£250K to promote regional produce

Funding for projects supporting locally-produced food and drink

Small grants of around £5,000 each will be made available to promote Scottish produce. Recipients will include local food and drink producers, and regional food and drink networks, who traditionally can find funding difficult attract. The fund will open for applications in May and be overseen by Scotland Food and Drink.

Speaking at the Scotland Food & Drink Annual Conference, Rural Secretary Fergus Ewing said:

“Scotland has some of the most diverse, instantly recognisable regionalised food and drink in the world – from Arbroath smokies, to Stornoway Black Pudding, Orkney Cheese, Shetland Lamb, and whiskies from across the country – to name just a few.

It’s one of our key Programme for Government commitments to promote locally sourced, and locally produced food. The success of those producers then helps to bolster regional economies, and ensures that local food and drink continues to be produced in the area it originates from – which can be integral to a product’s identity.

Last year was a record one for Scottish exports – with more than £6 billion of Scottish food and drink consumed worldwide. Given the continuing lack of clarification from the UK Government regarding our position with those international trading partners, post-Brexit, it’s more important than ever that we ensure a robust market at home for our regional food and drink producers.”

Fergus Ewing MSP
Member of Scottish Parliament for Inverness and Nairn
Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity

Nairn Academy

I have had several constituents in touch to raise their serious concerns regarding the current standard of the Nairn Academy building.

Ensuring our children’s education is of the highest standard is an issue that is of vital importance to many members of the public. Indeed, many of you have expressed such views to me.

I have therefore written to the Chief Executive of the Highland Council this morning to raise these concerns.

I will also be meeting with the Highland Council leader in the coming weeks to discuss this matter and note my support for provisions for Nairn Academy in the Capital Budget plan being announced in the coming weeks.

You can find a copy of my letter on the link below.

Kind regards,

Fergus Ewing MSP
Inverness and Nairn

18 02 26 Nairn Academy building letter

Fergus Ewing Column

Derek’s Day

It was Derek Mackay’s, Scotland’s Finance Secretary’s day in Holyrood when the first stage of debating our budget proposal led to endorsement by the Scottish Parliament.

The package of measures will increase spending in the areas that I believe constituents value most – and cause most concerns about cuts resultant from the poorer financial settlements from Westminster. Health education and public sector pay for those earning low or modest earnings are included.

Behind the scenes negotiations took place with the Greens and latterly the Lib Dems. Ultimately the package was approved with support from the Greens and two of the Lib Dem’s – the MSPs for Orkney and Shetland where a campaign for assistance with their infra island ferry services, for which Local Authorities are responsible received some funding.

The Conservatives in London set the Scottish Budget and it has been falling in real terms since 2011. Of course they have to pay the eye watering Brexit Bill which may ultimately amount to about twice the total budget for public services in Scotland!

Over the past few months as the local constituency MSP many constituents have expressed profound concern about possible cuts to health and education services. The Highland Council floated reducing money for additional needs support which caused widespread worry and anger. The NHS staff do a great job but more funding is most certainly needed. From my perspective, there is simply no doubt about these two fundamental needs for further support for health and education.

Therefore our budget will add £400Million to the NHS and £135M to local government funding. This money will be found largely by raising a bit more taxation from those earning the most – including MSPs! However, that is balanced by two measures. Those earning low or modest earnings will be taxed less – most less than elsewhere in the UK. Secondly public sector workers earning up to £36, 500 will receive a minimum pay increase of 3%. That will help three quarters of all NHS workers for example.

What was really sad is that both the major opposition parties chose to play no part in any negotiation. To me this is simply opposition politics at its most pointless. Derek made a formal offer to each party to use for their own tax proposals the Fiscal Commission modelling programme – to work out what their proposals would mean. After all raising the rate of tax may not raise the tax revenue because obviously people may take steps to avoid paying it. Neither the Tories nor Labour took up this offer, nor set out their proposals.

I cannot see this approach earning much respect from the public. The budget is serious business. It impacts on people and their families.

