SCOTLAND’S farmers have gathered outside Holyrood to call for “clarity” on the upcoming Agriculture Bill.

Around 400 farmers were in attendance outside the Scottish Parliament today to demand that food production is made the central pillar of Scotland’s new agricultural policy.

Currently, the Scottish Government gives farmers, crofters and land managers around £600 million worth of subsidy every year.

This system has its roots in the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy but Brexit means that every country in the UK is developing its own replacement.

Scotland is set to have a new system of support in place by 2026.

The Scottish Government is presently involved in consulting farmers and other stakeholders on their views about the future of Scotland’s agricultural policies.

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However, the National Farmers Union of Scotland said that their views are being consulted within an “information vacuum” and that the bill currently fails to recognise their industry.

Speaking after the event outside the Scottish Parliament NFU President Martin Kennedy said: “Farmers and crofters have delivered a clear message that any new policy created by the proposed new Agriculture Bill must put food production front and centre when it comes to delivering all the economic, social, and environmental benefits that all agricultural businesses will be asked to provide.

“At a UK level, we have taken our eye off the ball on energy and look at the mess we have got ourselves into. We cannot repeat that same mistake with food or the food and cost of living crisis we are all currently enduring will simply get worse. Food security is now a global issue, and we have a moral obligation to produce it.

“The ‘win, win, win’ for the Scottish Government is that investing in this nation’s food production will deliver the wider environmental goals we all want to provide.”

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More than 40 MSPs attended the rally and at least one member from each political party represented in Holyrood was given the opportunity to address the crowd, including Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Mairi Gougeon MSP.

Kennedy called on politicians to listen to farmers: “We thank the many politicians who joined our rally today and urge them to take away the message that investing in active farming and crofting will reinvigorate the rural economy at a time when, in many parts, it is shrinking.

However, conservation groups are urging the Scottish Government to seize the opportunity to change Scotland’s agricultural system for the benefit of the climate.

Scottish Environment LINK, a coalition of more than 20 environmental charities, disagreed with claims that the bill did not focus enough on food production.

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Its Farm for Scotland’s Future campaign calls on the new bill to ensure that at least three quarters of public spending on farming supports methods that restore nature and tackle climate change.

In a briefing Scottish Environment LINK said that there should be no “polarisation” between food production and environmental issues.

“Clearly, we need our farmers to be producing high quality food, but we need this to be done in a more sustainable way,” it stated.

“The prominence given by the Government to climate and nature is only notable because the government is rectifying the fact that these issues have not been given enough prominence to date.”

Speaking to The National, Vicki Swales, head of land use policy for RSPB Scotland, said that farmers were an essential part of solving the biodiversity crisis.

“Farming has a key role to play in tackling climate change and halting the loss of nature but is currently the third largest source of greenhouse emissions and contributing to wildlife declines.

“Some farmers are already taking action, but we need all farmers and crofters to do more.

"We are calling on the Scottish Government to maintain the current level of farm funding but to fundamentally change how this more than half a billion pounds is spent each year.

“Less than 10% is spent currently on farming schemes that encourage action for climate and nature. Instead, the majority of this funding is paid out according to how much land a farmer has and its agricultural quality.

“In future, the majority of farm funding must support farming and food production methods that are low carbon and nature positive.

Swales noted that the Scottish Government was “heading in the right direction on agricultural policy”.

“This is welcome, because the current farming system is not sustainable. Of course we need our farmers to continue producing food and the government’s consultation on the Agriculture Bill recognises this.

“We just need them to do it in a way that also helps address the nature and climate crisis.“