Ag bill consultation triggers industry crisis meeting in Scotland

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Eighteen stakeholder organisations from across Scotland’s agricultural supply chain attended an emergency meeting at Stirling Agricultural Centre on Monday.

Triggered by frustration about the lack of detail and direction in the agriculture bill consultation published last week, the discussion centred on Scottish Government’s ‘dysfunctional’ stakeholder engagement and perceived dearth of understanding of the pragmatic needs of the industry.

On behalf of the group, executive director of IAAS, Neil Wilson, who called and chaired the meeting, said: “The rhetoric and mood in the industry is changing. The fact that we had so many influential industry organisations at the meeting, at short notice, shows that there is a need for urgent action.

Expecting more clarity

“The frustration around the latest consultation is that we were expecting more clarity and direction for our members, but its context and content suggests that Scottish Government is not connected with the current issues on the ground and its policies could have unintended consequences, including negatively impacting food security and the future of agricultural production and the farmed environment in Scotland.

“This is part of a bigger issue around Scottish Government’s dysfunctional and broken stakeholder engagement. The vacuum left by the lack of communication from the Agricultural Reform Implementation Oversight Board (ARIOB) and a 10-month hiatus since the Government’s own Agricultural and Rural Development (ARD) Stakeholder Group last met has created tangible tension in the industry.

“We had a positive, constructive meeting and we’ve all learned a lot, including insights into the workings of the ARIOB as well as how we can jointly have positive discussion and take action on the big issues with Scottish and UK Governments.

“Against a backdrop of wider economic challenges and their compound effect, and at a time when there is real urgency for Scottish Government to engage with stakeholders, we would like to invite cabinet secretaries to meet with this group. Through constructive dialogue, we can support a future strategy that protects food security, food production and Scotland’s agricultural supply chain which contributes significantly to the country’s economy whilst delivering for the environment and biodiversity. If we get the legislation wrong now, the repercussions will be felt for generations.”

The group, the largest independent stakeholder forum to be established in several years, will meet monthly, with the expectation it will be chaired by a different member of the group each time.

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