Scottish Liberal Democrats rural spokesperson, Catriona Bhatia

Scottish Liberal Democrats will put recovery first for our farmers.

We want a system that delivers climate-friendly farming alongside the critical work of producing food and providing rural employment. We saw how important food security is at the beginning of the pandemic. Farmers worked day-in day-out to keep food on our shelves and tables when global supply chains seized up.

We will work to develop a new system of agriculture support that recognises Scotland’s particular strengths and needs. We will match the scale of resources from the old EU schemes.

Scottish Liberal Democrat pressure and our winning a vote at Parliament led to the Scottish Government bringing together a working group involving producers, environmental groups and other stakeholders to get this right. We will enhance sustainability in food production using their conclusions.

The new system should incentivise carbon reduction, promote good water management, knowledge exchange, and public engagement like farm tourism. We need a collaborative approach and to work in partnership for recovery.

As trustees of the land, farmers know how important preventing environmental damage is in the long-term. In our successful budget negotiations with the Scottish Government we secured £5 million more for agriculture transition funding, which rewards farmers for good practices and helps our climate change priorities. We will expand and diversify the Farm Advisory Service to provide new jobs, training and skills that support sustainable land use.

We want the Scottish industry to get the benefits from growing consumer awareness of the carbon footprint of food and the need to cut ‘food miles’ and will work with industry to make it easier for local producers to navigate procurement and get the benefits of their local markets.

We will “croft proof” future agricultural support and take steps to make it easier for people to move into farming, and pass farms through their family.

It’s hard physical work getting that food picked and packaged, but it’s harder still when there aren’t enough staff. We will continue to press the UK Government to take action to repair the damage that Brexit has caused to the attractiveness of Scotland for seasonal workers from Europe.

Of course, we are lucky in Scotland to have iconic produce to drive our exports. It’s no accident – it’s the result of farmers’ determination to grow the very best produce they can. We can’t afford for the UK to be flooded with poor quality food that undercuts the goods we produce to high environmental and animal welfare standards.

Trade deals should result in standards being raised to the highest common level, not reduced to the lowest. Scottish Conservative MPs twice voted against amendments that would have protected against low-standard food imports by requiring trade deals to meet standards. The Tories are no ally to our farmers.

Recovery from the pandemic will need every sector running at full capacity, not more barriers, red tape and uncertainty. We will work with the UK Government to resolve as many of these as possible in time for autumn lamb exports.

We shouldn’t repeat the mistakes of Brexit with independence. The ties within the UK are deeper and stronger so the separation will be longer and more painful.

Finally, Scottish Liberal Democrats are putting recovery first for our mental health. Each week in the UK, an agricultural worker takes their own life. When people do come forward for help, we’ve found they can be left waiting for up to two years. We led the campaign for better mental health services at Parliament, will create new accessible services closer to where you live and continue support for the National Rural Mental Health Forum.