A controversial dual-country “belt and braces” approach to new farm legislation has been demanded by Scotland’s farmers’ union.
Union president Andrew McCornick has called on the Scottish Government to not only produce a Scottish Agricultural Bill to deliver farm policy beyond the Common Agricultural Policy, but also to take powers via a schedule in the UK Government’s Agriculture Bill, which is already well advanced at Westminster.
At an end-of-year briefing in Edinburgh he said: “We want to see something in place right now that shows a direction of travel. Every farmer has to do long-term planning and there are people sitting considering whether to sell up or expand their businesses.
“These are major decisions yet we don’t even know what our future trading arrangements are going to be or the direction future Scottish agriculture policy is going.”
However both Mr McCornick and the union’s policy director, Jonnie Hall, were adamant that farm policy must remain devolved in order to meet the particular needs of Scottish farming.
Mr Hall said: “Defra have always made it clear they aren’t interested in running agricultural policy in Scotland. The trajectory that England have taken of phasing out direct support over a seven-year period would be an absolute disaster for Scotland but they’re not trying to impose that on us at all.
“One of the problems we’ve encountered is that Scottish Government is very clear it could do things but it hasn’t categorically said it will do things, so there’s not a clear commitment to a route map that would be driven through the Scottish Parliament.”