A GROUP of crofters and small farmers have gathered outside Holyrood to demand more support from the Scottish Government's new Agriculture Bill.

Organised by the Landworkers’ Alliance and supported by a number of other groups, concerned farmers set up stalls outside the Scottish Parliament to discuss policy issues with MSPs.

The activists are looking to raise their concerns over the bill's proposed agricultural payments system – which is how farmers will be supported as the Scottish Government transitions away from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy payments scheme.

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The Landworkers’ Alliance say that as payments to farmers would be made on a basis of hectares of land farmed, the Government’s agricultural scheme “essentially uses public money to reward people for owning large amounts of land”.

In the event’s description, the group also says that the system “offers little to no support” for small-scale agriculture, pointing out that the land threshold to qualify for the payment scheme is 3 hectares, which is more than the 1-hectare requirement under the EU scheme.

They add: “We urgently need a payment system which is not based on how much land farmers have access to, and which properly values and rewards small-scale farmers and crofters for the essential role they play in the transition to climate-friendly agriculture and the development of a local, sustainable food system in Scotland, in line with the Good Food Nation bill and the Local Food Strategy.”

Bryde Marshall of the Falkland Kitchen Farm in Fife addressed the crowd outside Holyrood.

She said: “I am really proud to be on two hectares yet feeding a hundred households for eleven months of the year. For us, being small is incredibly important. Being small allows us to manage a really complex, diverse ecosystem, and growing a diversity of crops in turn allows us to provide a nutritious diet for our customers, and it also gives us a lot of resilience against different weather conditions, pests and diseases.”

The National: Bryde Marshall addresses the crowdBryde Marshall addresses the crowd (Image: Clem Sandison, Landworkers' Alliance)

Kirsty Tait, the sustainable farming lead for Nature Friendly Farming Network Scotland, a partner organisation of the event, said: “Crofting and small-scale farming are integral for the health of our communities, our nature and our environment in Scotland. It was heartening to see the strength of support today - from the MSPs who took time to listen, to the crofters, farmers & growers who spoke so passionately and all the people who gathered.

“The challenge now is to turn that support into action and create a food and farming system that works for them rather than against them.”

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “We are supporting our farmers, crofters and land managers to produce more high quality and sustainable food, as well as ensuring our food system is more resilient.

“We want to see the benefits of land ownership and investment in land being shared fairly, and we have put forward plans for changes that will affect how land is owned, bought, sold, managed, and used.

“We see real innovation with our small landholders, small farms and crofts – and we want to support that.

“We want to empower our smallholders and crofters to contribute to our Good Food Nation ambitions and Local Food strategy, particularly to create more localised supply chains, enhance value, and cut food miles.”