CEO leaving

Withers stepping down at Scotland Food & Drink

James Withers
James Withers: difficult decison (pic: Terry Murden)

James Withers is to step down as chief executive of industry body Scotland Food & Drink after nearly 11 years in post.

Mr Withers is expected to leave at the end of August after helping the search for his successor and to help the board and deputy chief executive John Davidson manage the transition.

He said: “It has been a huge privilege to be in this role for over a decade. That it has gone in a flash must be a good sign. It has been a very difficult decision to step down; I still consider it one of the best jobs in the country. However, it is exciting that someone else will soon have the opportunity to embrace it. 

“All that has been successful in food and drink in Scotland has come from collaboration and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the board, our partners and the wider industry that have supported me in the job. So many in government and business have been willing to work in partnership with the SF&D team and me to try and build Scotland’s reputation for food and drink, both here and internationally.

“It’s never easy to know when the right time is to step down. But ahead of the development of a new industry strategy towards the end of the year, and with a strong foundation in place, this feels right. My successor will inherit an incredibly talented group of staff and committed partners across the private and public sector. I am sure a change will bring new opportunities for the organisation as well as me personally. 

“I am not leaving for some months yet and there is a huge amount of work ongoing to develop the industry, respond to food security challenges and deal with the cost pressures on the sector right now.

“I have no firm plans for what I will do next. I hope to continue to play a part in Scotland’s economic development story, in the food and drink sector and beyond. It remains something that I am hugely passionate about.”

Chair, Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne, said: “James has made a transformational contribution to our organisation and his impact has been felt across the food and drink sector in Scotland.

“When James joined us in 2011, Scotland Food & Drink was still in its infancy and the industry wasn’t always spoken of as a Scottish success story.

“Later this year when James departs, his successor will inherit a strong, well-established organisation, a talented staff body and a sector critical to the future of Scotland’s economy and communities. 

“The board and staff will be very sad to see James depart, but we understand his decision and are very pleased he has agreed to stay and work closely with myself and the Board to manage the transition.”

The recruitment process for the next chief executive is expected to commence in the coming weeks.

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