Rural issues were brought to the fore of the Scottish election campaign at the National Rural Hustings this evening.
Hundreds of people with an interest in the rural economy and society turned out to quiz the five candidates from the main Scottish political parties, and hear their priorities if elected in the new parliament in May.
The Big Rural Debate, a collaboration between 17 rural stakeholders, is the first time an event of such a scale has been held in a Scottish election campaign in the history of the Scottish Parliament with the sole focus being on issues of direct relevance to those working the land in rural Scotland.
Speakers from the main political parties, who addressed the audience of more than 200 people at Ingliston on Thursday (7 April) were (in alphabetical order) Sarah Boyack (Scottish Labour); Peter Chapman (Scottish Conservatives); Richard Lochhead (SNP); Willie Rennie (Scottish Liberal Democrats) and Mark Ruskell (Scottish Greens). The event was chaired by Ken Rundle.
The panel addressed seven wide-ranging themes based upon key asks compiled by the rural organisations, which included:
- Better connectivity
- Sharing the success of Scotland’s good food story throughout the supply chain
- Improving opportunities to further education and skills training in agricultural and land-based industries, including forestry and country sports
- Ensuring a robust Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020
- Measures to encourage the provision of new, affordable rural housing
- Support and relevant promotion of Scotland’s rural tourism
- Helping Scotland’s nature thrive.
Independent chairman Ken Rundle commented: “The last Scottish Parliament addressed a long list of issues with a direct impact on rural communities and businesses and of fundamental interest to everyone with concerns about the future of our land.
“Whether it be land reform, land tenure, land use, a radically different CAP, food security, food safety or climate change, the range of issues has been enormous.
“Tonight’s event was a great success not only in addressing how these issues will be brought forward in the next five years, but also identifying a number of interesting and exciting policy priorities that will be of significant importance for rural Scotland’s future.”
Note to Editors
This event was organised and supported by the following rural industry groups: NFU Scotland; Scottish Land & Estates; Rural Housing Scotland; Scottish Tenant Farmers Association; Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group; Scottish Crofting Federation; Association of Deer Management Groups; Scottish Beef Association; Scottish Gamekeepers Association; Scottish Association of Young Farmers; Scottish Countryside Alliance; Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust; Scottish Association for Country Sports; British Association for Shooting and Conservation; Scottish Agricultural Organisation Association; Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland; and Forest Policy Group.