Gove hits out at Scottish Government’s ‘neglect’ of rural Scotland

The Scottish Government has “neglected and taken for granted” rural Scotland, UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove has claimed.

He attacked Nicola Sturgeon’s Edinburgh administration after a Tory MSP said SNP ministers “were no more useful than a pair of wellies with holes in them”, while industry leaders at the National Farmers Union in Scotland (NFUS) complained there was “no vision” from them.

While Labour politicians in Wales have taken on and adapted Westminster legislation to set out their own vision for agriculture, Mr Gove said SNP ministers had repeatedly refused to adopt a similar stance.

The Environment Secretary said: “It looks as though the Scottish Government has neglected and taken for granted rural Scotland.”

He added: “Its approach towards agriculture and its approach towards the rural economy has been far more about generating grievances in order to articulate the case for independence than it has been about engaging in a practical way with the real needs of Scotland’s primary producers and Scotland’s food and drinks industry overall.”

He said the Agriculture Bill at Westminster laid out a “vision for the future of agriculture in England” but was also “a vehicle that allowed other parts of the United Kingdom to make sure their laws changed as well”.

But Mr Gove said: “The Scottish Government, despite repeated requests from the NFU Scotland, from Scottish Conservative MPs and the invitation from me to use this Bill and our legislative time to create a framework for Scotland, Agriculture in the Future, that generous future was completely spurned.”

The Environment Secretary was speaking at a fringe event at the Scottish Conservative conference in Aberdeen organised by NFU Scotland.

The organisation’s policy director Jonnie Hall saying: “In many senses there is no vision within Scottish Government in terms of where it wants to be.”

Conservative MSP Edward Mountain, the convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy committee also hit out at SNP ministers and said: “This Government does not have any vision for the future of Scottish farming.

“We have a vision for the future of farming. The problem is at the moment the Scottish Government doesn’t have a vision for the future is farming. What it has is a system of taskforces to stop it having to make decisions about where to take things in the future.

“To me the Scottish Government at the moment are no more useful than a pair of wellies with holes in them.”