NFUS calls for governments to resolve issues

Jonnie Hall, NFUS director of policy.

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NFU Scotland has called upon the UK and Scottish Government to resolve their differences on the Agriculture Bill.

The union has urged the respective governments to end the impasse and to work constructively to ensure Scotland can develop and implement a new national agricultural policy after Brexit.

In letters sent to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, and the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing, NFUS president Andrew McCornick called for meaningful progress to break the political logjam between both governments on how to agree future policy, financial frameworks and repatriation of powers.

The UK’s Agriculture Bill was published in September and is currently receiving scrutiny in the House of Commons. The Bill is ‘enabling’ legislation, providing broad powers to current and future governments to provide financial assistance and make other policy interventions around land use and agriculture after the UK’s departure from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

However, the Bill has also given rise to legitimate questions about the ability for governments to continue to make agricultural payments in the immediate aftermath of EU exit in 2019 and 2020. Governments must provide clarification on this in order to give much-needed certainty and stability to farmers and crofters.

It is the view of NFUS that, due to the continued impasse between governments, the Bill has become very politicised and the required policy measures that will secure the best outcomes for Scottish agriculture are being put at risk.

NFUS director of policy Jonnie Hall said: ‘Less than five months from Brexit, our members are desperate for certainty and confidence. The politicisation of the process has, so far, been unhelpful and we must see meaningful progress between the two governments soon.

‘We need the very best outcomes for Scottish agriculture, so it is vital that both Holyrood and Westminster act with urgency and establish a satisfactory outcome for all sides.

‘The real prize from exiting the EU is to move away from the CAP, while developing and implementing new agricultural policies that are bespoke to the unique and differing needs of the UK. This will only happen if both governments break the current impasse and play their respective and complementary roles.

‘As things stand, the Agriculture Bill will legislate for powers adapted for Wales and Northern Ireland to be exercised by ministers in those territories. However, due to the continued stand-off between UK and Scottish ministers on the principle of agreeing common, UK-wide frameworks, the Scottish Government has chosen not to take any powers in this Bill. This means that it is uncertain how the legal framework on which a new Scottish agricultural policy is developed will be enabled.’