Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) has sent the leaders of the Scottish parties a list of questions that are important to its membership, in advance of the forthcoming General Election.
“With so much apparent chaos and uncertainty now and in the foreseeable future,” said Yvonne White, chair of SCF, “it is imperative that Scottish party leaders give a clear indication as to their intentions concerning agriculture in our country and, more specifically, in the Highlands and Islands.
"Our questions to the leaders focus on crofters’ main concerns. For example, we ask for the parties’ aspirations for a trade deal with the EU after the transition period ends. What would they envisage appropriate export and import tariff levels on beef and lamb to be?
“We also ask about environmental and animal welfare standards – something in which crofters take great pride and which gives Scotland a great marketing opportunity. Will we maintain our high standards and will imports have to comply with these?”
Ms White went on to say, “Our current veterinary profession and abattoir facilities rely on skilled personnel from Europe. What provision is being made to ensure that these professions are not adversely affected by leaving the EU?
“We ask what their plans are for a Scottish agricultural support policy, what the levels will be, how they will defend this against competing sectors and how they will protect crofting against the claims of the large-scale agri-businesses.
"We want to know how they intend to show that the production of grass-fed, outdoor-reared meat from the hills and islands is a healthy and environmentally valid way of using ground that can’t produce arable crops to provide food?
“Our crofting communities are a very significant constituency” concluded Ms White. “Now is the time for the Scottish parties to lay out their stalls and demonstrate their understanding of, and aspirations for, crofting and Scottish agriculture.”
Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Alison MacCorquodale says: "The way our crofting sector manages the land will become increasingly important. Our renewable resources must be harnessed to provide clean energy, while a revitalised Arnish Yard will help to build the renewable infrastructure required to meet Labour’s ambitious targets."
She said the contribution from the islands should be built around “the three Es – energy, environment and employment” but it would need political leadership to deliver.
“Voters at this election have a stark choice between a Tory government which evades the problem or a Labour government committed to tackling the issue head on”.
Alison said, “With rising sea levels affecting low-lying areas and increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather becoming the norm, islanders are already experiencing the initial effects of a changing climate.
“This is not something we can leave to future generations,. It requires action now.
“Labour’s green industrial revolution is the radical solution to this massive issue. It will transform our economy to a low carbon one, slashing emissions and creating thousands of jobs in the process.
Alison added: “While the Western Isles are already suffering effects from the climate emergency, we are also uniquely placed to deliver the solutions."
UK Parliament election December 12th
Na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency
Alison MacCorquodale is the Labour Party candidate
Angus MacNeil is the Scottish National Party (SNP) candidate
Neil Mitchison is the Liberal Democrat Party candidate
Jennifer Ross is the Conservative and Unionist Party candidate