So, here we go into the final straight of the latest race to the polling booths.
This time we’re going to vote in what was named the “Brexit Election” by my colleagues in the press just a few weeks ago and as ever I will make my call to everyone to turn out and vote … The colour of party is of course up to you, but the piece of advice my father always gave me on previous polling days will still stand on the 8th June … “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain afterwards.”
However, as we go to the polls, that name “The Brexit Election” seems a long way off the mark with politicians from all sides wanting to argue about everything from the NHS, Care for the Elderly, Defence, Schools and in fact just about everything apart from Brexit itself!
From an agricultural point of view that lack of Brexit debate worries me as we head towards actual separation from the Europe Union (EU) in less than 2 years’ time. Now, as anyone who has been through the process will tell you – separation and divorce is a messy business and even with the best will in the world, there are winners and losers with both parties left feeling some kind of bitter taste afterwards. I feel that this “divorce” – for want of a better word – from the EU will be no different and what I have been looking for from all of the politicians is some clear guidance, not only where they stand on Brexit, but also the way in which they will deal with agriculture in 2 years’ time.
Quite rightly the issues I mentioned above are all on the agenda, but politicians from all parties would do well to stop for a moment and think about who actually feeds them every day and where that food comes from.
It’s interesting to contrast the way in which farming is treated today compared to 1975 when we last had a referendum on whether to stay or leave Europe. Back then, the arguments were all about the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) and making it more suitable for the UK … This time I can’t remember hearing any politician mention CAP in the run up to the election.
If we drill down further though, each member country of the UK has its own unique diversity of farming and that can never be handled by a one-size fits all policy coming from Westminster. Like most other farmers I’m looking for a fair deal for farming North of the Border and when agricultural policy powers are handed back from the EU, they should in my opinion go back to Holyrood who have handled farming as a devolved issue for a long time.
As I’ve said before in this column, if the booming Scottish Food and Drink industry is to keep on growing to double in size by 2030, then we will need a new generation of high quality farmers to supply the raw materials. Scotland food and drink tell me that our Scottish agriculture supports more than 400,000 jobs across the whole rural economy and my worry is that if farming doesn’t get a fair hearing in the Brexit negotiations – then what will be the result?
Those same negotiations should provide a fair deal for the large part of our farming workforce who come from Europe and are vital to farmers and food processing. I can’t imagine what would happen if we didn’t have such dedicated workers willing to get their hands dirty to keep the rural economy running so smoothly.
It’s all very easy for politicians to ignore agriculture as long as they’ve got cheap food and full stomachs, but if supermarket shelves were half empty and food prices were doubled, then I think farming and food supply would suddenly be top of their agendas and not at the bottom as we face the somewhat mis-named “Brexit Election”