Farming sector vital to economy, say majority of Scots in study

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Statistics suggest 83% of Scots think farming provides an essential public service (Rui Vieira/PA)

A majority of Scots believe farming is vital to the success of the Scottish economy, according to new research.

Figures published by the Scottish Government show 86% of a nationally representative online survey of 2,345 Scottish adults said the sector is critical to the country’s economic success.

A total of 83% of the respondents also outlined their belief that farming provides an essential public service.

The statistics were published in a Government report evaluating the public’s attitudes to agriculture, environment and rural development.

Alongside the online survey, a literature and evidence review, 15 interviews and two citizens’ forums were also carried out to gather public opinion.

Those who participated in the forums agreed overall that farming provides a vital public service, while also suggesting Scottish agriculture helps make the country more self-sufficient.

Almost half (49%) of the forum participants said they have a preference for food to be produced in Scotland.

However, they also said consumers need more support to balance the priorities of cost, quality and local food production.

A majority (68%) said they think Brexit will have a negative effect on the cost of food – impacting on their consumption choices.

Animal welfare was given as the top reason for determining choices about food consumption, while 39% cited improving animal welfare standards as an important priority for the future funding of agriculture policy in Scotland.

There was also agreement that the farming sector should do more to protect and conserve the environment, with 90% of participants agreeing that without a wide variety of plants and animals, the environment would worsen.

Scotland food and drink sector
Fergus Ewing (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Farmers produce our food, they are the custodians of our countryside and are at the beating heart of our rural economy.

“So it is really pleasing to see the widespread recognition they are receiving.

“The public are clear that they want to see more produce grown locally as well as the protection of animal welfare and food standards – particularly if we leave the EU.”

He added: “The public also want greater emphasis on environmental protection and more jobs, opportunities and support for rural areas.

“These are all areas we and the farming industry are committed to maintaining as we seek to grow our rural economy.

“So, as we look to celebrate the success of Scottish farming and the wider rural economy at the Royal Highland Show, it is absolutely fantastic to see this level of support for our farmers and crofters.”

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