The chief executive of Scottish Land and Estates lays out sets out a number of asks from aspiring MPs.

Parliament is at its best when it effectively fulfils its core functions of representation, legislation, scrutiny, and debate. Yet, for many in rural Scotland, there has been concern that neither the UK nor the Scottish Parliaments have recently been fulfilling those tasks particularly well when it comes to the interests of rural communities.

That’s why a key ask of Scottish Land and Estates at the forthcoming General Election is for those seeking office to consider introducing ‘rural impact assessments’ to ensure any policy or legislation being developed by the future government is sufficiently ‘rural-proofed’.

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A recent case in point from Westminster was the Energy Price Guarantee in 2022/23 that subsidised energy bills in urban areas to the tune of £500-£700 but left those off-grid significantly worse off with a mere £200 payment – up from the originally announced £100 after an SLE campaign on the matter. This could have been avoided if time was spent properly identifying these issues before the policy was announced.

On farming and food, a commitment from the UK Government to provide a transparent, multi-annual funding settlement to ensure farmers can farm for the future, knowing the level of funding they can expect to receive, would be hugely beneficial. This will also require the Scottish Government to map out how this funding will be allocated, but it will start with the commitment to funding coming from the UK Government.

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Issues also remain post-Brexit and we would like to see political parties commit to working with food producers to ensure that both current and future trade deals work positively for the sector. Similarly, attracting talent to work in rural businesses remains difficult, and consideration of a Rural Visa Pilot scheme to ensure businesses can attract the employees they need for a sustainable future would be welcome.

The next party to exercise power in Whitehall can play an important role in ensuring fairness in the taxation system. Presently, many tax reliefs and exemptions are only available to corporate entities which discriminates against rural enterprises where there is a high proportion of family partnerships and trust arrangements owning and managing businesses.

Finally, we know that boosting connectivity in rural areas is about delivering the right infrastructure in the right place. Stags and waders in remote, empty glens won’t thank you for superfast download speeds.

The targets for coverage that are currently set in the UK Government’s SRN project should focus on people and communities, rather than land mass, particularly in remote locations in Scotland. We would like to see any savings made by revisions to the role out of the SRN based on these proposals spent on priorities identified by rural communities in Scotland.

Whatever twists and turns occur during the election campaign over the next four weeks, the next government has no shortage of important rural issues to consider. Whoever takes office, we will continue to ensure Scotland’s rural businesses are well-represented in the challenges and opportunities which lie ahead.