Press Release: Jean Urquhart Welcomes Comments on CAP (June 26th)

Brian Pack, an expert in agriculture and former Senior Agricultural Economist with the North of Scotland College of Agriculture, has called for Scotland to have its own voice in Common Agricultural Policy dealings.

 

Mr Pack, Speaking at Farmers’ Question Time session at last weekend’s Royal Highland Show, said that Scotland would benefit if it had an independent voice at future CAP dealings.

 

“In terms of CAP Scotland needs a seat at the table; we need to argue our own case, because what is right for English agriculture isn’t what is right for Scottish agriculture.”

 

Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands SNP MSP, said:

“Mr Pack’s comments only add further weight to our argument that Scotland will only get the best deal when it represents itself at the negotiating table.

“There are obvious and natural differences between what is best for rural Scotland and what is best for rural England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“The myopic deal-making of Westminster politicians has condemned Scotland in the past to receiving far less than its fair share. As an independent nation, we would hold far more influence and be able to secure an equitable solution for our farmers and crofters.”

Speech: Royal Highland Education Trust (June 6th)

I congratulate Colin Keir on bringing the issue, which is particularly relevant and important, forward for debate, and welcome the chance to comment on the educational work that the Royal Highland Education Trust is undertaking to promote the countryside, which is an essential component of Scotland‟s cultural and economic fabric.

As we have heard, the trust provides opportunities for schoolchildren across Scotland to investigate various aspects of countryside life through activities such as farm visits, school competitions and classroom talks by farmers.

It has been stated that more than 15,000 children have been able to experience working farms and estates first-hand. That is a 20 per cent rise on the previous year.  I think that we would all not only support the trust‟s aim of sustaining that level of interaction annually by 2015 but urge it to increase that level.

As always, there are lessons to be learned from the work of our neighbours. My mind is drawn to innovative efforts that are being made in Iceland, where the Alcoa Foundation has funded outdoor schoolrooms in order to make the environment in general a natural part of the curriculum.

Such events and experiences have intrinsic value. They give children in urban settings the opportunity to experience rural life, albeit briefly sometimes. As part of the curriculum for excellence, they give children the opportunity to understand better where the food in their fridges and pantries originates.

As a councillor, I visited Shetland during the Highlands and Islands convention, where I was privileged to hear from schoolchildren who had been introduced to crofting. It was inspirational to hear how enthusiastic they were about a sector that is often viewed as unattractive, largely because people have not experienced the satisfaction and contentment of seeing the benefits of their own work in an area as important as growing one‟s own food or animal husbandry.

However, the Royal Highland Education Trust does so much more than that. The food and drink sector in Scotland is truly one of our success stories: it had an £11.9 billion annual turnover in 2009, which indicates that we are well on our way to meeting our £12.5 billion target for 2017. My region, which is synonymous with world-class food and drink exports, employs some 25,900 people in that sector. That demonstrates the importance of a thriving agricultural sector to underpin the rural economy of Scotland.

Many more people take part in related activities on a part-time or self-employed basis, and crofting is a popular and long-standing part of Highland life. The inclusion of crofting in any educational materials would be welcome, and would open up even more future business opportunities for our young people. I therefore encourage the trust to work in conjunction with the Crofting Commission to integrate such material into its future programmes.

By showcasing to our young people the opportunities and careers that are afforded by our burgeoning food and drink industry, we not only instil a pride in Scotland’s produce but cultivate future generations of farmers, distillers and brewers to further support us in growing that sector.

The Royal Highland Education Trust’s work in this field is to be encouraged. I support Colin Keir‟s motion.

Motion:

That the Parliament welcomes the Royal Highland Education Trust’s work to promote Scotland’s rural and agricultural environment, farming and countryside activities and food education to Scotlan’‟s young people; considers that Scotland’s urbanisation over recent decades has meant that many children have no direct link with the countryside or experience of environmental issues and that this is a gap in young people’s education; notes that the Edinburgh-based charity has received funding from the Scottish Government to educate children about the role that food plays in their lives through farm visits, working with local companies and introducing food topics in the school curriculum; considers that food education has an important role to play in improving Scotland‟s health, helping people to make healthier choices and making them aware of the importance of eating sustainably; further notes that the programme will highlight the career opportunities available to young people in Scotland’s food and drink sector, which provides an increasing boost to the Scottish economy, and welcomes the trust’s aim to deliver its programme of farm and estate visits for 15,000 young people per year by 2015.

Written Questions on Crofting (June 2012)

To ask the Scottish Executive what work it has carried out with Registers of Scotland and the Crofting Commission to compile a new crofting register and when the register will be posted online.

Answered by Stewart Stevenson (26/06/2012): The Scottish Government is working closely with the Registers of Scotland and the Crofting Commission to develop the new Crofting Register, to be held by the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland under Part 2 of the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010, which will provide legal certainty on the extent of, and interests in, croft land.The work in developing the new register is ongoing and includes consultation with key stakeholders and expected users of the register on a variety of issues, including the content of the register, the application processes, application forms and guidance. As well as meeting the full costs of developing and introducing the Crofting Register, the Scottish Government is also providing £100,000 towards reducing the cost of registration for groups submitting 10 or more crofts for registration at the same time. The Government is also providing a further £100,000 towards the preparation of applications and registration of common grazings on the new register and is working closely with the Crofting Commission on this project.

The Scottish Government is preparing the third commencement order for the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 to commence the provisions relating to the new register. This is expected to be laid before the Scottish Parliament shortly after the 2012 Summer Recess and will be followed by a Registers of Scotland Fees Order and Rules. Subject to Parliamentary approval, this should allow the register to be publicly available for registration of croft land towards the end of this year.

Current Status: Answered by Stewart Stevenson on 26/06/2012
To ask the Scottish Executive whether it remains its position to bring forward the third commencement order for the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 in summer 2012.

Answered by Stewart Stevenson (26/06/2012): The Scottish Government expects to lay before the Scottish Parliament the third commencement order for the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010, commencing the remaining provisions in the Act, which include the new Crofting Register, as planned, shortly after the 2012 Summer Recess.
Current Status: Answered by Stewart Stevenson on 26/06/2012
To ask the Scottish Executive how it encourages the development of new crofts.

Answered by Stewart Stevenson (26/06/2012): The Scottish Government encourages the development of new crofts in a number of ways, including through working closely with the Crofting Commission to help it better regulate crofting and with Highlands and Islands Enterprise in its crofting development function.The Scottish Government also encourages communities to purchase Scottish Ministers’ croft land under the transfer of Crofting Estates (Scotland) Act 1997 as a means to establishing new crofts for community benefit. We would encourage all landlords, in both the public and private sectors to consider setting up new crofts, which should contribute to the long-term sustainability of crofting.

Once new crofts have been established, financial support is available from specific crofting grants and the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP). Specific measures to assist new, primarily young, entrants are the extra 10% assistance from the Crofting Counties Agricultural Grants Scheme made available to those under 40 years of age, and the assistance with interest rate relief for new entrants to agriculture whose agricultural standard labour requirement is greater than 25%. In addition, the Croft House Grants Scheme provides up to £22,000 assistance to help crofters live on the crofts they work.

Current Status: Answered by Stewart Stevenson on 26/06/2012
To ask the Scottish Executive how many new crofts have been registered since August 2010.

Answered by Stewart Stevenson (26/06/2012): The information requested is not held centrally. The current Register of Crofts is administered on behalf of Scottish Ministers by the Crofting Commission and I have asked the Chief Executive of the Crofting Commission to respond to you directly with the information you have requested.
Current Status: Answered by Stewart Stevenson on 26/06/2012