From Farmers Weekly yesterday:
‘Fifty new part-time starter farms are to be made available to new entrants in Scotland. The Scottish government has announced more than 1,000ha of public land will be let out as part of its programme to support young people who want to get into farming.’
In the same report, Rural affairs secretary Fergus Ewing said:
‘With the average age of Scottish farmers at 58 years, attracting new entrants to farming is vital for the long-term sustainability of the industry. New entrants drive innovation and best practice, improve efficiencies and contribute towards the overall economic vitality of the sector.’
Although we know that Scotland has a massive trade surplus in food and drink with the EU and with rUK, this seems a wise move, to further strengthen the sector, as the possibility of a hard Brexit remains strong. See this worrying assessment from the Institute for Fiscal Studies:
‘If the UK and the post-Brexit EU fail to strike a free trade deal, it is likely tariffs would be imposed on EU imports into the UK, as the UK would be unable to impose zero tariffs on imports from the EU without also extending tariff-free access to all other WTO members. This would raise the price of food imported from the EU, which is the major source of food imports into the UK, accounting for 70% of gross food imports. Therefore, if the UK did not strike a free trade deal with the EU, food prices would be likely to rise significantly.’
I’d be happy enough to subsist on a diet of cheap locally-produced salmon, beef, potatoes, vegetables and whisky.
How about some of the largest landowners matching the Scottish government’s offer? Surely they will be happy to do something to help the nation… or are they too greedy?
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Good idea. The Duke of Buccy will surely come forward and…..ask us to pay for his fences.
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A land tax could certainly be effective in forcing the big landowners to start selling off parts of their estates, resulting in smaller units which could be brought into farm use.
At present what they are doing is withdrawing and restricting tenancies to prevent families – some of whom have worked, and improved these farms, over many decades – exercising their rights to buy.
They will fight tooth and nail to defend their right to use the land which their ancestors stole. The incoming landowners, particularly those from overseas, know that they are operating within a biased system which is nothing like the regulations in their home nations. We have an example of a Danish landowner who pays more tax in Denmark on his Scottish holding than he pays to the Treasury.
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Slightly tangential to this, but probably relevant since it involves the Forestry Commission which is one of the big landowners in Scotland.
There is a report on the BBC Scotland site and it was reported in today’s GMS expressing opposition to the Scottish Government’s proposed legislation regarding forestry. The report has clearly been placed by a group of vested interests – Woodland Trust, the union representing forestry workers, and the Forest Policy Group – and flies several kites indicating that chaos will follow. The report is largely uncritical of these claims and, only towards the end does it include a statement from the Minister, Mr Fergus Ewing and from the Ramblers’ Association and indicates that the body representing Forest industries is supportive.
Forestry has been devolved entirely to the Scottish Government and, up to now, has been the principal source of funding. While having a specific Scottish Committee the Forestry Commission is a UK wide body. By assuming responsibility, under statute, the Scottish Government has to have a form of oversight of Forests and to be able to pass appropriate legislation, where necessary.
The big kite being flown is the old privatisers’ canard that ‘civil servants do not know how to tun industry’, that ‘expertise built up over a century will be lost’, and that growing trees is a ‘long-term project, whereas the term of any minister is but a few years’, as well as the assertion, without right of reply, that ‘civil servants have been high-handed’.
Of course, expertise will not be lost, because as has always been the case when bodies have been brought into public ownership, that those working in and managing things, continue to do so and have their conditions guaranteed under TUPE. Some of the placepersons who occupy positions of authority and influence within the Forestry Commission might well, relatively soon, find themselves being thanked for their service as their services are no longer required.
This is essentially a placed story which the BBC has published because it is a way of attacking the Scottish Government. I suspect that had this happened under the former Lab/LibDem it would have been similarly attacked by the same persons and would have been published because it attacks devolution.
By bringing forestry within the ambit of Scottish environmental and agricultural policies, we can get a more integrated, strategic, long-tern policy based on the specific circumstances in Scotland. That is what devolution entails.
So, to return to the main story, this might facilitate the creation not just of more ‘starter’ farms, but also the repopulation of forest areas based on local interests.
Disclosure: I have been a supporter of and donor to the Woodland Trust for many years. I am a lifelong trade unionist, whose default position is to support trade unions, but, I recognise with nearly 50 years experience that they can be as narrowly self-seeking as any vested interest and, for short-term gain are capable of parroting Tory arguments.
Trying to comb beeb websites so others don’t have to undertake this, often, cheerless task.
Beeb Jockland site makes great play of having a beeb Jockland Politics page and Jockland Politics Editor. Confusingly, beeb Jockland’s politics page frequently has very little coverage of ‘actual’ Jockland politics (as understood in the real world – eg today, nil coverage of Westminster PMQs where SNP represent the 3rd largest Party group). This means that it is often necessary to look at other beeb sites – which are slightly less rigidly orthodox in their application of the beeb iron rule of ‘Make it SNP Baaaad or IGNORE the vile splittists altogether’. Careful combing of the beeb Wales site allows me to bring people coverage of Iain Blackford MP’s contribution to today’s Westminster PMQ’s jollities: See below:
Theresa May denies Brexit bill attacks Welsh constitution
At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Mrs May insisted “continuity bills” – as proposed by the Welsh and Scottish governments to prevent an alleged Westminster “power grab” – were “unnecessary”.
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP Jonathan Edwards told her: “Despite the perceived concessions in this week’s speech by the de facto deputy prime minister [David Lidington], the Withdrawal Bill will drive a sledgehammer through the Welsh constitution.”
Echoing the language used by prominent Brexiteers, he added: “Isn’t the reality that under your plans for Brexit Britannia, Wales would be a rule-taker, a vassal country?”
Earlier, Mrs May told SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford that the UK government had given an “absolute commitment” to re-write a controversial clause in its own Brexit legislation seen as placing new restrictions on the devolved bodies.
She said Mr Lidington had recently met Welsh and Scottish Ministers and had put forward a further proposal “which ensured that more powers are directly devolved to the Scottish and Welsh governments and in due course with the Northern Ireland executive”.
“It was acknowledged that that was a significant step forward,” the prime minister said.
Rejecting continuity bills as “unnecessary”, she told Mr Blackford: “It would be rather more helpful if you were to concentrate on reaching an agreement in relation to the withdrawal agreement because we want to ensure more powers are devolved to the devolved administrations. That’s what we’re going to deliver.”
Mr Blackford said: “It’s no surprise that the Scottish and Welsh governments are putting forward continuity bills to stop the power grab by Westminster.”
Despite the ‘Iain Black BLACKout’ imposed on the beeb Jockland site the beeb UK Politics site felt his PMQ’s contribution warranted a mention on another of the points he managed to raise: see below:
What else came up?
The SNP’s leader at Westminster Iain Blackford continued with Mr Corbyn’s attack on Boris Johnson’s claims about the the Irish border and the London congestion charge, claiming the “bumbling foreign secretary” was “making the UK a laughing stock”. Mrs May repeated that her government was committed to the Good Friday agreement.
As far as beeb Jockland is concerned the (large Scottish majority) SNP block at Westminster simply don’t exist (Scotch Mist?)