Jim Fairlie: Perthshire farmer turned MSP becomes SNP agriculture minister

Former sheep farmer turned Perthshire MSP Jim Fairlie has been appointed to Humza Yousaf’s SNP government as minister for agriculture and connectivity.

Mr Fairlie – who previously run Kindrum Farm Park – will plough his decades of farming  knowledge into the new role.

His appointment came amid a government shake-up by First Minister Humza Yousaf Yousaf, prompted by the resignation of scandal-hit health secretary Michael Matheson.

Welcoming him to the SNP government, Mr Yousaf said he would bring a “wealth of business and rural knowledge to his new role”.

Jim Fairlie at Perth Farmers’ Market, which he founded in 1996. Image: Supplied

Mr Fairlie supported Humza Yousaf’s rival Kate Forbes in the leadership contest to replace Nicola Sturgeon as first minister and SNP leader, saying he was “disappointed” when she lost.

After controversy surrounding Ms Forbes’ views on social issues such as marriage equality, Mr Fairlie issued a statement saying he would continue to support her despite disagreeing.

Welcoming his appointment, Ms Forbes told The Courier: “Jim has been an incredibly hardworking MSP since his election back in 2021, and I’m absolutely thrilled to see him promoted to minister for agriculture and connectivity.

“His knowledge of rural Scotland, farming and food production is second to none – it’s a very shrewd appointment.

“Though I will miss him as a colleague on the Rural Affairs and Island Committee, I wish him every success in government – and I also know he will continue to work tirelessly for his constituents across Perthshire and Kinross-shire.”

Who is farmer turned MSP Jim Fairlie?

Mr Fairlie was well known across Perthshire and across Scottish politics even before he switched pasture for parliament.

In 1996 he launched Perth Farmers’ Market – the first of its kind in Scotland – which continues to run on the first Saturday of each month.

A longtime supporter of Scottish independence, he co-founded the Farmers4Yes campaign group in 2014.

Jim Fairlie his farm near Harrietfield. Image: Phil Hannah/DC Thomson

While conceding the group had failed to win over a majority of farmers, he said: “I don’t think we won the community over – in fact, I can categorically say we didn’t – but we certainly put a lot more thought into people’s heads than would have been there otherwise.”

His father, also Jim, was once deputy leader and vice-chairman of the SNP before resigning in the 1990s over the party’s stance on Europe.

Jim serves up his product during a farmers’ market. Image: Supplied

Mr Fairlie’s brother, renowned restaurateur Andrew, was head chef and founder of the multi-Michelin star winning Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles Hotel prior to his death in 2019.

An outspoken critic of Brexit and its impact on farmers, Mr Fairlie said the damage caused by the UK’s exit from the EU to rural Scotland had been “colossal”.

As an MSP Jim Fairlie has also been willing to speak against his own party, joining a handful of SNP rebels in abstaining on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

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