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Highlands and Islands face post-Brexit challenges

Published Friday, 18th May 2018 in Research news

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The report focuses on how Brexit could affect farming in The Highlands and Islands

A senior agricultural economist at SRUC has helped to produce a new report highlighting the challenges that could face farming and crofting communities in the Highlands and Islands, post Brexit.

Steven Thomson carried out the research on behalf of the Highlands and Islands Agriculture Support Group (HIASG) – which is comprised of representatives of all Highlands and Islands local authorities and RSPB Scotland – along with Dr Andrew Moxey of Pareto Consulting.

Post-Brexit Implications for Agriculture and Associated Land Use in the Highlands and Islands’ assesses the likely impacts of different Brexit scenarios on the economy and communities and their related effects on wildlife, the environment and key sectors such as tourism.

It concludes that existing trends such as declining agricultural activity, land abandonment and a shrinking agricultural workforce, could be accelerated by Brexit. These trends have negative effects on environmental land management and upstream and downstream sectors such as food and drink and tourism. Future policy and funding will need to respond to these challenges and reflect the distinctive needs and contributions of the Highlands and Islands.

HIASG is now calling on the Scottish Government to take note of its findings and ensure that future farming, land management and rural development policy provides a targeted response.

Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, said: “I welcome this important report, which highlights the distinctive challenges of farming in the Highlands and Islands, both in terms of the land and those available to work it. It confirms what I have been saying ever since the Brexit referendum – that Brexit is going to be the biggest challenge that the industry and rural communities has faced for generations. It is therefore vital that the special circumstances of the Highlands and Islands are not ignored, and that their unique social, economic and environmental conditions remain supported.”

Douglas Irvine, Economic Development Manager for Shetland Islands Council, and Chair of HIASG said: “This report is a wake-up call and shows how important farming and crofting is to the economy, people and environment of the Highlands and Islands, but also how vulnerable it is. The challenges faced here look set to increase rather than diminish.”

He continued: “We urge the Scottish Government to ensure future farming and rural policy and funding responds effectively to the scale of the challenges faced by this region and is well targeted. The Government must set out its thoughts on this as a matter of some urgency to give farmers, crofters and other rural businesses time to adapt to the changes that are coming.”

The report is available to download here.

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