The Scottish Government has called on Westminster not to retain any powers without the consent of the devolved regions after a raft of farming policy areas were listed by Ministers as potentially needing UK-wide rules.
The list was published by the UK Government as a way of countering the ‘power grab’ accusations levelled at Ministers because of a clause in the EU Withdrawal Bill which would prevent the devolved regions from passing new laws in areas which were previously the EU’s responsibility, such as agriculture.
It outlined 49 policy areas where the UK believes no further action is required, 82 policy areas where non-legislative common frameworks may be required and 24 policy areas which should be ‘subject to more detailed discussion’ to explore whether legislative common framework arrangements might be needed, in whole or in part.
16 of the 24 policy areas which could be subject to common legislative frameworks relate to farming.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “We have made clear, while we are open to common, UK-wide frameworks in certain areas, this must be done on the basis of mutual agreement and consent, and not by imposition.”
The Welsh Government was keen to point out the powers were not ‘new’, but already devolved to Wales.
“This analysis shows the UK Government wants to exert control on 24 areas relevant to Wales out of a total of 64”, a spokesman told Farmers Guardian.
“The UK Government needs to make significant changes to the Withdrawal Bill to fully respect devolution. We have put forward constructive proposals to reach agreement on the necessary changes. Our discussions will continue.”
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick welcomed the public statement from the UK Government, but warned many of the union’s key priorities lie within the areas identified as needing further discussion.
“With just over a year until the UK leaves the EU, those discussions cannot be subject to further delays and deliberations”, he added.
“We accept in certain areas, common frameworks are a necessity to allow our internal market to function.
“However, decisions on Scotland’s allocation of agricultural funding and absolute recognition that Scotland can decide on agricultural policy priorities must be agreed to allow us to move on.”
Nick Fenwick, head of policy at the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW), echoed these concerns, warning any common frameworks would need to be mutually agreed.
“Watering down devolved powers is on a long list of things which were not included in the June 2016 referendum question, so the imposition of any frameworks would be an outrageous betrayal”, he added.
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