However, Derek MacKay emerged from the process with a clear deal and the certainty that that brings. He was the man of the hour and his credibility and stature has risen as a result.

Highlanders join rural programme

After the budget was over I spoke to and answered questions from a group of 60 people taking part in a Rural Leadership Programme. This course has turned out over 500 graduates over ten years.

But it was a central belt course – developed and run by Scottish Enterprise. After discussions with Charlotte Wright of HIE it was agreed that for this year students from the Highlands and Islands would also take part. After all, since the course is so successful in helping people develop their skills and understanding of the rural economy why should highlanders be left out?

In fact, one of the questions was from a student from Elgin who made these precise points. I therefore hope that we can confirm future support for this worthy course. People are our most valuable asset, and investing in tried and tested successful training courses is no more than a sensible investment in that asset!

Young learner

Helping our daughter (9) with our homework recently, I was instructed by her to use the iPad to help go through the maths questions – sums as I used to know them. I said that when I was a boy there were no computers – only blackboards, chalk and jotters. The response from our Natasha, I cannot really fault or quibble with:

“Daddy, you need updating!”

By Fergus Ewing MSP

Understanding Our Rural Economy

by Fergus Ewing MSP

To some people the term ‘rural economy’ conjures up images of sleepy, traditional industries, where very little changes from one generation to the next. In reality, the rural economy is vibrant, diverse, and changing all the time. My job is to build on that vibrancy, and encourage more diversity, to help grow that economy and bolster Scotland’s rural population.

In order to achieve those aims, it’s imperative that the Scottish Government understands the makeup of the rural economy, which means gathering accurate and up-to-date information. To that end we have produced a ‘Working Paper’, which sets out our current understanding of the Scottish rural economy: capturing information on household and employment data, as well as identifying key challenges, such as broadband services and fuel poverty.

In order to better understand the data, we also developed a new, more in-depth classification system, which divides the country by its rural or urban characteristics rather than by geographic, or local authority boundaries*.

The report

Perhaps the most striking finding of the report is how similar the rural and urban economies of Scotland are. For example, the largest sectors of both the rural and urban economy are ‘Public Administration; Health; Education’ (27% of GVA in Island and Remote Scotland and 21% of GVA in Mainly Rural compared to 23% in Larger Cities and Urban with Substantial Rural areas) and ‘Distribution, Wholesale and Retail’ in terms of their Gross Value Added (GVA), 21% of GVA in Island and Remote Scotland and in Mainly Rural, compared to 16% in Larger Cities and 20% in Urban with Substantial Rural areas.

In contrast with the common perception of the economy of Rural Scotland as dominated by agriculture and estates, the report also highlights that the traditional rural industries of ‘Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’ account for just 4% of the GVA in Islands and Remote Scotland, and 3% in Mainly Rural Scotland. This makes ‘Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’ one of the three smallest sectors in the rural economy in terms of GVA. Whereas, across Scotland as a whole, these industries account for 1.3% of the GVA. By comparison the Public Administration accounts for (23%) and ‘Distribution, Wholesale and Retail’ represents (19%) of the Scottish Economy as a whole.

In terms of Scotland’s overall GVA growth, the story is a positive one, with substantial growth since 2007. That growth has been highest in Mainly Rural Scotland. The fastest growing sector in the rural economy is ‘Business Services’ (up by 169 %) and ‘Others’ (up by 148%) – which includes ‘Arts’, ‘Entertainment and Recreation’, ‘Household’, and ‘Other Service Activities’. In the Islands and Remote Rural Scotland, growth rates are highest in Construction (up by 131%) and second highest in Information and Communications (up by 116%).

The paper also investigates employment, self-employment, and wages. One discouraging aspect of the report is that – based on hourly wages – women living in Remote Rural Scotland appear to have the lowest annual income of any group, and the largest median Gender Pay gap – being at £5,076.

This is a problem that the Scottish Government has been working hard to address and, last year, we launched the ground-breaking ‘Women in Agriculture Taskforce’, which I co-chair. The taskforce’s aim is to champion better representation for women in that sector by encouraging better succession planning, and better access to training and progression, amongst other things.

