Andrew McCornick didn’t mince his words when he used his AgriScot head-to-head with Fergus Ewing to accuse the Scottish Government of lacking a rural policy.
The farmers’ union president was blunt at the virtual meeting, which the organisers estimated was viewed by around 1,200 attendees.
“Where is the policy? Where is the road map?” he asked the rural economy secretary.
“All the information you need is sitting waiting on Scottish Government desks to be pulled together.
“ Stop dithering and start delivering.”
Mr McCornick wasn’t appeased by Mr Ewing’s announcement of the formation of another farmer-led group to advise on reducing emissions and tackling climate change, his promise of an end to unannounced inspections, or the opportunity in future for farmers to rectify minor breaches before penalties are imposed.
“What rural Scotland really needs now is a belief in the future for their industry from Scottish Government,” he said.
There was criticism, too, of plans to introduce regional land use partnerships without detail on strategy, funding, the make-up of panels, the role of land managers or how they will be administered.
Mr McCornick said: “I urge government not to make the same mistake that was made with the Beef Efficiency Scheme and rush out a programme and try to develop it on the hoof.”
The latest group to advise the government on climate change priorities will have an arable focus and be led by Laurencekirk farmer and Scottish Quality crops chairman Andrew Moir.
Mr Ewing said the new group – later welcomed by the union – would build on the work already done by the Suckler Beef Climate Group, which published its recommendations last month.
He said a “programme board”, co-chaired by himself and former NFU Scotland president Jim Walker, will be set up to take the ideas forward.
Mr Ewing added: “I look forward to getting on with the task of turning recommendations and ideas into actions through the newly established programme board.
“This is very much an innovative group of people with a vast amount of experience between them, and I can’t wait to see what we can collectively achieve.
“We know we have a big challenge ahead of us and very stretching targets to meet to cut emissions, but I am determined that agriculture will play its part and move forward to a more sustainable future.”
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