THE SCOTTISH Crofting Federation is seeking answers from Scotland’s party leaders on their aspirations for agriculture, ahead of the upcoming election.

A list of 10 questions has been sent to all leaders detailing the issues of most importance to their membership.

Their queries range from questions over future trade and maintaining animal welfare, health and environmental standards, to issues over a future workforce, policy framework and agricultural payments. The SCF ask the question – will Scottish agriculture remain a priority for financial support when up against the likes of NHS and Police funding.

“With so much apparent chaos and uncertainty now and in the foreseeable future,” said chair of SCF, Yvonne White, “it is imperative that Scottish party leaders give a clear indication as to their intentions concerning agriculture in our country and, more specifically, in the Highlands and Islands. Our questions to the leaders focus on crofters’ main concerns,” she continued. “For example, we ask for the parties’ aspirations for a trade deal with the EU after the transition period ends. What would they envisage appropriate export and import tariff levels on beef and lamb to be?”

The organisation also poses whether a no deal and World Trade Organisation rules could be acceptable?

Ms White continued: “We also ask about environmental and animal welfare standards – something in which crofters take great pride and which gives Scotland a great marketing opportunity. Will we maintain our high standards and will imports have to comply with these?

“Our current veterinary profession and abattoir facilities rely on skilled personnel from Europe. What provision is being made to ensure that these professions are not adversely affected by leaving the EU,” she asks?

SCF probe for details of a future Scottish agricultural support policy, what the levels will be, how they will defend this against competing sectors and how they will protect crofting against the claims of the large-scale agri-businesses.

“We want to know how they intend to show that the production of grass-fed, outdoor-reared meat from the hills and islands is a healthy and environmentally valid way of using ground that can’t produce arable crops to provide food?

“Our crofting communities are a very significant constituency” concluded Ms White. “Now is the time for the Scottish parties to lay out their stalls and demonstrate their understanding of, and aspirations for, crofting and Scottish agriculture.”