Kenneth was delighted to organise and chair a public meeting on Monday 17 June in Whiting Bay Village Hall with his friend and colleague Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy.
The purpose of the meeting was primarily to discuss the future of farming on Arran and Scotland amidst challenging circumstances, particularly with Brexit looming. However, the Cabinet Secretary made it clear from the start that no subject was off limits.
Mr Ewing addressed the audience for around 15 minutes and then took questions - often very complex and specific questions - and provided detailed answers for an hour from a very polite, attentive and knowledgeable audience of 75 islanders.
Topics raised ranged from land holdings, salmon farming and marine ecology to the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme, sheep dentition and agri--environmental schemes.
Kenneth Gibson MSP said:
“Last year the SNP Cabinet came to Arran and took questions from islanders. On Monday Fergus came to answer questions specific to his own portfolio.
“The audience was, I believe, impressed by Fergus’ open, frank and detailed knowledge of his portfolio. Where he did not have a specific answer, he did not waffle. Instead, he offered to both speak to the individual questioner afterwards and subsequently provide a detailed response.”
The Community of Arran Seabed Trust (CoAST) added:
“Credit to Fergus Ewing MSP for holding a public meeting on Arran to discuss farming/rural economy and take fish farm questions.
“Stark contrast to the staged affairs by the Scottish Salmon Company. He left in no doubt about island opinion and evidence against more Clyde open cage farms.”
Mr Ewing commented:
“Kenneth and I have been colleagues for 20 years and friends for a lot longer, so I was delighted to accept his invitation to speak on Arran.
“The questions asked showed the real breadth of issues currently facing rural and island Scotland, from the beef and lamb sectors, to forestry and salmon farming.
“The SNP Government will continue to speak directly to communities such as those on Arran, in order to inform policy and legislation going forward.”
Following the public meeting, Fergus and Kenneth each chatted 1:1 to a number of islanders before participating in further meetings with the Arran branch of NFU Scotland and the Arran Economic Group.