Colin Smyth MSP with United Auctions Group Managing Director George Purves
Colin Smyth MSP with United Auctions Group Managing Director George Purves

South Scotland MSP Scottish Labour’s Spokesperson for Rural Affairs Colin Smyth has praised the south of Scotland’s sheep farmers during a debate in the Scottish Parliament.

The local MSP also commended the ‘Make It Lamb for St Andrew’s Day’ campaign and its role in promoting Scotch lamb.

Speaking in the debating chamber on Tuesday, Colin Smyth said: “It remains a challenging time for many across agriculture as they continue to deal with both the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the consequential trade deals such as those with Australia and New Zealand- which many rightly fear could give unfettered access to large volumes of imported goods that could be produced in farming systems not currently permitted here.

“There is also still a real need for the Scottish Government to give clarity on the agricultural support scheme that will replace the Common Agricultural Policy to help farmers reach net zero.

“Our agricultural sector stepped up to the mark throughout the pandemic – and I want to place on record my thanks to our farmers and crofters for working tirelessly to keep us all fed.

“But it’s now time for the Government and this Parliament to step up to the mark, to give our farmers and crofters the direction and backing they need to ensure they can meet the challenges they face and continue to produce the high quality Scottish produce such as Scotch lamb, that we rightly celebrate this St Andrews Day and beyond.”

The Parliamentary debate was held on St Andrew’s Day to celebrate a campaign by the agriculture sector to make Scotch Lamb the dish for Scotland’s national day. Over the past 10 years, Scotland’s red meat sector has been promoting Scotch Lamb as the meat to eat to celebrate St Andrew’s Day on 30 November including supplying free lamb to as many Scottish schools as possible during St Andrew’s week.

Speaking about the campaign during the debate Colin Smyth said: “Established by George Purves of United Auctions and sheep farmer Willie Mitchell in 2010, the Make it Lamb for St Andrew’s Day campaign really has gone from strength to strength over the past decade. The response to this year’s focus on engaging school children through cooking has been excellent- signing up over 190 schools, reaching 30,000 pupils across Scotland.

“There are also many other community and youth groups getting involved in the Lamb for St Andrews Day initiative this year and I’m pleased many are in South Scotland – with not only a large number of schools signing up to the Lamb Bank such as Lockerbie Academy and Castle Douglas High School but local groups such the Dumfries Saint’s Rugby Club hosting a lamb dinner for the players and supporters.

“This debate is a great opportunity to recognise the combined effort of the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers Scotland (IAAS) and QMS to make this campaign accessible to young people.

“By donating Scotch Lamb and providing recipes and educational materials to Scottish Schools they are enhancing learning around choosing locally produced food as a sustainable choice and encouraging important discussions on climate change and Scottish agriculture.

“It’s important to teach our children and young people where their food comes from and integrating local supply chains into home economic lessons is an excellent way to do this.

“We need to build on this and do more to provide better information about what eating seasonally and locally means, embedding in our curriculum farming and food production at every level of education.

“And having Scottish produce on the menu in our schools, also reminds us of the need to do more to ensure a renewed focus on local procurement.

“Cutting food miles, and food waste, has never been more important- and we know the best to do that is by valuing Scottish produce including with a local-first public procurement policy.

“We need a step change in how we procure our food with ingredient origin accounted for in local buying and stronger support for local businesses to navigate the procurement process.”

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