ing pos­i­tively and con­struc­tively with her and her de­part­ment over the com­ing weeks and months, as we en­ter a hugely im­por­tant pe­riod for the fu­ture for our sec­tor.

‘That en­gage­ment is cru­cial. In Scot­land, agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion is just the start of a sup­ply chain which un­der­pins a suc­cess­ful food and drinks sec­tor, which has grown into the big­gest man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try that we have. Farm­ing and croft­ing in Scot­land not only pro­duce the vi­tal raw ma­te­ri­als nec­es­sary for our food and drink man­u­fac­tur­ers, but does so in a man­ner that works with na­ture, de­liv­er­ing huge en­vi­ron­men­tal and bio­di­ver­sity ben­e­fits.

‘It also abun­dantly clear the de­gree to which a prof­itable farm­ing sec­tor un­der­pins the whole ru­ral econ­omy, main­tain­ing frag­ile com­mu­ni­ties in Scot­land’s most mar­ginal ar­eas.

‘That is why we were keen to im­press on the Sec­re­tary of State our de­sire to see agri­cul­ture at the heart of Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions.

‘There are op­por­tu­ni­ties ahead for our in­dus­try that can be re­alised if we se­cure the right trad­ing ar­range­ments with Europe; pri­ori­tise the coun­tries for which we want to se­cure new trade deals; en­sure we con­tinue to have ac­cess to em­ploy­ees to meet our labour needs and have a do­mes­tic agri­cul­tural pol­icy that pri­ori­tises pro­duc­tion.’

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