It is a clearly a case of ’steady as she goes’ on post- Brexit policy as far as Fergus Ewing is concerned.
Speaking at the Quality Meat Scotland breakfast which traditionally opens the Royal Highland Show (June 20), Scotland’s Rural Affairs Minister Fergus Ewing left everyone in no doubt that he is relying on his Simplicity and Stability guidelines to see him through to 2024.
Asked what his plans were for a Scottish Agriculture Bill – something his critics have been pushing for - Mr Ewing insisted he would introduce one only when it was required for enabling payments.
“My job is to continue to do what is right and the best way to do that is to involve people who know the industry,” Mr Ewing said.
To that end he announced the formation of a Farming Food Production Future Policy Group to advise him on future policy.
This is far from the first stakeholder group which Mr Ewing has appointed but he stressed this one would have specific remit of reporting back by April 2020 with proposals for industry support and development after 2024.
The ’inexorable decline’ in beef cow number is a ’serious issue’ which has to be tackled by all sides of the industry according to Mr Ewing.
“We need to set our mind to it but I must say the recent fall in beef prices to a three low is not helping,” he said.
Mr Ewing fell short of announcing the increase to the beef calf scheme which the industry is increasingly calling for.
Instead he put the pressure on Michael Gove at Defra to come up with a Brexit compensation scheme.
“The Irish are getting a 50m euro payment from the EU. Where is the British compensation scheme? I have written to Michael Gove and I will be meeting him on Monday to push for such a scheme. I have lost count of the number of farmers I have spoken to who are thinking of selling off their cows entirely,” said Mr Ewing.
Only a Member State can request EU funding meaning putting the onus on Westminster rather than Holyrood, he added.