‘Our rural economies have most to fear through the uncertainty of Brexit’ – SLE

The twin tests of Brexit and maintaining Scotland’s high-quality food production should not detract from the biggest challenge of our time – halting climate change.

This is according to Mark Tennant, chairman of Scottish Land and Estates (SLE), which represents rural businesses, said serious choices of priorities lie ahead both for government and food producers as the clock ticks towards the EU trade deal deadline in January.

Tennant was speaking at SLE’s annual conference. He said it was now incumbent on farming businesses and land managers to ‘go further and go faster’ in their contributions to combating carbon emissions.

Tennant said:

Rural businesses are not immune from the difficulties of 2020. Indeed, our rural economies have most to fear through the uncertainty of Brexit and the worries of future export tariffs and substandard food imports – and that’s without considering the seismic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Yet, as hard as these challenges are, we must not take our focus away from climate change – and it is incumbent on farmers, land managers and estates to continue to help Scotland meet its targets in this area.

“As we transition from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), there is an opportunity to enact a huge change in how we deliver from our land.

“Quality food production and carbon sequestration in Scotland’s uplands are not diametrically opposed – we can have the best of both worlds.

Every stakeholder needs to go further and go faster – we cannot continue to wait. We need a fresh, ambitious support package to replace the CAP after 2024 that will deliver for food, biodiversity and the environment and we need to start the process of transitioning towards that now.

“That involves the sharing of skills, data and science to maximise our efficiency. Productivity and efficiency go hand in hand and are the surest way to achieving profitability,” he concluded.