JOHN Swinney has said the SNP will take ambitious steps to transform Scotland’s rural economy if re-elected – after the Tories’ hard Brexit dealt it a devastating blow.
The Deputy Prime Minister’s comments came after a visit to the Jamesfield Garden Center in Perth with local candidate Jim Fairlie yesterday.
Jim Fairlie, former mountain farmer and SNP candidate for Perthshire South and Kinross-Shire, said keeping people on the land, spending locally and producing more of our own food – sustainably and with nature – will be a priority absolute for the party in the next legislature and it will take the following steps to support it:
– Deploy more mobile health services and create a new center of excellence for rural and remote medicine and social care to provide expertise and advice on the delivery of care in different rural, island and remote settings in Scotland and invest in our rural general hospitals.
– Support more communities to benefit from community wealth creation where utilities are required to spend in their local communities through increased local purchasing, greater use of small businesses and ensuring that the taxpayer money is reinvested as much as possible in their local communities.
– Develop a National Digital Academy and give each student a laptop or tablet – with free Internet access – to enable learners to access education, whatever the circumstances or location.
– Defend our rural and island communities by creating a Rural Entrepreneurs Fund, renewing the Community Empowerment Act, introducing new land reform legislation with a presumption in favor of community takeovers and investing £ 10million in the Scotland Loves Local funds to revitalize main streets.
– Improve connectivity by restoring or expanding new railway lines across rural Scotland, investing £ 500million in bus infrastructure and ensuring that the road network in all parts of Scotland supports electric vehicles.
– Create a new £ 15million fund to support food processing and manufacturing to develop local supply chains and the transition to low or zero carbon operations.
Swinney said: “The SNP will always stand up for Scotland’s rural economy – and our track record shows it.
‘We fixed the CAP payment system, ensured Scotland gets its fair share of convergence funding, delivered the Borders Railway – the longest new inland railway built in Britain in over 100 years – and the first section of our £ 3billion dual-A9 project from Perth to Inverness has been completed.
“Our goal, if we are re-elected, will be to invest in helping people and businesses produce more of our own food in a sustainable way and with nature, and to defend thriving rural and island communities by improving connectivity and promoting local products locally. ”
Fairlie said: “As a former mountain farmer and active member of the rural community of Perth, I understand that what works in urban Scotland may not work for our rural or island communities and vice versa.
“The SNP will place rural communities at the heart of its ambitious plans to transform Scotland’s rural economy and make all of Scotland – towns, islands and countryside – a better place to live, work and to grow.
“It is only by voting for the SNP, the only party offering a path back to EU membership, on May 6 that we can not only protect our rural economy, but also promote it and bring it to life. Scotland’s future in Scottish hands – not Boris Johnson. ”