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 Greens...

MARK RUSKELL MSP (Scottish Greens)

"THE AGRICULTURAL support and environmental protections achieved in the EU are now in the hands of a chaotic Conservative government openly calling for a bonfire of regulations. This risks pulling the rug out from our farming sector whilst opening the market to cheap imports from around the world with poor environmental and animal welfare standards. The Scottish Greens are standing firmly against Brexit, which will sell our farmers short whilst delaying the urgent action we need to see on climate change.

Membership of the EU has given us the tools to protect our most important wildlife, clean up our rivers, seas and air, and improve animal welfare standards, all of which have significantly contributed to Scotland’s image as a producer of high quality, sustainable food. This hard won reputation is now at serious risk. Scottish Greens will fight to ensure these powers are not thrown away at the very time they are needed most, but are upheld and transferred to Holyrood if Brexit happens, allowing us to safeguard against the potentially disastrous consequences of a future trade deal with Trump’s USA.

Meeting our climate change targets is going to require a transformation of the way we use land in Scotland, and farmers are the key to this success. In addition to producing food, the ability of farm land to lock up carbon in its soils, trees and grasslands needs to be maximised, and reforms to the subsidy system need to incentivise and reward this work.

The UK Committee on Climate Change have said Scotland is now lagging behind the rest of the UK in supporting agriculture’s role in addressing the climate emergency. The new Agriculture Bill in the Scottish Parliament does nothing to address that, and needs to be much clearer in its intention to support farmers to make a positive contribution towards the climate emergency.

If Scotland must leave the EU against our will, we will push for the Brexit deal to include the retention of freedom of movement, which is crucial in ensuring an ongoing supply of seasonal workers to Scotland’s farms. The proposed seasonal workers scheme does not provide enough security to the agricultural workforce, and the UK will continue to struggle to attract enough seasonal workers when competing with freedom of movement available to other EU member nations.

Before the end of any transition period, we must be able to choose between staying in a post-Brexit Britain or becoming an independent country, able to fully re-join the EU and work once again with farming communities across Europe to address the collective issues we face in our globalised food system."