Yesterday the Cabinet Secretary delivered his annual address to the AGM of NFU Scotland. It’s always one of the biggest speeches of the year on agriculture policy. This year we had the added complication of the EU budget deal being concluded last Friday, requiring some quick analysis and drafting by Monday afternoon. You can read the speech and you’ll find the section on CAP towards the end.
Today I’m speaking at an SRUC event, on the topic of innovation and competitiveness in farm policy. Innovation and competitiveness are two examples of what Europe regards as “an obviously good thing”. In other words, when they are discussed by EU ministers, everyone is in favour of them; after all, who would be so foolish as to be against innovation or competitiveness? But very often the discussion stops there, without any clear definition of what exactly these things mean or how we are going to encourage them.
Indeed in the case of competitiveness, whilst every member state is in favour of it, some think the way to encourage it is by reducing farm payments, whilst others think it’s by increasing them!
The silver lining from this absence of clarity is that is gives us a fair degree of flexibility over what we want to do here in Sotland. So I’m looking forward to this morning’s discussion and hearing people’s thoughts on what kind of farm innovation we should be nurturing here.