Scottish Land and Estates launched its ‘Priorities for Rural Scotland’ manifesto to highlight the challenges and opportunities that need to be addressed urgently by a new UK Government following the general election.

SLE said election rhetoric and promises by political parties must be backed up with clearly defined action to unlock the tremendous potential of rural areas.

The next UK Government should make a clear commitment to early ‘rural proofing’ of policies to prevent rural businesses and communities being disadvantaged and to maximise the delivery of economic, environmental and social benefits.

Speaking at the launch of ‘Priorities for Scotland’ at the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston, Dee Ward, chair of Scottish Land and Estates, said: “The people who are the heart and soul of rural Scotland want their voices to be heard and are sending a message to our political leaders that it is clear and tangible action they want.

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“While so much of rural policy is devolved, there are still key issues reserved to Westminster that will impact the ability of rural businesses in Scotland to thrive. Trade, taxation, immigration, farm funding and digital connectivity are all vitally important to people running businesses in some of our most fragile areas. The fundamental matter underpinning all of these is the need to rural-proof policy.”

Chief executive of SLE, Sarah-Jane Laing, said: “Rural proofing should be a standard component of the development of policies across all government functions. Understanding the impact of policy and legislation on rural areas is fundamental to addressing rural inequalities. For too long rural proofing has taken place at the end of policy development or even post implementation. We want to see the rural lens applied at the earliest stages. We are asking the UK Government to undertake meaningful ‘rural impact assessments’ on all policy and legislation that is developed.”

Ms Laing continued: “The powers to set out funding arrangements on a multi-annual basis are reserved to the Treasury. The UK Government must give Scotland’s food producers the clarity they need to farm for the future.

“Getting the right trade deal for our food producers is more important than getting any old deal over the line. A commitment to focus on food security offers an opportunity to place our food producers at the heart of future deals. The Windsor Framework has placed Scottish livestock farmers at a disadvantage, exacerbated by the dwindling number of abattoirs in Scotland for processing. The UK Government must ensure that both current and future trade deals work for UK food producers.”