Another finding is that levels of employment, and patterns of employment are different in Scotland’s rural and urban areas: unemployment is lower in rural areas, and there are more people working part-time or self-employed in those areas as well.

And it is no surprise to see that small businesses employ more than two-thirds (68%) of private sector employees in Scotland’s remote rural areas. That compares with just 32% employed by SMEs in the rest of Scotland.

So this new data tells us that Scotland’s rural economy is growing at a steady rate, with more notable growth in industries like communications, the arts and recreation. It also tells outlines the vital importance of small businesses to those parts of the Country, and highlights a few areas where improvement needs to be – and in many cases is being – made.


* This paper divides Scotland’s local authorities into four categories, and then uses Gross Value Added data to tell a story about what Scotland’s rural economy looks like. This replaces the Randall Classification (1985), which divided Scotland’s local authorities in two, and which in is now seen as out of date. The two most rural categories are: Islands and Remote, and Mainly Rural. The remaining two categories are Urban with Substantial Rural and Larger Cities.

We developed this classification because economic data is generally only available at local authority level, and so was not suitable for use with Scotland’s main Urban-Rural Classification; which remains the gold standard for our geographic data.

The report can be viewed here:



Leaving the single market and customs union poses a serious risk to Scottish farming, an independent study has concluded.

Scotland’s Rural College has analysed the potential economic impact of three potential post-Brexit trade scenarios on four farm types – beef, sheep, dairy and crops. These include:

•Bespoke free trade deal with the EU similar to the single market
•World Trade Organisation default Most Favoured Nation tariffs
•Unilateral trade liberalisation

The report found that in every scenario Scotland’s farmers would be worse off compared to under the current trade arrangement, with some or all producers facing lower returns.

Commenting on the report, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said:

“This study confirms once again what the Scottish Government has been saying all along – that the interests of farmers are best served by remaining within the EU.

“In all scenarios, failure to replicate the current trade arrangements with the EU will have a detrimental impact on farmers, with our sheep sector under particular threat.

“Furthermore, if any of these scenarios were combined with the removal of direct support payments at current levels, the financial consequences for Scottish farms would be much more significant, with pronounced reduction in net profitability across beef, sheep, and crop sectors.”

Steven Thomson, Senior Agricultural Economist at Scotland’s Rural College, said:

“Brexit is an extremely complicated process, particularly when it comes to agriculture due to the EU’s protection for the sector. Our results highlight the potential threats, and opportunities, to the profitability of different Scottish farming sectors under possible post-Brexit trade and policy scenarios. The findings reiterate how vulnerable hill farming systems are to trade deals and policy choices, stressing the need to take the disadvantaged areas into account during the Brexit process.”


Assessing the impacts of alternative post-Brexit trade and agricultural support policy scenarios on Scottish farming systems was funded through the Scottish Government’s Strategic Research Programme.

The research is predicated on the assumption that direct support payments to farmers will remain at current levels.

Funding for food industry

Multimillion pound award to food processors.

Food and drink companies, large and small, will benefit from more than £4.6 million of funding Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has announced.

The latest round of Food Processing, Manufacturing and Co-Operation grants will enable 15 projects to take their businesses to the next level by supporting new products and extending existing lines, or building new facilities – safeguarding 820 and creating 90 new jobs.

Speaking ahead of AgriScot 2017, which provides the best opportunity to spend time with a wide range of farming, food and supply businesses,  Mr Ewing said:

“Our food and drink industry is world-renowned for the quality of our wonderful natural larder, and is a key contributor to Scotland’s economy. This investment of more than £4.6 million will benefit famers, meat packers and bakers across Scotland and further demonstrates my continuing commitment to supporting and growing that contribution.

“Not only will this funding help to create 90 new jobs, it will help safeguard 820 posts in our rural economy and help our food and drink companies expand their businesses and the products they offer.”

