DRIVING GROWTH within Scottish agritourism is a key route to sustaining family farms and safeguarding a future for younger generations.

This was one of the key messages to come out of Scotland’s Agritourism conference in Perth, which saw Cabinet Secretary for rural affairs and Islands, Mairi Gougeon, unveil a new growth strategy for the sector.

‘Scottish Agritourism 2030 - The Strategy for Sustainable Growth’ looks to help grow the number and diversity of authentic agritourism experiences in Scotland and further develop local food and drink offerings as part of that experience.

Sector lead for Scottish Agritourism, Caroline Millar, explained that this strategy is a milestone in changing the ambition of the sector.

“We all need to be more ambitious about where we want to take agritourism, but we hope we are now in a place where the Government and other partners can recognise that potential and come with us on that journey.

“We are looking for investment from the Scottish Government and others to deliver on actions within the strategy. We cannot afford to have an agritourism strategy that was put in the commitment for the first 100 days in government to just sit on the shelf or stall – we need to start tomorrow to drive things forward.”

Cabinet Secretary Mairi Gougeon confirmed that at this stage, there isn’t specific funding available but that that the Scottish Government is looking at replacement rural development programmes, and assured delegates that they would continue to look at what support might be needed to drive agritourism forward.

Read more: Future of Scottish agritourism to be discussed at two-day conference

“I see this strategy as a living document, something we will continue to look at and develop but absolutely from a Scottish Government perspective I want to make sure we can drive this strategy forward.”

Ms Millar unveiled some of the specific sector ambitions: “We know there are 500 farms in Scotland which have been verified as having an agritourism offering but we want to increase this number to 1000 known businesses by 2030 and for half of these businesses to offer local food and drink as part of their stay,” continued Ms Millar.

She identified that there are challenges in realising this ambition when it comes to providing locally sourced meat.

“There is amazing demand from people looking to buy meat directly from farmers but there are particular challenges around private kills as we don’t have the local infrastructure. If we are selling a story about sustainable Scottish produce, then we don’t want the end of that story to be our livestock having to travel long distances to be killed. That welfare piece of the story is very important.”

Ms Gougeon acknowledged the struggles within the local meat supply chain: “We have a strong story to tell about sustainability but there is a problem with some of our key supply chains whether that is meat or dairy, where we are shipping things right across the country for processing,” she said.

With a nod to COP26 discussions in Glasgow she added that if Scotland is serious about sustainability through lowering its emissions and carbon footprint, and supporting food supply chains, there is a need to improve on this situation ‘right now’.

Ms Gougeon referred to recent research on feasibility of mobile abattoirs which found that there would be a struggle for these to become commercially viable, but added: “We would be happy to look at a proposal if someone was to come forward and deliver it, but this is an issue that we need to get to grips with and see what we need to improve and how to do better.”