First Minister in Borders
to discuss farming crisis

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon chats with Hamish Dykes at South Slipperfield Farm, West Linton.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon chats with Hamish Dykes at South Slipperfield Farm, West Linton.

The extent of the issues currently facing the agricultural industry, compounded by the adverse weather, were stressed to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last week.

NFU Scotland met with the First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead at NFUS member Hamish Dykes’ sheep farm at South Slipperfield, West Linton.

Following a farm visit, they were joined round the farmhouse kitchen table by other farmers representing all aspects of Scottish agriculture.

The Union discussed with the First Minister the extent of the pricing crisis across all farming sectors in Scotland and the need for retailers, the food service sector and food and drink manufacturers to put Scottish produce on their shelves, menus and use it as an ingredient in order to make Scottish produce as widely available to consumers as possible.

The cash flow issues now facing many businesses were highlighted with assurances sought that Single Farm Payments will be paid to farmers within the normal December window.

There was recognition of a need to back agriculture to ensure our food and farming sectors remain a successful cornerstone of the Scottish economy, both now and in the future.

NFU Scotland has asked the First Minister to take forward a number of points.

Discussing the problems within their sector with the First Minister were Jackie McCreary of Yester Farm Dairies, East Lothian; Sarah Allison, Agri Affairs spokeswoman for Scottish Association of Young Farmers Club; cereal farmer from East Lothian Willie Thomson; Sybil Macpherson, hill sheep farmer from Dalmally, Argyll and chairwoman for National Sheep Association; and Roy Brown, mixed beef, sheep and arable farmer and NFU Scotland Lothian and Borders livestock committee representative.

NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie commented: “To have the First Minister on farm, is recognition of how difficult and serious the situation is across the board and that urgent action is needed.

“Farmers are angry and desperate. We need a commitment from retailers and the food service sector to source Scottish produce and from those companies who sell their food and drink on the back of a Scottish image to commit to sourcing from Scotland and to pay a fair price.

“We received strong recognition from the First Minister that there is need for a much stronger commitment from retailers, the food service sector and manufacturers to put Scottish produce on their shelves, menus and make it as widely available and identifiable to consumers as possible.

“Unless we get a combined uptake from retailers, the food service industry and political support, there will sadly be many farmers that have to step away from farming.”