Agricultural opportunities afforded by Brexit

Written by JOHN LAMONT MSP

I recently took part in an interesting debate with local farmers on the future of agriculture in Scotland.

The UK’s departure from the EU unsurprisingly dominated proceedings, but I was encouraged by the desire of local farmers to look forward and see the opportunities of being able to design our own system to support farming.

While I supported remaining part of the EU on balance, there is a lot wrong with the current system and I know a fair percentage of farmers in the Borders voted to leave for a range of reasons.

The EU is overly bureaucratic and complex, particularly in terms of farming support and its one-size-fits-all system which tries to accommodate the needs of farmers from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean.

There was a feeling in the room that leaving the EU and freeing up extra money to support farmers in a better way was a real opportunity. What many farmers were most concerned about was the SNP’s plans to take us out of the most important internal market for farmers – that of the United Kingdom. The rest of the UK is worth four times that of the EU internal market, but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants to put up trade barriers by leaving the UK.

ENTERPRISE AGENCY

I’m keeping a close eye on the Scottish Government’s plans to create a south of Scotland enterprise agency.

The SNP has been criticised for trying to get rid of the Highlands and Islands Enterprise board and run the organisation in the Central Belt – and I don’t want them trying to do the same thing for the south.

I support the creation of the agency (it was in my party’s manifesto after all), but a real opportunity will be missed if it’s not run locally. In response to a question I asked in parliament, the minister in charge said he was still “exploring the detail” of how it would work, so I’m disappointed that he cannot commit to it being run in the south.

The agency has potential to bring highly-skilled local jobs and better support local businesses, but we will not get the specialist provision if the agency is run in the Central Belt by some national organisation.

NEW WEBSITE

I’ve just launched my new website – johnlamont.org. It’s all part of my aim to be as accessible as possible to my constituents.

While not everyone likes to use the internet, it’s increasingly the first point of call for most of us, so I’m aware of the need to make sure I provide as much information online as possible.

As well as up-to-date news and information about my weekly surgeries, the new website also physically maps out all the content of the site so that constituents can see what I’ve been up to in your local area.

The site also integrates all of my social media content to provide the very latest commentary and information. It also lists my priorities for the Borders, which are based on the many conversations I have with constituents.

Take a look and if you think I’ve missed anything out, please get in touch.