Scottish rural economy needs government support

The UK government should take immediate action on a number of crucial food, farming and fisheries issues to protect rural communities, a Scottish minister had argued.

In a series of letters to Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Treasury, Fergus Ewing, the Rural Economy Secretary, calls for immediate clarity and certainty on a number of key farming, food, forestry and fisheries issues that are directly impacting on the Scottish rural economy.

He is asking for confirmation that the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) in 2017 will continue as normal, and that applications under the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme, for which contracts usually start in January 2016, will be honoured in full by the Treasury, even if the contracts may not all have been issued and confirmed before the Autumn Statement.

Additionally, Ewing is seeking clarity on when and how DEFRA intends to take forward the recommendations of the Red Meat Levy Forum, and an agreement that the UK level Fisheries concordat which governs the allocation of quota in key fish stocks.

Ewing said: “My number one priority is to protect the economic future of our rural economy and communities that are particularly vulnerable to the uncertainty caused by the result of the EU referendum.

“I am concerned the UK government is neglecting the day job and I am concerned about the impact this may have on the rural economy. There are a range of domestic farming and food related decisions that, since the EU referendum, are sitting with UK ministers, which if made, I believe, could provide much needed certainty and clarity to our rural communities.

“This ranges from our calls for the UK government to extend their EU funding guarantee and passing on in full the convergence uplift to Scotland, to acting on the recommendations of the Red Meat Levy Forum report and the Fisheries Concordat.

“It is the Scottish government that is providing certainty and building growth in Scotland’s rural economy in these uncertain times. I would urge the UK government to do their bit and make these urgent decisions to protect those living in our rural communities.”