The Angus Tayside District of Young Farmers Clubs held its first General Election panel night meeting in the Northern Hotel, Brechin.
The event on March 31, ahead of polling day on May 7, was attended by current young farmers as well as past members who were keen to air their views to the candidates who included Derek Wann (Scottish Conservatives), Mike Weir (SNP), Sanjay Samani (Liberal Democrats), David Mumford (Green Party), Calum Walker (UKIP) and Lesley Brennan (Labour Party in place of the Angus candidate Gerard McMahon).
Topics ranged from issues surrounding the CAP (Common Agriculture Policy) to tax rates as well as local issues relevant to Angus, including the application for a new abattoir in Forfar - all of which created a lively debate throughout the question and answer session which had to be extended to accommodate the number of questions from the audience.
The in/out European Union referendum, and its implications, was a particular topic of interest to the audience. Although all candidates - excluding UKIP - would prefer to remain part of the Union, both positive and negative aspects of membership were discussed.
Although the size of the marketplace benefits many, the increasing ‘red tape’ - through the EU’s bureaucratic nature - was a mounting burden on the farming community who were struggling to keep up with continuous changing rules and restrictions.
‘Greening’ was a further area of contention for many in the room, including widespread condemnation of Scottish Government’s handling of the whole. Although it was agreed that farmers have a duty to invest in preserving the biodiversity, the procedure needed to be carried out in a much more streamlined and simplified manner to ensure farmers could plan ahead, and not suffer penalties, when legislation changed once they had their cropping plans in place.
Local issues were also aired including the worrying increase in legal highs shops in the area and all members of the panel unanimously agreed that more needed to be done to halt this trend.
There was also a demand from livestock farmers for a local abattoir, following the closure of St Andrews in 2013, and the subsequent lack of alternative offering in Scotland forcing Scottish produce as far as Wales. It is believed that such an establishment would keep meat local as well as creating jobs for the area.
The meeting, which was a first for the Angus Tayside region, gave members an opportunity to engage with the possible candidates who could go onto represent Angus in Westminster in a month’s time.
Following on from the success of the evening, many of those in attendance asked for this to be a permanent fixture in the Young Farmers calendar for forthcoming Elections.