I'm sure that Ruaridh Ferguson is not suggesting that I or the SNP Government disagree that 'Fragile areas need support' [letter Gazette 9.4.9]. He goes on to obscure the issues surrounding the need to review the structure of the Highlands and Islands Food Network which has now been acknowledged by all concerned as overdue. I'm sure we will hear soon of ways to build on the good work of the HILFN in recent years. It does need to be able to support every area of the Highlands and Islands and perhaps a more federal structure will emerge.
Mr Ferguson implies that I have no knowledge of local food production issues because he hasn't seen me at HILFN conferences and training events. I am a co-convener of the Parliament's cross party group on food. I am a member of the SCF and Soil Association and other food related organisations mentioned in my register of interests. I recently proposed my motion in support of conventional plant breeding in a Member's Debate on 1st April. In short I have long supported sustainable local food production in the North and believe a strong sustainable HILFN will remerge.
Finally, Mr Ferguson signs himself as LHHP Co-ordinator but his arguments about the refocusing the HIE strategy by the SNP Government look very party political. Coincidentally his LibDem colleagues have focused on alleged cuts in HIE funding. He ignores the opening of the new Gateway through local government, in case CnES which began this month. So small producers need not fear lack of support for their emerging local food businesses.
I hope this matter can be resolved to co-ordinate the marketing and skills involved in local food production. Political or personal point scoring by the likes of Mr Ferguson do not help.
Rob Gibson SNP MSP Highlands and Islands,
4 Grant St., Wick, Caithness KW1 5AY