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Comment: Stop the dithering, it’s time to deliver

Fergus Ewing already has a stack of commissioned reports sitting on his desk.
Fergus Ewing already has a stack of commissioned reports sitting on his desk.

Let’s just crack on with it.

That’s the overriding mood in fields and farm offices as the industry grows increasingly restless and impatient over our government’s failure to give a green light on how Scottish agriculture will be enabled to play its part in enhancing biodiversity and reducing greenhouse gases.

The Scottish Government must know its Stability and Simplicity – or slow and now stagnant – approach no longer cuts it.

Fergus Ewing already has a stack of commissioned reports on the best way forward for rural policy, most of them produced by some of the best farming brains in the country – and what does he do? Order another one.

Enough.

Consultation has been vital and welcome, and the industry is now ready; it can see the direction of travel and understands what needs to be done – and it certainly doesn’t want to wait another four years for change.

But moving on, adopting new technology and gentler practices requires confidence, clarity and assurances that long-term funding support will underpin the transition for at least a decade ahead.

The dithering is just a distraction.

There’s no appetite here to go down the green-max approach to farm support outlined by Defra’s George Eustice this week.

The production of quality food and drink in Scotland is rightly prized, and targets are ambitious.

But if this week’s online debate led by NFU Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust demonstrated anything, it was that farmers and environmentalists are no longer at one another’s throats.

It’s only a generation ago, after all, since Magnus Magnusson, the founder chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage, was roundly booed when he bashed the industry for its attitude to the environment at a union dinner.

The symbiosis between farming and environmental stewardship is now clearly recognised and while there are flash points, such as the impact of Tayside’s growing beaver population on agriculture, there’s a recognition that compromise is necessary.

It’s going to be hard enough to deal with Brexit blows if we’re still rudderless going into 2021.

So, give us the information, Mr Ewing, not just on future policy and funding, but on how these much-vaunted Regional Land Use Partnerships are going to work – something your minister, Mairi Gougeon, failed to explain this week.

This is no longer about farming or the environment, we’re all in it together.

And that includes you, rural secretary. It’s time to man up and deliver.

See story on Page 4

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