Stirling MP Alyn Smith Urges UK to Go Further and Faster in Supporting Scotland’s Farmers
The SNP have lambasted the UK Government’s historic failure to take food security seriously and urged it to go further and faster to support Scotland’s farmers. The agricultural sector is facing its most serious crisis in decades as a perfect storm of Brexit, inflation and the war in Ukraine has led to skyrocketing costs which threaten the viability of many farmer’s livelihoods.
Speaking in Parliament, Alyn Smith, MP for Stirling, reminded parliamentarians of the crucial role agriculture plays in the rural economy and its foundation for national security. Smith referred to an article he had written in this paper more than a decade ago where he noted that the UK Government “have been far too complacent about the security and stability of our food supplies” adding that “the lessons remain largely unlearned by the UK Government.”
The Stirling MP also spoke on length about the input issues that are plaguing farmers before calling for significant government support to help farmers get through the current crisis. Policies he suggested included cutting red diesel duty to zero, an urgent review of immigration policy to facilitate labour supply, as well as government loans for the sector.
‘Our food supply is under unprecedented strain. I believe food security should be viewed in the same breath as our national security… Anything that undermines food productions should be viewed with extreme scepticism, however well intentioned. Food production must be the basis of the rural economy.
‘The sector was already reeling from Brexit and Covid and now the dreadful events in Ukraine have every single light on farming’s dashboards flashing red. The input costs for feed have gone up and supplies have become more difficult. Fuel costs, red diesel and gas are all going up. Fertiliser costs are rocketing. Labour shortages are real… UK trade policy always puts the interests of farmers first – it’s just a shame that its farmers in other countries rather than our own, weakening our food production domestically.’
‘The EU has just in the last couple of weeks announced a €1.5 billion Support Fund for farmers. The UK really needs to match that urgency and priority… We need to reduce red diesel duty to zero. We need to address energy costs via a price cap on inputs. We urgently need to review immigration policy to ensure labour supply. I would urge the government to consider loan guarantees along the lines of the Covid support for agricultural businesses who are facing a short term, hopefully, crisis in their cash flow.
‘The events in Ukraine show that our resilience must be prioritized more. Food production must be at the heart of that resilience. There is lots that we can do and I’ll work with anybody to help promote that agenda.’