Royal Highland Show: First Minister's speech - 23 June 2023

Speech by First Minister Humza Yousaf launching Sustaining Scotland, Supplying the World at the Royal Highland Show, Ingliston, on 23 June 2023.

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Good morning to you all.

I’m delighted to be here, really excited to be here, at the Royal Highland Show.

Actually the team, when I came in, were apologising for the weather. I don’t think they need to apologise – good, Scottish summer weather. The only people we might need to apologise to are the Georgian football team.

Thank you so much, Iain, for the invitation. There’s a few people I want to thank here, Iain is absolutely one of them.

I want to thank all of those who have been involved in this phenomenal, collaborative effort – and I’m going to come back to that word, “collaborative”. A collaborative effort between a whole range of partners – Scotland Food & Drink of course; the industry more broadly; of course, government – local and national; some of our agencies; academia, research institutions. All clubbing together for the launch of this phenomenally good strategy - Sustaining Scotland, supplying the world.

I’ve had the great pleasure of being in government for eleven-odd years now, and different Ministerial roles. And one of my first roles was the Minister for External Affairs. It was a genuine honour travelling around the world, where people knew the world-class food and drink offer that we have here in Scotland.

I was going to say that hasn’t changed here – it has changed. The strength of our brand has only grown from strength, to strength, to strength.

So I want to thank all of those who have been involved in the strategy. I’m delighted to be able to be launching it.

But there are still challenges, we know that. Notwithstanding what I said about the industry growing from strength to strength, this is of course the seventh anniversary of that Brexit referendum, and there’s no getting away from the challenges that being outside the European Union and outside of that single market has caused.

Whether it’s for those involved in seafood, right the way through to seed potatoes – we know some of the challenges that have existed. And it’s through that collaboration that we’re going to overcome those challenges.

And it’s not just Brexit – you know the challenges of high inflation, high energy costs, and the impact that they’ve had on our industry as well.

So that word – collaboration – as I said I keep coming back to, is of vital importance. This strategy – like any strategy – is only as good as its implementation. So we’ve got to make sure we continue to work together, as we have done for the last 18 months, to launch what is an excellent strategy; to make sure that we have a delivery plan that goes alongside it; to make sure that we implement each and every single one of those really ambitious targets that we have set ourselves.

The second thing that I wanted to touch upon was ambition. This is a sector that is ambitious. This is a sector that sees an almost unlimited potential for Scottish food and drink.

Yes – here in Scotland – that’s why the first line, and the first words, of that strategy are sustaining Scotland. But ambitious for the rest of the UK, and ambitious on a global stage as well.

So that’s why we’re delighted to put £5 million behind this strategy this year, and no doubt we’ll continue to support the sector as much as we possibly can.

So you’ve got my commitment – steadfast commitment – that we are partners, genuine partners, in delivering this strategy. And I want to commend you for the ambition – when I look through the strategy, some of those numbers are pretty eye-watering, but I’ve got no doubt that that ambition is realistic.

It’s going to involve us, as I’ve already said, working very closely together. It’s going to involve us removing the obstacles that are present here in Scotland. I give you an absolute commitment, Iain, that from a Scottish Government perspective where powers are in our hands, we’ll work with you hand-in-glove to remove some of those barriers as best we possibly can.

Where we need to work collaboratively, of course we’ll do that. But I think the exciting opportunity is globally right across the world, where Scottish food and drink is so well known, and there are a number of markets which we haven’t even touched or really unleashed the potential of Scottish food and drink.

So all that remains is for me to end exactly where I started – which is a genuine thank you to each and every single one of you that have been involved in the implementation, in the collaboration, in the creativity of this fantastic strategy – sustaining Scotland, supplying the world – and to give you my absolute commitment. From myself, and Mairi, and the entire Government, that we look forward to continuing in that strong relationship we have with you to deliver on the strategy.

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to officially launch sustaining Scotland, supplying the world.

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