SCOTGOV'S desks are buckling under the weight of all the reports and submissions on the future of Scotland's agricultural policy – so it is high time for some actual action to put something in place.

That was the message from outgoing NFU Scotland president, Andrew McCornick, who used this week's online AgriScot to call on ScotGov to ‘stop dithering and start delivering’ on future policy for Scotland’s farmers and crofters.

“We are dealing with Brexit, climate change, trade agreements and two agriculture bills," noted Mr McCornick. "All that is taking place under a dark cloud created by this insidious Covid pandemic. The economy needs to be added to that list of emergencies. There needs to be a lot of heavy lifting done in a very short time.

“By driving more on the economy, we can reverse or grow away from the ongoing damage of Covid-19 and deliver stronger, and better outcomes for the climate and our other national treasures like the food and drink sectors and public services," said Mr McCornick, who will soon step down from two terms in charge of the union.

“We as farmers and crofters, can and will, deliver for the economy, for the environment, for climate change, for biodiversity and for our communities but we need a much clearer steer on direction than that which the recent £10 million capital grant scheme from Scottish Government’s Agricultural Transformational Fund has offered. We need real tools with real purpose within a future agriculture policy.

“Scottish government has set challenging targets on climate change for 2030 and we have the same ambition of growing the value of our food and drink sector to £30 billion by 2030," he stressed. "These are admirable but useless until we have greater clarity on policy and a roadmap to deliver it.

“The Cabinet Secretary and Scottish Government must have desks that are buckling under the weight of commissioned reports and stakeholder input promoting policy and a way forward. With still more reports in the pipeline to come, these many proposals must be stitched into pragmatic measures that put farmers and crofters ahead of IT system requirements to get the delivery on the ground that we need," he insisted.

“The Scottish government has its own ‘stability and simplicity’ document which is a welcome transition position through to 2024. It creates the opportunity to develop and pilot future schemes that will be more aligned to what Scotland needs. But we must see stronger policy direction on this sooner rather than later."

However, Mr McCornick added that the potential role of Regional Land Use Partnerships in that future needed significantly more scrutiny: "Our recent conference highlighted the massive gaps that exist in the concept of RLUPs. It feels like a whole new tier of bureaucracy is in the making and it is being built on sand. I urge government not to make the same mistake with RLUPs that was made with the beef efficiency scheme and rush out a programme and develop it on the hoof. It risks doing rural Scotland a massive disservice."