Programme for Government 2018/19: Rural commitments
We’ve recently seen the unveiling of this year’s Programme for Government, outlining our commitment to making this bolder, more ambitious vision of Scotland’s future a reality.
Over the coming year, I’ll be focusing my attention on carrying out the following commitments to support the sectors which make up one of Scotland’s key priority areas – the rural economy.
Farming and food production
The farming and food production sector is a significant social and economic driver for Scotland, providing huge opportunities in exporting and the food and drink industry.
In our efforts to protect and sustain it, we’ll be drawing on the recommendations of bodies like the National Council of Rural Advisers, the Agriculture Champions and Griggs Greening Review Group to set out our strategic approach to farming, food and drink production and rural development for the medium and long term.
We’ll be establishing an agri-tourism monitor farm programme, which will involve working with farms, estates and crofts to develop food tourism as an additional strand to food and farming businesses.
As part of our ongoing support of the sector, farms and rural businesses will also continue to receive their current payment entitlements, and we’ll look to provide certainty through the immediate Brexit transition by taking forward the proposals in our Stability and Simplicity consultation.
We’ll also be continuing to support the work of the agricultural weather advisory panel to act as a focal point for discussion, promoting best practice and encouraging industry to build resilience, both in the short and longer terms.
In addition to these measures, we will continue to recognise crofting as a valuable contribution to the rural economy, taking forward work on a Crofting Bill and publishing a national development plan for crofting.
I’m also eager to focus more attention on our work with young people – an approach that will be two-fold. Firstly, I’d like to increase young people’s awareness of where their food comes from, and will be providing more opportunities for primary school children to visit a farm to better understand how their food goes from farm to fork.
Secondly, through the work of FONE, Forestry Commission Scotland, the Crofting Commission, the Farm Advisory Service and others, the Scottish Government will continue to explore what avenues it can to attract new entrants to the industry.
I’ll be working to encourage new and young farming entrants into the industry, as well as appointing young farmer climate change champions by the end of 2018.
In terms of creating a safer, more sustainable environment for the farming and food production sector to grow, our new Plant Health Centre aims to strengthen our national resilience against risks posed by pests and pathogens to farming and food production, forestry, horticulture and the wider environment.
It’s important that Scottish fisheries are managed in a way that best benefits the Scottish industry, coastal communities, our marine environment and people throughout Scotland: a concept that applies equally to offshore, inshore and farmed activity.
We’re working to develop a new approach to fisheries management in partnership with the fishing industry, establishing a world-leading, sustainable fisheries management strategy with inclusive economic growth at its heart.
Later this year, we’ll be publishing a national discussion paper on the Future of Fisheries Management, using the views on that to develop policy proposals for consultation at the end of 2019.
We’ll be providing up to £2 million of funding to meet emergency work at fisheries harbours, which ensures the continued operation of the facility and the safety of the fishermen and wider community. We’ll also work with Fisheries Local Action Groups to deliver projects which support harbour diversification and delivers an increase in harbour income.
A final key commitment will be to work with the fisheries sector and coastal communities to develop proposals to tackle the issue of fishing litter and lost gear, to help protect our coastal environments.
Find out more about marine and fisheries news, publications and consultations https://beta.gov.scot/marine-and-fisheries/
Food and Drink
As one of Scotland’s most important sectors, we will be providing ongoing support to promote industry growth, securing the creation of jobs and attracting visitors to the country.
We’ll be taking several different approaches in our work to achieve this.
By March 2019, a new Food and Drink 5-Year Export Plan will be published, bringing forward new measures to promote and market our produce in overseas markets.
One of our aims is also to expand the sectors covered by Food and Drink Sectoral Plans to include venison, beef, sheep, poultry and craft beer.
Small producers will continue to receive our support, and we’ll be helping them to promote their products through the Regional Food Fund. Our Food to Go initiative will continue to provide small grants to help get fresh and locally sourced food in local shops.
By the end of the year, we want to bring forward measures to strengthen primary producers’ position in the 3 supply chain, creating more equity to improve their position and profitability.
We’ve also further developed Good Food Nation – a joint initiative between producers, the food service industry and regulatory bodies in Scotland, which aims to engage with everyone involved up to and including the end consumer. Find out more about our progress on this to date https://www.gov.scot/Publications/2018/09/5895 .
Other ways we are supporting Food and Drink in Scotland https://beta.gov.scot/policies/food-and-drink/
Scotland’s forests and forestry industry presents significant benefits in terms of the economy, environment, climate and wellbeing – and as such, we’re committed to supporting its growth.
Our National Forestry Strategy will be delivered, which will set out our long-term vision and objectives for forestry and woodlands. By April 2019 we’ll have new arrangements in place for forestry in Scotland.
We’ll plant more trees and make more of our forestry resources, meeting our target of planting 10,000 hectares of woodland every year, increasing this by a further 50% by 2025.
I’m also committed to using remotely-sensed data to develop new information on tree-felling activity to ensure that Scotland’s woodland area is increasing. It’s also my goal to attract more young people into forestry through a new Forest Machine Operators Modern Apprenticeship scheme – operational by the end of the year.
Read more about our forestry strategies.
Rural communities make a huge contribution to Scotland’s overall economic future – which is why it’s so important to ensure these areas continue to thrive.
To demonstrate our commitment to this, we’ll develop a Rural Economy Action Plan – the purpose of which will be to steer our transition to more sustainable and inclusive economic growth in rural areas.
In November, we’ll be supporting the hosting of the next Rural Parliament in Stranraer, where we’ll continue to listen to the views of rural communities about what matters to them the most, and how they can enable change in their own communities to support inclusive growth.
We’re looking at supporting community based innovative solutions to make the most of what rural Scotland has to offer. This will use our expanding evidence base around rural depopulation and work with others in and out of SG to enable all our rural communities to participate in local determination as part of our fairer Scotland ambitions.