THERE HAS been outcry from farming and rural organisations over The Scotsman newspaper's plan to ditch its longstanding agricultural section.

In a letter to the publication's editor and management board, 20 bodies with a stake in the sector have expressed their deep disappointment and concern at the move, and collectively asked The Scotsman to 'reconsider this direction of travel'.

"Agriculture, as you know, has a frontline role in Scotland’s economy and, in addition to the business news importance of your coverage, your readers benefit from fair and professional reporting of the many major, topical – and sometimes controversial – issues which relate directly and indirectly to farming and food production," read the industry letter. "These range from the impact of Brexit and the war in Ukraine (and the impact on food security and production in Scotland) to public scrutiny of red meat production and farm animal health and welfare. The sector's roles in mitigating climate change and curtailing biodiversity loss have also moved centre stage in recent years, especially since COP 26 on Glasgow.

"Scotland also has a track record as a pioneer on the global agricultural stage – from the introduction of Quality Assurance to an impressive stream of scientific breakthroughs, thanks to our country’s world-leading agricultural research organisations, including The Moredun Research Institute, just a few miles from The Scotsman offices.

"There will be hugely important agricultural issues to be reported on in the coming months and years which relate to the prosperity, health, and wellbeing of all people in Scotland, as well as rural communities – from new Agricultural Bills to the impact of Land Reform and land ownership. It is vital politicians, business operators and your wider audiences who access The Scotsman news, continue to benefit from the facts via the quality and integrity provided by specialist journalists who understand farming and its wide-reaching impact in, for example, Scotland’s tourism industry and enhancing Scotland’s natural environment."

Pointing to the newspaper's parent company, National World plc, the joint letter noted its stated policy of 'providing compelling content for local communities, both consumers and businesses' reflecting a 'greater sense of community awareness'.

"The National World plc strategy highlights the impact of the changes in your readers’ lifestyles in post-Covid times and, with so many people moving to work from home in rural Scotland, the interest in rural and agricultural life will surely continue to grow. This is not the time to stand down your farming and rural affairs coverage given that public interest in, and scrutiny of, agriculture and farming is increasing."

The organisations behind the letter are at the heart of Scottish agriculture – AHDB, Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland, James Hutton Institute, Lantra Scotland, Moredun Research Institute, NFU Scotland, NSA Scotland, Quality Meat Scotland, Royal Highland Agricultural Society of Scotland, Royal Highland Educational Trust, RSABI, SAOS, Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs, Scottish Crofting Federation, Scotland Food and Drink, Scottish Land & Estates, SRUC, Scottish Tenant Farmers Association, Scottish SPCA and Women in Agriculture Scotland – and all 'respectfully, and urgently' asked The Scotsman to think again, and maintain or enhance the coverage delivered by a dedicated farming section.