I WRITE this nearly at the end of my two year chairmanship of the NSA in Scotland, and frankly I would have liked more to have been achieved in a period which has seen massive upheaval, and a plethora of consultations, but very little actual policy decisions or committed future planning. Recent 'more of the same' announcements have been soul destroying for young and progressive businesses.

Over the last two years I have only either seen ministers and relevant politicians in large mixed consultation groups, or called in when they have a specific issue to prime the industry on. In terms of highlighting the industry needs, we are only a whisper in a massive media cauldron of multi-channel digital media and internet forums.

It is all very well to say that we need a champion, as John Elliot said last week, but actually the duty comes down to every farmer to engage with their representatives, to promote their produce and go out online and sell our story because one voice cannot do it.

Over the last 15 years I have watched the industry become punch drunk with all the reforms, diminishing returns and lowering of value, and I think if we had a reset button, it would need pushed now. Stakeholders, staff and civil servants appear jaded – but limping from one meeting to another without making substantial change just will not cut the mustard or give the industry a desperately needed injection of enthusiasm.

Richard Lochhead served the longest as cabinet secretary because of an ability to body swerve any major reform, with the permission of an industry that was protecting individuals not sectors, and we are now paying the price with serious drifts of breeding livestock and a tenanted sector so battered that the stable and lasting relationships needed to build growing businesses are near impossible. After a great start as a pragmatic and thoughtful minister, it appears Fergus Ewing is as capable of deferring to committees as his predecessor and we now have 'Champions' and 'Advisers' galore, all diluting the industry's meaningful time with government, although I am encouraged to see a few new faces on recent panels to break up those who took us to this position in the first place.

It is no better down the road, with no comfort being given on international trade – at the time of writing no secure outlet for international lambs after March, and abattoirs, processors and hotels unsure of their labour source. This is combined with a Westminster Government opening its doors to environmental and animal rights activists, and trade ministers accepting sponsorship from foreign meat companies.

As we enter New Year we need to be less cosy with government and come out fighting. Those who hold the key to industry confidence cannot be allowed to continue to dither not just on our futures, but with the food supply of the nation.

So I have five wishes for 2019:

  • A Scottish Government that firmly engages in long and meaningful sessions with elected industry representatives for the good of the industry;
  • A recognition of the powerhouse that Scottish Red Meat could be. Take away salmon and whisky and I am afraid Food and Drink is not that rosy; there would be no arguments over levy if lamb were killed and added value in Scotland and Scotch Lamb has the potential to capitalise on our worldwide recognition of Scotland the brand;
  • A holistic review of our industry taking into account tax, lending, business structures and tenure, to recognise that not just subsidy needs changed but structural change is important, and recognising that rural people should be the driving force in any countryside change;
  • A weak currency. Farmers with significant assets in shares and land may not like this but a poor economy helps those who are here to make their earnings from production. We can’t do deals with foreign farmers if they can’t afford to supply us. Scotland is producing lamb at a lower finished price over the last six months than NZ, Ireland or Continental Europe, so the longer we have political instability the better it bodes for our home food being the best and cheapest option while keeping returns up;
  • Good luck to all those investing in farm businesses against a tide of insecurity. One thing indecision and mayhem creates is opportunity, and I am sure there are farmers who will grasp the nettle and get on. I would love to see more of you doing this together, so get involved, whether with NSA or other stakeholders. This industry needs everyone to champion what we do, and as the world gets smaller and hungrier, our industry will be more appreciated again.