Friday, 6 August 2010

So many treats in our larder

IN this week of the 173rd Black Isle Show, harvest approaches; it's time to chew the fat over prices, meet old friends and have some well deserved fun for the family.

There's also lots of lobbying of our trade bodies, and politics wags a lot of chins.

We are slowly scaling the steep climb out of a deep recession in the general economy, yet the food and drink sector has never been healthier. Indeed Scottish food and drink exports increased by 10 per cent in value up to the end of March this year.

The full story of the success of our national larder is far wider. It's not just tourism that contributes to food and drink sales. Farmers markets, village markets and supermarkets all stock more Scottish produce and the Highlands have a big part to produce the goods.

Last week the Scottish Cabinet began its third summer tour in the Burghfield Hotel School in Dornoch. Local food producers were lauded, local opinion sought and a point made that the Scottish Government goes out to meet the people with confidence in Scotland's future.

In a sour note, some LibDems complained about the cost of the Scots Cabinet circuit that also takes in Stirling, Kilmarnock and the Isle of Bute. One UK Cabinet visit out of London cost far more than the whole Scots government tour. Silence among the LibDem and Tory ranks over that.


THIS week Rural Affairs secretary Richard Lochhead attended the Black Isle Show and has commissioned the Rural Development Council report Speak Up for Rural Scotland. He launched the consultation which claims that rural Scotland and its people have a central role to play in strengthening Scotland's economy.

A county like Ross-shire can help meet the nation's challenges in relation to food, water and energy security and is critical to our efforts to tackle climate change. Your feedback is needed by the Scottish Government.

Short of full powers, Scotland's Parliament can build the foundations of success for the national economy and rural Scots are very good examples of business skills. With full borrowing and tax powers Scotland can be at its best but on the way we must ensure that the energy and enterprising spirit of rural communities can continue to punch above their weight.


TWO new statistics give us particular comfort about our future. First in 2009 for the second time in a row Europe and the USA added more electricity generation from renewable sources such as wind and solar than from conventional sources such as coal gas and nuclear. Secondly, the global financial recession has affected some investment in large scale solar and biofuel power.

I have been pressing for Nigg to be a production hub for marine renewables so I am heartened that bids are now in place to get the yard moving. Globally 18 per cent of electricity production is from renewables. Scotland aims to reach 31 per cent by 2011. On our doorsteps the run of river hydro scheme on the River Glass at Evanton is taking shape and the extension of the longstanding Novar windfarm is the evidence for our own eyes.

The SNP government and Scottish Parliament are focusing on community benefits from renewable production. Landowners already reap a cash harvest for site rental. Farmers and crofters as well as new wind cooperatives can see the profits to be made as producers on their own land.

Richard Lochhead's consultation Speak Up For Rural Scotland wants community benefit from clean energy production to support community assets like village halls and music makers and sports teams.

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