We have been asking rural organisations what they are looking for from the politicians elected to Westminster, this week, Alan Laidlaw lays out what the RHASS is asking from those on the green benches.

At RHASS we are calling for incoming MPs and the Westminster government to give rural Scotland the support it needs not just to survive, but to thrive. Agriculture is relevant to all of us, from the economic output of the sector in Scotland of £3.3b, through the tens of thousands of direct jobs and hundreds of thousands of wider agricultural jobs, to the support local farming supply chains deliver in food, tourism and energy. The glue beyond our cities that underpins the whole economy is outside the 40mph limit and rural.

As we celebrate our 240th anniversary year at RHASS, we’ve listened to agricultural communities across Scotland tell their stories and it’s clear that everyone needs farmers and agriculture.

From rural communities that rely on the crofters and farmers to provide jobs and economic activity in fragile areas, to high-end restaurants in Scotland’s biggest cities that showcase Scotland’s larder to international visitors and locals, the critical importance of local produce is high.

Many of those same tourists are also fortunate to experience Scotland’s growing agritourism sector, which generates over £60m for Scotland’s economy.

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Agri support and the value of the rural economy in a post-Brexit landscape is often debated. Driving further uncertainty to the market never helps anyone. Clarity in all areas is needed to allow farmers to plan for the long term. Scotland won’t compete on mass production with global players such as Argentina, despite 75% of our land being used for agriculture. To secure our future, farmers need to understand the subsidy support. The fair price at the gate aspirations appear to be sliding further out of reach and so supporting food production for our home and export markets needs serious consideration.

At RHASS, we are doing everything we can to support the sector, our 16,000 members representing a cross-section of the farming and agricultural community. We provide education and funding, and champion the needs of the sector. Last year, we spent £328,178 in grant funding to projects, including £179,976 for RHET, which takes the classroom to the countryside and the countryside to the classroom – and it’s at this grass-roots level that the gap in understanding and knowledge of the sector becomes clear. Our new and re-elected, politicians have a chance to define how they engage in the big debates around what solutions our sector brings, rather than a narrow focus on the problems.

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But we need the government to help, by supporting the agricultural sector which is being hit by rising costs across the board – not just in interest rates and energy costs – alongside challenging trading conditions with wafer-thin margins. Farmers, alongside consumers, are being hit by food inflation and the cost-of-living crisis. Our more extreme weather is also impacting farmers, with spoiled crops and greater losses of livestock experienced due to changing patterns – the knock-on of which is felt beyond the current growing season and impacting on resources and confidence for the future.

The Society welcome all politicians and candidates who would like to deepen their understanding of the challenges and opportunities in the agricultural sector to join us at the Royal Highland Show to meet those at the coalface, who are working hard throughout the year, whatever the weather, to put food on our plates and create local jobs.

Farming is not a short-term commitment. From bulling to seeing a return on that investment or buying seed until sale, farmers are in it for the long run. We hope to see a government and opposition that can match that long-term commitment and understand the sector, and to develop plans to support us for the long term too.