This round of funding will see Dumfries and Galloway based meat processing company, Brown Brothers Manufacturing Ltd, extend their premises and purchase new equipment to make them more competitive, safeguarding 567 full time posts and creating 50 new jobs.

Brown Brothers Managing Director Alan Hill said:

“Working in partnership with local and national government will enable an already successful business like Brown Brothers to grow quicker and create further economic development within Dumfries and Galloway and Scotland.

“With the support of Food Processing, Manufacturing and Co-Operation grants funding and enabling work by Dumfries and Galloway Council, we will construct a new energy efficient extension to our meat processing facility and install state of the art production equipment. This will allow us to efficiently increase our throughput capacity and offer a ‘one stop shop’ for our customers in fresh, chilled and frozen cooked meats.  This will provide long term job security and job creation.” 


Food Processing, Manufacturing and Co-Operation grants scheme (FPMC) is part of the Scottish Rural Development Programme 2020 and is jointly funded by the Scottish Government and the European Union.

The full list of successful bids is as follows:

Organisation Grant Project
James Taylor & Son £140,198.05 Equipment upgrade
Thomas Elder £39,788.40 Equipment upgrade
D A Baillie & Sons £98,076.00 Equipment upgrade
Castleton Fruit Ltd £291,046.98 Equipment upgrade
J P Gray & Sons £230,919.89 Facility upgrade
M A & M P Stockwell £729,888 Equipment upgrade
Caledonia Cider Co. £51,337.74 Facility upgrade
The Start-Up Drinks Lab £14,938.40 Equipment upgrade
Trade Solutions (Scotland) Ltd £390,433.27 Facility upgrade
WFM Brown Ltd £146,207.67 Facility upgrade
Ardgowan Distillery Company Limited £982,723.04 Facility upgrade
Brown Brothers (Manufacturing) Limited £803,241.33 Facility upgrade
Duncan Farms Limited £570,376.28 Facility upgrade
1994 Enterprises Ltd (Butter Boys) £147,888.48 Facility upgrade
The Brewers Association of Scotland (TBAS) £40,000.00 Product marketing

Brexit Talks

 “We will not sign a blank cheque.”

Support for agricultural, fishing and environmental priorities in Scotland is being put at risk due to the UK Government’s continued failure to provide certainty over the future of EU funding.

The stark warning was issued by Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing and Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham, following a Devolved Administration meeting with UK Ministers in London.

Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing, said:

“Despite positive talks with Ministers, the UK Government has failed to enable real progress to be made on the approach agreed by the JMC. Worse, UK DEFRA Ministers tried to amend that process which they know full well has the highest support of all our governments.

“The Scottish Government remains steadfast in its resolve to defend the devolution settlement. We will not sign a blank cheque that expects us to sign up to potential post Brexit frameworks and legislation without knowing any of the detail of those. We will not put the future of our agriculture, fishing and environment sectors at risk.

“For 18 months we have sought to engage openly and constructively with the UK Government over some of the most important issues facing our rural economy and natural environment. UK Ministers have yet to provide absolute clarity on future funding which prevents us and the sectors to plan for the future, nor have they given us sight of their proposed bills on agriculture and fisheries. 

“Until the power grab is removed from the EU Withdrawal Bill, we can continue to have cordial discussions but little progress will be made.”

Future of Crofting


Views sought on legislative changes.

A consultation on the priorities for future crofting law has been launched by Rural Affairs Secretary, Fergus Ewing MSP.

The public consultation seeks opinions on the form of new legislation and priorities for legislative change to ensure crofting law is fit for the 21st century.

It will run for 12 weeks and will end on 20 November.

Mr Ewing said:

“Crofting delivers valuable local benefits and a successful crofting sector helps our rural communities to thrive. It is therefore vital the law that governs it is fit for purpose.

“Initial discussions have shown while there is plenty of agreement that the current law needs to change, there are many views on what should replace it.

“I would strongly encourage anyone with an interest in the future of crofting –  whether they be crofters, landowners, those living in a crofting communities or in other parts of Scotland – to take part in this consultation and help us improve future legislation.”



