Today my question to you is what can be done to make the CAP better?

Today my question to you is what can be done to make the CAP better? First Published, Press and Journal, 2nd April 2016


I don't think anyone could disagree that it has been a torrid time for Scottish farmers. The mild winter, culminating in the flooding that saw hundreds of acres of land deep under water and the never ending saga over Basic Payments have made the last few months some of the most miserable in living memory for our agricultural workers.

Added to this is the uncertainty that any referendum has on business and industry. The result of June's European referendum, and all that it could mean for an industry so intertwined with the policies and practices of the 'European Project' and the Common Market that it represents, is one that weighs heavily on every farmer in the country.

It was with this in mind that I met with the Prime Minister in Edinburgh last month. ; Usually I am part of a group. Usually it is small talk. Not this time. I wanted to talk to the PM privately. I wanted to talk about Europe.

The PM’s deal with the Europe is a technical one. It doesn’t lend itself to simple explanation. It’s not the kind of thing you can readily explain on the doorsteps.

The third pillar of the deal is about restoring 'competitiveness' and shrinking unnecessary red tape, regulation, and bureaucratic burden. So when I spoke with him, I wanted to talk about fishing and about farming - the two areas of EU policy most in need of reform.

We spent the next while talking about my experiences working for the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and my family’s exasperation farming raspberries. The long and the short of the discussion is that the PM fully recognises that reform of the CFP and CAP is long overdue, and that this must be tackled under 'competitiveness', There is a golden opportunity for meaningful reform as part of the deal he brokered.

The PM asked me to gather the views of Scottish fishermen and farmers on how the EU’s two core rural policies can be changed.  Once I have this information, I will then respond to him formally and thereafter submit the evidence to the European Commission. It is important to stress that under the PM’s deal, the Commission is obliged to bring forward plans to cut red-tape by the year end. I want the needs of farmers and fishermen at the very top of their plans

All this, of course, is predicated on the UK voting to remain in the EU. If the people of Britain vote to leave on June 23rd, the questions being asked will not be how CAP can be reformed, but what will replace it in a UK no longer within the Common Market. But those questions are for another day.

Today my question to you is what can be done to make the CAP better? Tell me. Phone me, e-mail me, write to me. Let me know if you have views, and more importantly methods, for reforming the CAP.