RICHARD Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, addressed an Angus audience recently about farming, the rural economy and independence.
Organised by Angus North and Mearns SNP Constituency Association on behalf of Yes Angus, the invited audience of farmers, food producers and others involved in the rural economy had an opportunity to quiz the Minister on a wide variety of topics.
Mr Lochhead outlined his frustrations at attending EU negotiations as a Scottish Government minister but sitting behind a UK minister who was supposed to represent British farmers, but was “entirely unsympathetic and uninterested in the interests of Scotland’s rural sector”.
He also claimed that while other small European governments have successfully negotiated much better deals for their food producers, the UK government has sat on the sidelines, securing no deals for agriculturalists. Mr Lochhead said that Scotland has many good friends in Europe and would be welcomed with open arms. He did not believe there was any likelihood of Scotland being left out of Europe since the Europeans recognise the assets which the country can bring to the EU.
It was also Mr Lochhead’s view that Scottish food quality is well recognised throughout the world, especially in China and Japan, and a premium for produce is essential. In addition, food exports have grown by over 52 per cent since 2007 and rival oil and gas as a contributor to the Scottish economy, so the sector deserves all the help it can get.