Rural-urban divide: ‘Green politicians don’t grasp what living in the country is like’ 2023

I leave the A9 and head cross-country to Aberfeldy as the sun breaks through the clouds. By the time I reach Martin Kennedy’s farm, crossing the Tay at General Wade’s Bridge and walking up the Edradynate Estate’s tree-lined pathways, it’s a beautiful early summer day.

Kennedy, president of NFU Scotland for two and a half years, rents a farm next door to the one his father started farming in the 1940s and that his brother has rented for decades.

As we converse on the decking area, birds sing, wasps hover, and lambs frolic and cry below, it is impossible to imagine a more green and delightful setting.

Farmers like Kennedy must develop a greener, more pleasant environment. Scotland is replacing the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) with its own agricultural laws after Brexit.

Birds and cattle are everywhere here.

The Holyrood administration, which has set UK-beating vows to reach net zero in record time, wants to show off its eco-friendliness, and the land curators are being ordered to step up. Kennedy calls it a significant request.

Agriculture developed our biodiverse habitat. People forget. We’ve always protected the environment. The industry is willing to contribute more, but agriculture already provides so much.”

The 1960s-era CAP subsidized farmers who sustainably farmed to stabilize EU food production. After Brexit, the Scottish Government promised to develop a better replacement.

The Scottish Government says a late-year agriculture bill would make Scotland “a global leader in sustainable and regenerative agriculture”.

The government has promised incentives to farmers that satisfy eco-friendly standards and promote rewilding and biodiversity. Whether present payments will be increased for steppers or decreased for non-steppers is unclear.

Kennedy says that the 2021 agreement that brought the Scottish Greens into government has made it feel like urban-dwelling politicians are making policies that care more about green-inspired ideologies than rural realities.

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