FUTURE farming support should be given to those ‘progressive’ farms who go the extra mile to protect the environment – that was the message delivered by Scottish Labour MSP Colin Smyth, who will be involved with scrutinising the future Scottish Agriculture Bill post-Brexit.

The South of Scotland MSP paid a visit to Williamwood farm in Dumfriesshire, farmed by Michael Clarke, the chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network in Scotland and his wife Shirley, where he took the opportunity to find out more about farming practices which are sustainable and focused on being nature friendly.

Commenting on the visit Colin Smyth said, “This is a critical time for the development of food and farming policy in Scotland, which will have a massive impact on our local area. Whether we leave the EU or not, the way agriculture is supported will change, and needs to change,” he stressed. “We face particular challenges in farming in Scotland in so-called less favoured areas but there is a widespread recognition that the status quo is not an option and reform coming.

“I strongly believe that change has to include properly rewarding those progressive farms that go the extra mile to protect and enhance our environment, over and above what work they do in the name of production,” he continued. “I’ve seen at first hand the way nature and farming can very much go hand in hand at Williamwood and other farms but we need that partnership to flourish not just exist.

“That means a refocus on redressing the environmental impact of how we manage land. However, agriculture is a long-term business and farmers have to be given time to plan for change,” he explained. “It’s therefore vital that both the Scottish and UK Government start to set out now what future agriculture support will look like and we ensure that support has nature and our environment at it’s very heart”

Mr Smyth is a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, which will soon be scrutinising plans by the Scottish Government for an Agriculture Bill to deal with farming and food policy post-Brexit, should the UK leave the European Union.

Mr Clarke added: “We were delighted to see Colin here and very much encouraged by his willingness to hear and see how nature friendly farming can play a crucial role in slowing climate change, reversing wildlife declines and helping Scotland become a Good Food Nation, especially if better supported by public policy."