First Minister John Swinney has reinforced the Scottish Government’s commitment that there will be ‘no cliff edge’ in agri funding and policy as he pledged to work with industry in a keynote speech.

Addressing the QMS breakfast briefing at the Royal Highland Show, Mr Swinney said he is now the longest serving parliamentarian in Scotland, having served for 27 years.

He said ‘Every one of those 27 years of listening to, engaging with, understanding, sympathising with, representing and taking forward the issues and perspectives of rural Scotland’ and said he has taken this understanding into Bute House as First Minister.

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Mr Swinney told the capacity audience he will ‘listen with care to the challenges and issues that are faced by the agriculture sector and the rural communities of Scotland.’

There were no major announcements in Mr Swinney’s speech due to election purdah rules, but there was a commitment that the 2024 payment strategy will maintain the payment timings of last year, and BPS and greening payments will be in bank accounts from September.

He said: “The agriculture reform route map delivers on one of our key pledges: that there will be no cliff edges in support for the farmers and crofters in Scotland. And it provides transparency on the timeframes moving forward.

“The route map provides Scotland’s farming and food production industry with clarity and confidence on key dates; expectations; the various measures being proposed, and the support that will be available to prepare for the implementation of the necessary changes to the way we operate.”

The First Minister added the Scottish Government is committed to supporting Scottish Farming and food production so its ambition, to become a global leader in sustainable and regenerative agriculture, becomes yet another attractive aspect of Scotland’s brand identity.”

Highlighting the importance of working in partnership with industry, he said an early draft of Code of Practice on Sustainable and Regenerative Agriculture, as part of the Agriculture & Rural Communities Bill process has already been shared and discussed with stakeholder groups.

Turning to the Whole Farm Plan which comes into effect next year and will demand that all farmers and crofters will need to have in place two out of five baselines for support, Mr Swinney urged farmers to take advantage of the Preparing for Sustainable Farming initiative.

With concerns among industry that livestock numbers will be reduced to help meet net zero targets, Mr Swinney said the reform of the Scottish Suckler Beef Support Scheme will strike a balance between productivity, profitability and climate impact.

The First Minister concluded: “Please be assured that you have in Bute House a First Minister who understands this industry, who is committed to this industry and wants to see this industry thrive, and have a long-term sustainable future. A future that can generate new and buoyant opportunities for our country.”