Scottish farmers could receive more money from Westminster after Brexit than they get under the Common Agricultural Policy, according to Defra Secretary Michael Gove.
Mr Gove made the remarks when giving evidence to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee in the Scottish Parliament last week.
Asked by MSP Mike Rumbles whether Scotland would continue to receive 16 per cent of the UK’s overall agriculture budget after Brexit, the Secretary of State said this would ‘absolutely’ be the case, adding: “I suspect in the future, given the nature of Scotland’s unique needs and the unique needs of other places in the UK, we could contribute as a proportion of overall agriculture spending an even bigger slice, possibly, to Scotland and Northern Ireland on the basis of the nature and of the landscape.”
Mr Gove also said he expected to proceed on the basis that money from Westminster would be ringfenced for spending on the rural economy, though he made clear he did not want to ‘tie the hands’ of any future Scottish Government.
“I want to continue to honour the devolution settlement, so should [Rural Economy Secretary] Fergus [Ewing] or any future Minister wish to allocate that money in a slightly different way, they should be free to do so,” he said.
“This is absolutely the way we should respect the devolution settlement, so the money is there, how it is spent should be for the Scottish Government Minister to decide.”
The Secretary of State’s promise to maintain current funding allocations for Scotland after Brexit is likely to apply to other devolved nations.
But in Wales, FUW director of agricultural policy Dr Nick Fenwick gave his comments a lukewarm reception.
Dr Fenwick said: “Superficially, Michael Gove’s statement is welcome in that it implies national allocations will remain the same and be ringfenced. However, his later comments about the freedom to spend raise many questions.
“What we really need is a proper discussion about the way forward and some solid written proposals, rather than off the cuff remarks about how things might or might not be in the very near future.”