The Crofting Consultation 2017 is available via the Scottish Government’s consultation website.

Alternatively copies of the document can be acquired by emailing the Crofting Bill team or by visiting a Scottish Government rural office.

A series of public meetings will be held to help with any issues when responding to the consultation. Anyone interested in attending will need to book a place.

Avian Influenza


Avian influenza prevention zone to be lifted.

The avian influenza prevention zone covering Scotland will be lifted on 30 April, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

The zone required bird keepers in all areas of Scotland to put in place enhanced biosecurity measures prior to letting their birds outside, in order to reduce the risk of disease.

The ban on shows and gatherings of poultry, waterfowl and game birds will remain in force until 15 May, when a new general licence will come into force.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing said:

“This will be welcome news for many keepers who have opted to keep their birds indoors to protect them from a seasonally increased risk from highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8. This decision has been made following the recent veterinary risk assessment concluding that the risk of avian influenza incursion to poultry and captive birds in Scotland had decreased to low.

“This has been a testing time for all of us, and I would like to thank all bird keepers in Scotland for their co-operation and vigilance. Your positive and committed response has helped us reach this point.”

Scotland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Sheila Voas said:

“It is a relief to see that the risk of HPAI H5N8 in Scotland has reduced, but this does not mean we should be complacent; the risk of avian influenza has not disappeared.  It is essential that bird keepers maintain effective biosecurity year-round, not just when a prevention zone is in place.  All bird keepers should consider maintaining excellent biosecurity practices like washing boots and equipment with approved disinfectant, implementing effective rodent control, minimizing unnecessary visitors and reducing their flock’s contact with wild birds. 

“I would also strongly urge businesses to reassess their contingency plans, given the new perspective this season’s outbreaks of H5N8 provides. Practical advice about their specific arrangements should be sought from their private vets, in consultation with their local Animal Plant and Health Agency office.”


  1. Avian Influenza is a notifiable disease. Anyone who suspects an animal may be affected by a notifiable disease must report it to their local Animal Plant & Health Agency office.
  2. The H5N8 strain of Avian Influenza has been circulating in Europe since October 2016. Ten cases in captive birds have been confirmed in UK (none of which were in Scotland).
  3. The latest risk assessment for an incursion of HPAI H5N8 in domestic and captive birds in Scotland, has concluded that the risk is LOW, a reduction from the previous risk level which was assessed as MEDIUM.
  4. Wild Bird Surveillance figures show that since 1 December 2016, only one case of HPAI H5N8 has been identified in Scotland (a wild peregrine falcon found on 9 December).
  5. From 15 May, all poultry shows and bird gatherings will be permitted, subject to prior notification to Animal and Plant Health Agency and the conditions of the general licence.
  6. More information about Avian Influenza, the Prevention Zone and bird gatherings – including biosecurity guidance – is available from the Scottish Government website

Croft House Grants Awarded


Funding for Crofting Homes

Over £948,000 has been awarded to help crofters in some of Scotland’s most rural and remote communities benefit from better housing.

29 crofters will share the funding which enables them to build or improve homes, helping to retain and attract people to rural communities.

Confirming the awards, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said:

“High quality housing is essential for crofters and this round of awards will make a real difference to the 29 crofters and their families receiving a grant. Attracting people, particularly young families, to our most remote and rural communities is essential for their long-term sustainability. I am determined to help people live in crofting areas, where there are often few opportunities and the Croft House Grant has proved successful in doing just that.”

“I have already increased the funding available through the grant scheme by £600,000. These grants enable more crofters to upgrade or build new properties helping them to fulfil their duty to live on or close to their croft. And they also help to boost the wider local economy, creating opportunities for local construction and trade businesses.”

Since 2007, over £16 million of grant payments have been awarded to over 800 crofters to build or improve their homes through the Croft House Grant Scheme. From 1 April 2016, changes made to the grant support mechanism included a significant increase in individual grants, with some crofters now eligible for £38,000 of funding.