Our beautiful coast and endless vistas on the Lammermuirs are key parts of our identity but what makes East Lothian so photogenic is our rolling countryside, tended and cropped for centuries by our local farmers. And it’s a varied crop; although livestock has fallen out of favour, cereal and root crops remain strong and pockets of specialist output like Ballencreiff pigs and Belhaven soft fruit both fit well with ELC’s Food & Drink strategy in support of tourism.
The NFU released its own manifesto earlier in the month. In it were a series of broadly couched concerns that I found reasonable and measured. As a local candidate, I have no authority to sign my party up to all it contained. But, if elected as spokesman for East Lothian, I will be its champion and take its farmers’ concerns to the government. For several years I have been chatting informally with the NFU’s East Lothian President, Stuart McNicol of Castleton.
This week’s release of the SNP’s Farming Manifesto 2011 should be good news for our farmers. Its thrust is to ensure that agriculture continues to play a vital role in contributing to Scotland’s sustainable economic growth and that food production remains the primary aim of agriculture in Scotland. At the same time we want our landscapes, biodiversity and water quality protected. We want to support both the rural economy and its infrastructure. This latter is especially vital here, Whereas the Mearns or Buchan suffers little development pressure, we are so close to Edinburgh that the needs of farms and small villages are in danger of being swamped by town priorities and values.
But we will build for the future, supporting the role of tenant farmers and new entrants to the industry. We will also use our experience of the last 4 years to ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard in Brussels so that EU policy is shaped to meet our more particular Scottish needs. As a priority we need, for example, to simplify payments. The continuing administrative problems in England with the Rural Payments Agency means we should reject current proposals by the European Commission, which would see the current complex and bureaucratic system of direct payments replaced by one that could be even worse.
“I am backing the SNP for a second term in government as they have proved themselves to be a full partner in farming, rural issues and especially Scotland at large.”
—John Kinnaird, livestock & cereal producer of Papple and past NFU Scotland President.