Let’s stand up for rural diversity

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As president of NFU Scotland, I am proud to represent such a vibrant and passionate industry filled with a variety of people who are all united by their love of the countryside.

Over the past decade, organisations in all sectors have made huge strides in supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees and colleagues creating an inclusive workplace.

Many LGBT people in the farming and crofting community still choose not to disclose their sexuality because of discrimination and bias. We all have a moral responsibility to advocate and support our friends and colleagues, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

Diversity helps draw out top talent and foster innovation. People will perform significantly better when they can be themselves at work.

There are thousands of LGBT people in the countryside. We want to support them by encouraging inclusiveness in rural communities, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation. This is why NFU Scotland is proud to sign the Agrespect pledge stating: ‘We stand against prejudice and support rural LGBTQ+ diversity, inclusion and enablement.’

NFU Scotland has championed support for women in agriculture and has attended a number of Pride events over the past 18 months in line with this ambition.

NFUS wants to promote the countryside as a vibrant, tolerant and welcoming place for everyone, irrespective of gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. The industry needs all the talent it can garner that will innovate, adapt and further drive agriculture forward.

The more perspectives we have, the more productive outcomes we will achieve. The farming community needs new ideas now more than ever and if we exclude any of our brightest and best people due to the discrimination they face from a minority within the industry, then the whole rural economy loses.

I want NFUS to be a welcoming, tolerant and vibrant place for all members, staff and affiliates, and for this reason NFUS will not accept discrimination of any kind. Being open about your sexuality shouldn’t be a barrier to leading a happy life and a fulfilling career in the countryside and land-based industries.

There is a groundswell of farmers and crofters who want to bring our rural communities together and celebrate all that unites us. NFUS has for some time stated that change is coming, and we have an opportunity now to show the wider public how great an industry we are.

This is particularly poignant at a time when it can seem farming is portrayed as being behind the times. We cannot let ourselves down by allowing homophobic or sexist opinions to air.

While a few with these opinions still exist in rural communities, they cannot be allowed to define the rural sector and I urge you all to support the entire rural community.