It has been my great privilege to have been selected as the SNP candidate for my home constituency of Perthshire South and Kinross-shire for the election to the Holyrood Parliament in May later this year.

During the nomination process, the membership of the party were very keen to have someone with my experience of farming to represent our area given its extensive rural population, as well as the need for a genuine farmer’s voice to champion Scottish Agriculture from the government’s benches. It was that skillset that I highlighted while trying to win the nomination and one which has resonated with the members.

Imagine my surprise then when, within less than a week of my nomination, farmers in my constituency all received a letter from Douglas Ross, the newly anointed leader of the Tories. In it, he extolled himself as the farmers' champion, on the basis that his father used to be a dairyman in the North East. I find his claim of particular sectoral knowledge tenuous to say the least. My father was an economist and financial advisor, but I wouldn’t be offering you advice about where to place your mortgage, or how to invest your pension.

He talked about ensuring support for the food businesses that farmers supply, yet despite repeated calls for furlough extensions in Scotland and Wales being rejected on the basis there was no money left, as soon as south of England needed it, all of a sudden the magic money tree bore fruit again. So our industries are only supported if there is a similar requirement in England?

He also talks about how the Tories are delivering £570m of support, as though this was somehow a new system that we should be thankful for. You may recall back in 2014 and again in 2016 the Tories were repeatedly asked about continued farm support of at least the current levels or better, which roughly equates to the same as what’s going to be distributed now. But this funding is going to be tapered out completely within seven years and is based on environmental protections rather than food production.

He trumpets the great deal they secured from the EU, which although tariff free at this point, trading negotiations are in no way complete and we can already see the major disruptions being caused to fish and food businesses who are currently losing millions of pounds because of this Tory government's 1922 committee driven Brexit.

There may be some things folk dislike about the EU, but supporting farmers to produce world class food is not one of them. The very real concern now is to see how quickly food producers' interests are sacrificed at the altar of trade deals that the Tories are desperate to make. If you don’t believe farmers or the food industry would ever be treated so shoddily, ask a fisherman.

Mr Ross boasts of the great achievement in securing seasonal worker numbers of up to 30,000 – but even if that number is correct, it’s a fraction of what is actually needed UK wide, and as extra costs and paperwork are imposed on those workers, why would they choose to come here when they can go anywhere else in Europe with no extra cost or bureaucracy?

Our soft fruit and veg growers deserve better than this dismal treatment. When Tories are clearly prepared to destroy some of their core supporters' businesses, what chance do you think hill farmers will have of continued support for their sector?

The SNP is committed to protecting farm incomes, protecting our rural populations and supporting farmers as food producers while simultaneously balancing that support with marketing the quality food we produce both at home and to a global market.

By working with the industry, we can protect our environment. We are finding solutions geared towards protecting our future for generations to come from the very real dangers of climate change, while supporting farmers to farm profitably and sustainably.

By choosing me as their candidate, the membership of the SNP have demonstrated they truly value farmers and the need to protect our industry from the worst Westminster decisions. I have always, and will continue to do everything I can to support this industry of which I am so proud. If farmers really do want a champion in their corner, who better than someone who chose to come into the industry and then dedicated 30 years of their life to it?

And finally, the real laughable nonsense from Douglas Ross is that he claims he will fight for Scottish farmers. He doesn’t even have the courage to fight for a constituency seat let alone our entire industry. Instead, he is going for the safe easy option of only putting himself on the list. If he’s not even prepared to fight for himself, what makes you think he’ll fight for farmers?


Jim Fairlie