ALMOST THREE and a half years on from when the UK decided to leave the EU on June 23, 2016, Brexit has been delayed three times and a general election looms, with the UK public due to take to the polls this coming Thursday, December 12, to decide on the UK Government that will take us forward.

With the Brexit can well and truly kicked down the road and no further negotiations taking place until after the general election, uncertainty over a future outwith the EU has remained firmly on the minds of Scottish agriculture who are awaiting answers.

The SF asked the rural spokespeople for Scotland’s five main political parties to hear what they have to offer Scottish farmers and crofters and what assurances they could give to those who are still undecided on who they wish to lead them through the coming months. Next up we spoke to the Scottish Liberal Democrats...

MIKE RUMBLES MSP (Scottish Liberal Democrats)

"IT HAS been three and a half years since the EU referendum and right from the beginning I have been very clear about wanting to see a new bespoke system of farm support based on the very specific needs and strengths of Scottish agriculture.

Whether we leave the EU or not, changes are on the horizon for the way we think about agriculture in Scotland. We have to be prepared to press our case for a new robust system that benefits our farm businesses, our consumers and our environment. I believe that the only way to get ‘buy-in’ from all parts of our rural economy is to allow the people that are best placed to understand our rural economy to develop the policy.

It is up to government here in Scotland to set the course of direction for rural support but without a plan in place the money that was once ring-fenced for the CAP will be under threat from other government budgets. There is very little incentive for the Scottish Government to continue to provide the same level of support if we don’t have a strong argument to retain the funding.

Earlier this year, Fergus Ewing agreed to set up a group of producers, consumers and environmentalists to recommend a new system of farm support to be in place by 2024. Once that agreed Scottish plan is in place we need to be able to deliver it and the Liberal Democrats are committed to working across the four administrations on a framework for effective land management for all four nations of the UK.

If we leave the EU there is no prospect of quickly replacing our EU customers where we currently trade without barriers, with free trade agreements with other countries. In this election, we are the only party campaigning to protect Scotland’s most important export markets - from both the disaster of Brexit and yet another divisive independence referendum.

It is also clear that there is no point setting ambitious targets on production and environmental standards without enabling our agricultural industries to achieve them. We will help our farm businesses by broadening the remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator and supporting them with access to markets, while at the same time investing in new innovation and technology centres on farming and land use and on carbon dioxide removal.

Finally, immigration from the EU is also a vital source of labour for our food producers, especially in Scotland. Immigration policy should be flexible enough to ensure that our agricultural sectors has access to the labour it needs. Our plan is to guarantee that migrants coming to the UK are welcomed for the skills and contribution that they bring."