Our Man In Holyrood: Exiting government but still fighting the issues
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By MSP Fergus Ewing
“All the world’s a stage; and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances.”
And so it was that after 14 years as a government minister, most recently, of course, for rural affairs, it was my turn to exit from office.
In an amicable meeting with the First Minister last week she informed me of her decision, which I accepted.
There is much important work to do for the rural economy, and I wish my successor, Mairi Gougeon, well.
She is a highly talented, and capable individual and will be well able to deal with the unrelenting challenges of the job.
Amongst her early priorities will be to progress the work of the so-called Farmer Led groups.
These were set up by me, with the former National Farmers Union Scotland president – the redoubtable Jim Walker CBE – in order to devise ways for each of the main farming sectors in Scotland to continue to produce high quality food but with a reduction in emissions.
To continue farming, but in a more sustainable fashion in other words.
In the SNP manifesto we committed to progress this work in the first 100 days of government and bring forward a suckler beef scheme.
In addition, there are terrific opportunities for us in another type of farming that is just as important to the Scottish economy – fish farming – where we can see, as in Norway, the most remote communities benefiting from auctioning of consents to farm.
Already in Norway hundreds of millions of pounds have been invested to benefit their most sparsely populated areas.
And they have a saying there that is surely apt in the circumstances: “Fish is the new oil.”
During the election campaign I had the pleasure of catching up with Stewart Graham, who founded Gael Force Marine, one of Inverness’s main employers and a key player in the fish farming sector, providing pens, barges and other highly engineered bespoke products for operators.
The sector is continuously improving its performance and sustainability and can be an even greater Scottish success story in the future.