SCOTTISH Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing will attend tomorrow's AgriScot event at Ingliston, although he will not be taking part in the NFUS seminar which, in previous years, was a regular platform for his predecessor Richard Lochhead.

Last week, The Scottish Farmer reported that Mr Ewing had declined the union's invitation to speak, reportedly due to a prior engagement elsewhere. This week, the CabSec insisted that he had "always intended" to visit AgriScot, but that the traditional ministerial speech had been dropped at the union's behest.

However it came to pass, Mr Ewing is now expected to attend tomorrow's event, tour the trade stands and present some of the many awards that are due to be announced.

“It is not often that I would do this, but I wanted to set the record straight on the issue of my attendance at this year’s AgriScot show," said Mr Ewing. "I always intended to attend and I am looking forward to doing so.

“AgriScot is, after all, the one annual national space where I can have direct contact with a wide range of stakeholders who are key to the rural economy: I am keen to spend time with a wide range of businesses, stakeholders and of course, our farmers on Wednesday as I tour the exhibition space.

“As the NFUS made clear last week, they have changed the format to this event to give its existing Presidential team the opportunity to engage with members," he added. "I fully respect this decision and will continue to liaise with them, as I have done so throughout the year, to take forward issues they raise as important to farming.

“The outcome of the EU referendum has created huge uncertainty for everyone in our rural and coastal communities. People rightly want clarity and security and they also want to be assured that their government and representative bodies are working together in their interests and that we are focused on the right priorities. I am happy to give such assurance.”

The union's plan for an ‘in-house’ seminar involves union president, Allan Bowie and vice-presidents, Rob Livesey and Andrew McCornick, discussing their priorities for Scottish farming in the challenging times ahead. The floor will then be opened to the membership to air their views on the union’s direction.

NFUS chief executive, Scott Walker, said: “There will not have been a more important time for NFUS in its 103 years and this seminar provides a platform to ensure we put the things that matter most to our members at the top of our priorities.

“The landmark vote to leave the European Union means there is hugely challenging work to be done. That workload is likely to span over several years and require a significant amount of resources but it must ultimately secure the best deal for Scotland’s farmers and crofters from Brexit and put in place a post-EU strategy for our farming, food and drink sectors that drives profitability into all businesses.

“Although our seminar slot has traditionally had a political focus and featured several politicians over the years, circumstances allow us the opportunity to re-jig the format,” added Mr Walker.

“Given that this is an election year for NFUS, it is right that we give our existing presidential team the opportunity to engage with members as they firm up on their plans on whether to stand again for our top positions.

“Beyond Brexit, the challenges the union and its membership face in the future are considerable and include land reform, agricultural holdings legislation, flood management, carbon emission reductions for farming, planning rules for farm buildings and developments, plant and animal disease measures, securing changes to greening, the proposed shift from less favoured areas to areas of natural constraint, species management and reintroductions, succession, new entrants and much, much more.

“The list grows daily and only an organisation like NFUS has the strength to tackle these head on. But receiving a clear steer from our membership at AgriScot will let us know what may need to be added to the list and what needs to be put to the top,” he added.