Having been elected to serve the people of Gordon back in December 2019, it seems very strange to think that this week saw the first opportunity I – or indeed any of us - have had since then to attend the North-east’s premier agricultural event, Turriff Show.
I was pleased to be able to attend and all the indications are that many of us have taken the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with the attractions that Turriff, and the other North-east shows, have to offer. This must be a great relief to show organisers, having been faced with the uncertainty of the past two years and having to take the agonising – but entirely correct - decisions to cancel.
So it was to Turriff I headed on Monday. Not entirely as a passive onlooker, as first on the agenda was a round table meeting with the North-east NFUS. These are always useful, never dull, and a wide range of subjects is crammed into the discussions.
Myself and other Parliamentarians from across the parties took away a number of issues which require further attention from Ministers, both in Westminster and Holyrood. It’s fair to say that many of the concerns raised have been brewing for a while and most of them are issues I have already been working hard on. Such as getting Scottish quality seed potatoes back into the EU. Even getting them into Northern Ireland – currently not allowed due to the current Prime Minister having ‘got Brexit done’ – would be a start.
I have a number of seed potato growers in my constituency. Their standards were already the highest in the world, and they have not diminished. The UK Government could eliminate overnight many obstacles to trade by agreeing to align again with the EU on food and welfare standards. The reason the UK Government doesn’t want to do this is, I fear, because it feels it needs to be able to secure trade deals by allowing domestic producers to be undercut by lower food and welfare standards on imported products.
Other issues I have highlighted previously in this column, such as problems affecting the pig industry and labour shortages remain real concerns. My real worry there is that unless and until we can have our own distinctly Scottish immigration policy, made in Scotland for Scottish needs, we will continue to see shortages of lorry drivers, of processing workers, of fruit and vegetable pickers, and all because we have a government in Westminster in a state of paralysis while it waits to see which of the candidates vying to be Prime Minister outbids the other in the ‘tough on immigration’ stakes.
There was certainly much food for thought in that discussion. Happily, the Food and Drink Exhibition marquee provided some rather more literal offers in that direction. This was a tremendous showcase for the best of North-east food and drink, helpfully supported with a financial contribution from the Scottish Government. A wide range of businesses from Gordon were represented and all seemed to be very busy when I dropped by.
All in all, a great time seems to have been had by all. As well as being a great North-east tradition, the shows reinforce that social connection between town and country and farmer-to-farmer. Well done to Turra Show on a great comeback show and long may it continue.