Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur has received ministerial assurances that the needs of island farmers and crofters will be taken into account as the government develops plans for future agriculture policy. Mr McArthur was also invited to make recommendations on who might be involved in any advisory group set up to take forward this work.
Islands Minister, Paul Wheelhouse MSP was responding to representations made by Mr McArthur and his Shetland colleague, Tavish Scott MSP following a recent debate in parliament on the impact of Brexit on farming. The Northern Isles MSPs wrote to the Minister seeking clarification on how island interests would be reflected and protected in any decisions about the structure of future agriculture policy.
Mr Wheelhouse confirmed that the maintenance of support for farmers and crofters in the islands “will be crucial post-Brexit” and that the government would welcome the input of both MSPs on the make up of all transition groups tasked with looking at future agriculture policy.
Reacting to the news, Mr McArthur said:
“The uncertainty surrounding Brexit is creating all sorts of problems in every sector of our economy. That is particularly true of farming, where the future shape of regulation and financial support is up in the air at present.
“The Scottish Government has announced plans to develop a framework for future, including the establishment of a working group which will be tasked with recommending new policy options for the future of Scottish agriculture. That is welcome news, but it is vital that island voices are heard loud and clear in that process, given the importance of farming and crofting in our island communities.
“It is encouraging to hear the minister acknowledge the particular challenge facing farmers and crofters in our islands. I hope this will result in progress being made over the retention of vital LFASS payments. More generally, however, the government must ensure that future agricultural policy takes proper account of the specific needs of farmers and crofters in Orkney.
“I also intend taking up the minister’s invitation to feed in views on how this can be achieved through the work of the proposed advisory group. I will be speaking to the sector locally and making sure their perspective is reflected in what the Scottish Government does next in this regard”.