Orkney MSP highlights key role of agriculture in halting rural and island depopulation

19 Jun 2024

Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur has today emphasised the value of farming and crofting in rural and island communities. He also highlighted the link between agricultural policy and support on the one hand and sustaining island populations.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Mr McArthur pointed to research undertaken by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) into the risks and opportunities arising from changes to agricultural support. While SRUC’s report is yet to be published, it is expected to confirm earlier research, which found that agriculture accounts for a higher share of business activity and employment in island communities compared to the rest of Scotland, while investment in agriculture produces an outsize multiplier effect across island economies.

Noting the challenges faced in sustaining populations and building community resilience in Scotland’s islands, Mr McArthur called on the Scottish Government to recognise the significance of farming and crofting in these areas, and to ensure that future policy and support reflects the findings of SRUC’s research.

In response, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, Mairi Gougeon, offered assurances that the government would look at SRUC’s report and acknowledged the importance of agriculture to island communities in particular.

Commenting afterwards, Mr McArthur said:

“Agriculture has gone through a great deal of change over recent decades. What has not changed, however, is the importance of the sector to sustaining population and community resilience in our islands.

“This must be factored into the thinking of Scottish Ministers as they decide on the detail of future agricultural policy and support, Given that Scotland’s islands are key to biodiversity, and home to a range of priority habitats and species, there is an opportunity to deliver economic, social but also environmental benefits.

“I welcome the Rural Secretary’s commitment to consider the findings of the SRUC report and ensure it informs future decisions taken by the government  This is crucial for Orkney and other island communities.”

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