Liberal Democrat Candidate for Perthshire North, Victor Clements, has offered a different view on the effectiveness of the SNP government in rural Scotland in a response to comments made by John Swinney. He said: “I cannot let John Swinney get away with his absurd suggestion that the ‘London parties’ – whoever they are – would lose thousands of jobs in rural Scotland and turn our countryside in to a desert.
“It has long been my opinion, even before accepting a party allegiance, that the SNP contribution to Scottish agriculture has been over-hyped.
“The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead, has been lucky. In 2007, after a decade or more in the doldrums, prices for agricultural produce suddenly increased, primarily due to shortages and increased demand in world markets. There has been more of a feel-good factor in farming since then for this reason.
“This has nothing to do with the Scottish Government, nothing to do with Richard Lochhead or Alex Salmond or John Swinney, but they have been very quick to get their faces in the papers and try to benefit from the reflected glory.
“The other big driver for increased confidence in rural Scotland has been the renewables sector, but the policy that has made the biggest difference to this, and from which many farmers have been benefitting, has been the Feed in Tariff (FIT), a UK government mechanism. Again, nothing to do with the SNP.
“ Look at the things the Scottish Government is responsible for. SRDP remains a shambles, robbing smaller farmers to hand big six figure cheques to the bigger ones, the implementation of cross compliance rules have been all over the place, efforts to encourage young farmers have been no more than a token gesture.
“In my own field of woodland management, the industry is in danger of seizing up, we have no integrated policy, and all the Cabinet secretary can do is to come up with meaningless soundbites, no use to anyone on either side of this debate, and more fool anyone who believes them.
“John Swinney needs to be a lot more careful about the material his spin doctors put out on his behalf. It is the SNP fantasy election manifesto that is the real threat to rural Scotland.”