NFU Scotland is pushing for a Scottish schedule to be included in the UK Agriculture Bill to ensure farmers in Scotland can continue to be paid and benefit from bespoke policy after Brexit.
The Scottish Government has so far rejected the opportunity to take a schedule in the Bill, claiming it would give Westminster control over key issues such as World Trade Organisation (WTO) compliance and rules on fair supply chains.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has since said he will bring forward a Scottish Agriculture Bill to provide a framework to pay farmers, but there is no timetable for the legislation.
While welcoming the prospect of a Scottish Agriculture Bill, NFU Scotland remains convinced of the need for a Scottish schedule in the UK Agriculture Bill – referring to this as the ‘belt and braces’ approach.
The union’s policy director Jonnie Hall said: “We have over recent months taken the view that in order to best pursue the ‘belt and braces’ approach, this must be done on a cross-party basis in the interests of Scottish agriculture, which go well beyond any political interest.
“As a result, and throughout this process, with have engaged with MPs from across the Scottish political spectrum in a concerted effort to take the political heat out of what we see as a pragmatic approach in the interests of Scottish farmers and crofters.
“We have explicitly raised the notion of a cross-party approach to a Scottish schedule with each political party in an effort to build consensus around powers to enable Scottish Government Ministers to do what is best for Scottish agriculture.”
In Wales, Ministers have accepted a schedule in the UK Agriculture Bill, but a report by the Welsh Assembly’s Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs (CCERA) Committee warned it would enable the Welsh Government to introduce a new system of agricultural support without proper scrutiny.
In order to solve the problem, the committee recommended Ministers should be required to consult before bringing forward any new regulations under powers granted by the Agriculture Bill.
It also suggested the Bill should contain a ‘sunset clause’ which would limit the amount of time Welsh Ministers were able to exercise the powers set out in the legislation.