Issues of importance to rural Scotland were the focus at a General Election hustings held in Perth recently.

Organised by Scottish Land & Estates in conjunction with BASC Scotland and the Scottish Countryside Alliance, the event saw audience members grill politicians during an evening of robust debate.

The political panel comprised Harriet Cross, Scottish Conservatives candidate for Gordon and Buchan, the SNP’s Jim Fairlie MSP, Scottish Labour’s rural affairs spokesperson Rhoda Grant MSP, Reform’s Helen McDade, candidate for Perth and Kinross-shire and Liberal Democrat candidate for Perth and Kinross-shire, Cllr Claire McLaren.

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Topics raised across the evening included trade and investment, taxation, ringfenced agricultural funding, rural connectivity and each parties’ prioritisation of rural issues.

Stephen Young, Scottish Land & Estates’ director of policy, questioned candidates on the rural priorities set out in their parties’ manifestos, setting the tone for an insightful conversation on what each party had to offer rural Scotland if elected.

Mr Young said: “Rural Scotland is experiencing a period of substantial change but there is often a feeling from rural communities that their concerns are overlooked within the political arena.

“The hustings were designed to provide a sharp focus on the issues that communities and businesses in rural areas want to see progress on and provide a platform for political parties to make their case to voters.

“From a Scottish Land & Estates perspective, we have been clear in our organisation’s manifesto about the importance of trade, taxation, immigration, farm funding and digital connectivity within Westminster’s reserved powers. Decisions in these policy areas, and many others, should be rural proofed to ensure policy development takes account of rural areas early in the process.

“Our appreciation goes to all the politicians who took part in the hustings and to our audience who provided plenty of really good questions which sparked lively discussions and debate.”

BASC Scotland director, Peter Clark, said: “BASC were delighted to co-host these important rural hustings as they are a vital part of engagement in the democratic process ahead of the General Election.

“From food security to net zero targets, the audience put forward fantastic questions to a range of rural candidates and parliamentarians.

“BASC has been clear that sustainable shooting must not be further regulated, because it poses risks to conservation, rural jobs and skills in Scotland.

“Whatever the outcome on July 4, the rural agenda must be front and centre of the future UK Government’s plans post-election.”