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Brexit / Crofting: Trying to stay positive and not despair

Scottish Crofting Federation chief executive Patrick Krause in the Voe Hall on Thursday. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

THE SCOTTISH Crofting Federation is supporting calls for the UK government to compensate livestock producers should the agricultural sector be hit by high export tariffs in case of a no-deal Brexit.

Visiting Shetland over the last few days, the chief executive of the SCF, Patrick Krause, said leaving the EU without a deal on 29 March could “wipe out” the export market for crofters in the Highlands and Islands.

This week the Scottish Government and the National Farmers’ Union have both urged the UK Government to consider reimbursing farmers and crofters the additional cost of exporting to Europe should no exit deal be agreed by the end of next month.

Krause, who spoke at public meetings in Sandwick and Voe this week, described the Brexit process as “government failure” and urged crofters to stay positive “because despair brings paralysis”.

He said that during these meetings a lot of positive thoughts had been aired and discussed on how to shape crofting post Common Agriculture Policy (CAP).

“People are coming up with good positive thoughts about what will happen like not continue with store lambs but consider other markets, such as finished lambs, and also looking at the chilled or frozen meat markets.”

He said he was well aware that there was no easy way out, and described crofters as resilient and equipped with a healthy dose of cynicism.

Rather than waiting for the government to look after the sector, “people are saying it is probably better if we look after ourselves”, Krause said.

A compensation scheme for exporters would be “great”, according to Krause, as it would help stabilise the markets in the a no-deal scenario, but, fundamentally, what crofters had been looking for over the last two years is a plan on which to build the sector’s future.

“It is easy to despair because it really doesn’t look good. If our national government – that’s the UK government – many months ago had been saying: ‘this is what we are going to do’ then regardless of whether you are a Leaver or a Remainer, we would have accepted that, and then got on with it,” he said.

“It is the fact that there isn’t a plan; … when you are hurtling towards the rocks and the skipper of the boat is saying: ‘I am not sure what I am going to do’, then obviously all the passengers on the boat are starting to get really nervous. And that is exactly how people feel.”

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021