Speaking in a meeting of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee this morning, representatives from across rural Scotland told MSPs how frustrated they are by the lack of action from the Scottish Government on Brexit.
In January of last year, North East MSP Mike Rumbles submitted an amendment to a Parliamentary debate, calling on the Scottish Government to pull together a team of experts to design a system of rural support to replace the current EU arrangement and to be implemented after the UK leaves the EU in 2020. Despite MSPs unanimously passing Mr Rumbles amendment, the Scottish Government has completely failed to take action to come up with any plans for a ‘bespoke’ rural support plan for Scotland.
All of the witnesses present agreed with Mr Rumbles statement that the Scottish Government has missed a trick here. While Andrew Midgley of Land and Estates and Vicki Swales speaking on behalf of Environment LINK both issued scathing rebukes of the Scottish Government’s handling of the situation.
Mr Midgley said: “The Government needs to galvanise the process, we could create a process that grows arms and legs, but we need speed and so the Government needs to take the lead.
“Is there a plan? Not that I’m aware of! And are we in a good place? Not really! So I think we’ve quite a long way to go to get into that better place. That is why we need the speed to develop that position quickly.”
Ms Swales added: “We have a commitment to a Good Food Nation Bill. We need a policy now that delivers in the broader sense.. so I’d like to see that joining up happen as part of that process.
“We are going to have to fight hard and deliver some very cogent augments to keep this money, for the rural economy. ”
Dr Carmen Hubbard, Senior Lecture of Agriculture at Newcastle University, speaking to Mr Rumbles said: “You are right, at the moment we don’t have a plan!”
Following the meeting Mr Rumbles added: “I welcome the comments made by the committee witnesses today. I have told the Cabinet Secretary again and again that we must get on and develop a bespoke system of support that works for Scotland’s rural economy, after we leave the EU. He has refused to listen and instead has chosen to bury his head in the sand and blame Westminster for his lack of progress.
“Perhaps the Cabinet Secretary will now listen to representatives from all quarters of the rural economy who, unlike the Scottish Government, see the benefits of early action and the dangers of leaving this issue unresolved, until the last minute. ”
Notes to editors:
- A full video of the exchange can be views at 13:10 at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neF76Ovfl7U
- Mr Rumbles amendment, passed on 19th January 2017: As an amendment to motion S5M-03463 in the name of Fergus Ewing (The Future of Funding for Rural Development), insert at end “; calls on ministers to establish an independent group involving relevant stakeholders to provide advice as to the principles and policies which should underpin options for rural support beyond 2020, and, in the intervening period, provide as much certainty and information as possible to farmers, crofters and the wider rural economy.”