Farming is a long term business, which we believe needs a strategy with a timescale of 10 to 15 years – longer than a single parliamentary term or the life of one government. For this reason we think the strategy for Scottish farming should be led by government but in partnership with the industry itself. Cross-party support for the main themes in the strategy would give the industry confidence that it will have longevity.
This is no small ask, as we envisage some significant challenges in the years ahead. Change is inevitable. The current system does not deliver and the "one size fits all" clearly is not working across Scotland's diverse landscape . But we firmly believe that it is in the industry's interest to work with government as a partner for delivering what the industry itself needs. We appreciate that this kind of leadership relies on there being visionary and well-supported individuals within the industry, who can engage in the interests of the whole of agriculture. Leadership skills is one area on which we expect to make recommendations.
The strategy should also be based firmly on the evidenced needs of the farming sector, and Scotland's environment and rural communities, so that it can lead to a sector that is fit for the future. There will be scope for creative solutions, and they will be needed. As we set out below, we firmly believe Scotland must gain the future funding it is entitled to, but even if that is achieved there will be a need to use different techniques to get maximum benefit from the money available – such as greater use of loans or other financial instruments, or help to cope with volatility through insurance or other risk management measures.
As with any strategy, implementation will be crucial. Scotland is often lauded for the fact that we can 'get all the key players in one room', and this is indeed an asset. Nonetheless it is clear to us that successful implementation of this strategy will require engagement by government beyond the portfolios of the Cabinet Secretaries who appointed us. Positive involvement in the areas of Education, Health, Planning, Housing and others will be vital.