AS THE Scottish Government’s Agriculture Champions, we were delighted to last week publish our final report and recommendations on a Future Strategy for Scottish Agriculture, and it is heartening to see the positive reaction it has received.

We believe this is an opportune moment for Scottish agriculture to position itself firmly in the minds of the Scottish public as a key part of the Scottish landscape and economy, and we sincerely hope that the Scottish Government take forward our recommendations. Working together with the industry we believe they can make a real difference.

With Brexit day fast approaching, it is clear that for Scotland’s agriculture sector, unprecedented changes are coming, on top of longstanding problems in the industry. It is also clear that the policies and thinking of the past have not worked so far and will not work for the future, a new mindset is required.

It is also important that the public understand Scottish farming, they must be better informed about what it delivers, and future policies must be guided by real evidence about what the public values and wants. That is why we recommended that a civic conversation, both informing and listening to the public, must start now.

As we highlight in our report, there has to be a recognition that farm support is not a right, it is an asset given by the public to help farmers and crofters improve their businesses and deliver what the marketplace does not fund. That is why one of our highest priorities is to see help for all farmers and crofters to change their mindset and become more progressive, entrepreneurial and resilient.

Our ambition is to have agricultural policy repositioned and seen for its contribution to food policy, environmental sustainability and the wider economic agenda. We need our farmers to think to the horizon and the generation to come, where funding will be tighter and a new pragmatic policy developed which enables us to protect and derive the benefits from the diverse landscape in Scotland.

We recognise and understand that such a change will not happen overnight and that a transition period is required. That is why we recommend a period of around three to five years, and to provide some stability and avoid confusion, for there to be no major changes to existing policies during that period. For us it is imperative that during the transition period, businesses must prepare themselves and start making the changes that are needed.

We understand the diverse nature of Scottish agriculture and the huge differences that exist between regions and sectors – that is why we are recommending that there should continue to be an element of basic income support going forward, but it must be at much lower levels. We envisage that most farm funding should go on a menu of schemes to boost productivity, improve skills and training, and enhance natural capital and biodiversity.

This has been a long journey since we were first appointed by Fergus Ewing, the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity back in January 2017 and a lot of hard work has gone into reaching this point. We are grateful for the time and commitment of those who were part of our working groups – their input has been invaluable in helping us formulate our thoughts and produce our recommendations. We would also like to thank those that responded to our Interim Discussion document, published in November last year.

We urge all farmers and crofters in Scotland to read and act on the recommendations in our report which we hope will shape Scottish Government thinking on agriculture and rural policy for many years to come.