FAST cultivates support at Holyrood for Scotland’s agriculture supply chain

24 May 2024

Earlier this week (Wednesday 22 May) leading figures in agriculture, primary food production and land management in Scotland came together with MSPs at Holyrood at a parliamentary reception sponsored by Elena Whitham MSP.

The reception, attended by more than 130 guests, was hosted by the newly constituted Food and Agriculture Stakeholder Taskforce (FAST) and sponsored by Ms Whitham, MSP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, to stimulate discussion and understanding with Members of Parliament about what is needed to promote sustainable and profitable agricultural production in Scotland.

Next generation farmers Nicola Wordie from Aberdeenshire and Cameron Wilson from Ayrshire were the main speakers, detailing what they want to see for the future of the sector and what those in the room can do to help them and the wider industry achieve this. The guests were invited to sign a pledge board to champion the industry in the future (see below).

During the evening, FAST Chair Neil Wilson emphasised the significance of the multi-faceted agricultural and primary food production supply chain to Scotland’s economy and the importance of pragmatic policy for its sustainable future:

“Agriculture generates more than £3.3 billion for Scotland’s economy and there are some pivotal decisions being made in parliament in coming weeks that will impact the future economic success, or otherwise, of the nation’s agriculture and sustainable food production. At a time when food security, cost of living and environmental pressures put the industry at the heart of matters, last night at Holyrood was an excellent platform to launch FAST as a formalised group and to have direct conversations with those who will be influencing future policy developments.”

Jim Fairlie, Minister for Agriculture and Connectivity also gave an address highlighting the important UK Government deliverable of Scotland retaining at least 17% of the total farm budget going forward.

Mr Wilson, who is also Executive Director of the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland (IAAS), welcomed the recognition from Parliamentarians of the sector coming together to clarify and constructively address key areas of concern:

“FAST is strongly supportive of the principles of co-design and collaboration, and we want to work constructively with government, politicians and other stakeholders to ensure a resilient and thriving farming and primary food production sector in Scotland.

“We know parliamentarians value the support from FAST members who have done a lot to help them understand the complex nuances and interdependencies within Scotland’s farming businesses and how policy changes might impact them.

“The reception gave FAST the stage to remind policymakers of the extensive and varied expertise within the organisation and how easily they can access people to sense check sectoral implications of agricultural policy changes via one body. Since its formation, FAST has aimed to be included at the sharp end of forming policy and how to best support Scotland’s rural economy and people to thrive.”

FAST first met in September 2022 and was recently formalised to speak collaboratively as one voice on common objectives. The aim is to identify the most effective proactive and reactive action for the industry in response to opportunities and threats affecting Scottish food production and farming through changing policy.

FAST has been providing information to MSPs ahead of the amendments being considered at Stage 2 of the Bill in the Scottish Parliament during May. This reflects the group’s desire for policy that supports agricultural businesses and communities and ensuring a robust level of expert scrutiny from the sector.

The 16 founding organisations of FAST are: Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland (IAAS), National Beef Association (NBA), National Sheep Association Scotland (NSA Scotland), NFU Scotland (NFUS), Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RSABI), Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society Ltd (SAOS), Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW), Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs (SAYFC), Scottish Beef Association (SBA), Scottish Craft Butchers, Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), Scottish Pig Producers (SPP), Scottish Quality Crops (SQC), Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA)