Rural priorities highlighted

Jim Hume, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for the South of Scotland and party spokesperson for rural affairs, has highlighted the importance of the agriculture sector to Scotland during a Scottish Parliament debate.

During the debate, Mr Hume also highlighted other key rural priorities.

Mr Hume said: “Agriculture is vastly important for the Scottish Borders. Indeed, President Sarkozy has just recently put agriculture and food security at the top of the global agenda during a conference in Paris. But worryingly, the total income from farming in Scotland declined in the first two years of the SNP government. The Cabinet Secretary must ensure that this is not allowed to continue.

“The issue of CAP is uppermost in people’s minds. Crucially, a recent redraft of the Dess Report says CAP supports driving competitiveness through innovation, backs incentives to help farmers become more sustainable and competitive, and calls for a fairer distribution of direct payments which would be of significant benefit to Scottish farmers.

“It also recognises the vital role of LFA support in securing the future of areas of natural disadvantage which is so important for parts of the Borders in particular.

“I welcome Richard Lochhead’s enthusiasm for my party’s ‘home on the farm’ scheme which would see planning regulations used to assist in the creation of affordable homes in the countryside, perhaps from disused and underused farm buildings. This would allow new entrants into the rural sector and would allow land users to retire into their own communities to make way for their younger successors. I want to see the Scottish Government pressing ahead with this scheme.

The MSP went on to highlight the need for a balanced land use strategy and the need for better rural mobile coverage. My Hume said: “Poor mobile phone coverage is something which can often put lives at risk and be a barrier for business, an issue raised with me. The Scottish Government’s manifesto speaks of ‘identifying barriers’ to increased mobile coverage and I have argued that we should encourage widening the scope of ‘operator partnerships’ to spread the cost of building and maintaining new masts in Borders locations.”