Douglas Ross has said the Conservatives would consult on a blueprint for Scotland’s new agricultural policy within 100 days of the election.
The pledge is contained in his party’s “rural manifesto”, alongside promises to protect town centres, grow businesses and tackle the housing crisis.
Mr Ross said farmers had waited too long to hear the SNP’s post-Brexit plan to replace Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy.
The Moray MP vowed that his party would work with the sector to develop a scheme that “allows farmers to farm, prioritises simplicity and supports Scotland’s diverse farms and crofts”.
The Scottish Government’s Rural Economic Secretary, Fergus Ewing, has said he hopes to introduce an Agriculture Bill to Holyrood during the next parliamentary session.
“Our plan is to proceed with continuing to provide financial support to farmers beyond 2024 but with green strings attached,” said Mr Ewing in February.
‘Rural areas must not be left behind’
However, Mr Ross said: “Scotland’s rural communities have been neglected by the SNP for too long.
“They have been held back by poor infrastructure, diminished services and a lack of clarity for farmers – this must change now.
“Rural areas must not be left behind as Scotland recovers from Covid-19, so we have set out plans to spread economic growth and improve public services.”
Policies include investing £550 million in “Community Investment Deals” worth up to £25m each, as well as scrapping parking charges, giving communities first ‘right to buy’ when local businesses close, and establishing a development agency, similar to Highlands and Islands Enterprise, for every region.
Mr Ross said his party would reopen the Young Farmers and New Entrants Start Up Grants as well as the New Entrants Capital Grant Scheme.
Sentences and penalties would be reviewed to ensure rural crime “is treated with the magnitude it deserves”, while an independent “farm to fork” study of Scotland’s food policy would be carried out to inform a new National Food Strategy.
We would also take action to tackle rural crime and support the fishing and farming communities who are the bedrock of our rural areas.”
The Scottish Conservative leader said: “From rolling out full fibre broadband to ensuring councils receive fair funding, the Scottish Conservatives will give rural areas the support they need to thrive.
“We would also take action to tackle rural crime and support the fishing and farming communities who are the bedrock of our rural areas.
“I am committed to putting a stop to the SNP’s centralisation agenda and representing rural communities, so their voices are heard and their needs are met.”