28/11/13: Scotland’s Farming and rural Constitution and democracy
The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead, outlined some of the benefits of independence for Scottish farming including the EU rule that by 2019 no member state would receive farm payments of less than €196 per hectare – approximately £175, an extra €1 billion of funding – Scotland’s billion euro boost. He said:
“The money would have benefited our farmers and the Scottish economy as a whole – including our rural communities and the whole farming supply chain.
Agriculture is comparatively around a third more important to the Scottish economy than to the UK’s as a whole, and it is distinctive.
Indeed with every £1 of output from the agricultural sector generating an additional 80 pence in other parts of the Scottish economy, the whole country loses out.
We would also have had the opportunity to join 16 other EU countries in negotiating hundreds of millions of euros more in rural development funding – funding that we could invest in rural tourism, environmental protection, broadband, renewables, and start-up assistance for young farmers.
Instead, the UK Government negotiated a worse deal for Scotland – taking Scotland to the very bottom of the European funding league tables.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the UK qualified for a €223 million uplift because of Scotland’s low payments – but instead of that funding coming to Scottish farmers, in line with the wishes of the European Union and Scottish Parliament, it was divvied up across the whole of the UK.
Only with the powers of independence, and direct representation in Europe, we can empower our rural communities to secure and grow rural Scotland’s place in our society and economy.”
A Successful Farmer Speaks Out
Jim Brown, of Gaindykehead Farm near Airdrie, one of Scotland’s most successful beef farmers, said:
“The UK Government’s actions over the recent debacle of CAP convergence funding shows they do not have Scottish farming’s interests at heart, and indeed are taking decisions which remove vital funding from Scotland.
These actions destroy any remaining faith farmers such as myself may have had in the ability of the UK to do what is best for Scottish farming.
I want Scotland to be independent so our farmers are represented in Europe by a Government that always prioritises the Scottish interest, and which has a track record of delivering for farming.
After decades of being represented by the UK in Europe, Scotland is now bottom of the league tables of CAP funding.
With independence we can’t possibly do worse, and I believe we can do much, much better.”
2 Jul 2017: It’s Hall over now
Not long after the referendum on continued European membership became known the Scottish Government and the National Farmers Union agreed to work together towards the development of post-Brexit devolved agriculture policies in Scotland.
Given the history of the intransigence of the NFUS towards the SNP government it was an unexpected and in some ways groundbreaking relationship.
But the brief union between NFU Scotland’s policy guru Jonnie Hall and ScotGov’s agri-policy unit ended without bearing fruit.
Hall’s secondment to ScotGov was formally brought to a close, the official reason offered was that, in the absence of even the barest outline of the Westminster government approach to farm policy after Brexit to chew on, neither he nor his ScotGov counterparts had a starting point to work from.
Commenting, NFUS chief executive Scott Walker said:
“Jonnie Hall’s secondment to the Scottish Government was a new approach for both sides to help formulate the right agricultural policy for Scotland in a post-Brexit future.
Given the eventual Brexit negotiation timetable that has emerged since December 2016, both sides were ahead of the curve, with discussions still firmly focussed on Brexit options rather than the detail of Scottish agricultural policy.
As Jonnie’s skills and knowledge were not being fully utilised, both parties felt it was appropriate to bring the secondment to an end after six months, rather than taking up the option to extend it beyond that time.”
He went on. “Scottish Government now has a number of specialist groups to look at future agricultural policy and we look forward to engaging with them in the months ahead.
This summer, NFUS will roll out its discussion document ‘Change – A New Agricultural Policy for Scotland Post-Brexit’, with office holders attending more than 30 agricultural shows.”
Adding: “We will also be meeting with Defra on a monthly basis, attending the Conservative party conference in the autumn and focussing on future policy at NFU Scotland’s Autumn conference in October.”
(The Scottish Farmer)
Comment: The National Farmers Union of Scotland, in consequence of their withdrawal from the partnership approach to designing future agricultural policies together with the Scottish Government abandoned any pretence of a constructive dialogue with the Scottish Government and through it the people of Scotland.
A “divide and rule” tactic the outcome of which, they are confident, will be the full support of the Westminster Government, taking forward the agricultural policies of Scotland. History proves otherwise.
21 Jul 2017: Agricultual policy within the UK will be decided by Westminster Post Brexit .
The Westminster Government
Michael Gove announced he wanted a green Brexit and farmers will no longer be “handed out” farm subsidies. These will have to be “earned”.
He stated that whilst a payments regime will remain place until 2022, the current Common Agricultural Policy’s Basic Payment Scheme will be scrapped.
In this period government advisors and farmers’ leaders will decide the future distribution of finance, including the environment, infrastructure, and promotion of British food.
Mr Gove added: “There are very good reasons why we should provide support for agriculture. “Seventy per cent of our land is farmed – beautiful landscape has not happened by accident but has been actively managed.
Agriculture is an industry more susceptible to outside shocks and unpredictable events – whether it’s the weather or disease.
So financial assistance and mechanisms which can smooth out the vicissitudes farmers face make sense.”
He also added that he wished to help farmers in Britain’s highlands, as farming there without subsidies is “impossible”.
The National Farmers Union of Scotland
The National Farmers Union Scotland responded to Mr Gove’s statement, and claimed that it was in line with its discussion document, titled Change – A New Agricultural Policy for Scotland Post-Brexit. A spokesman said:
“The union’s vision for the next decade is a managed transition from 2017 to 2027 to an action-based support system. “It wants to capitalise on new market opportunities, coupled with a new domestic agricultural policy, that will move our farmers and crofters to a position where market returns are the primary driver of profitability.”
Director of policy at NFUS, Jonnie Hall, added that while there was much reference to green Brexit, there was a “significant amount” of agricultural content within Mr Gove’s speech, which was complementary of NFUS’ wishes for Scottish agriculture. He said:
“The Secretary of State’s statement that support must be earned chimes with our thoughts. “We would want to see a properly-funded policy, supported by science-led decision making, that builds on our animal health and welfare record and is focused on productivity and profitability gains. “That means, in the future, there is a justifiable case for Scottish agriculture to receive the same levels of funding it currently receives, ring-fenced and spent in new and more effective ways to improve productivity, efficiency and resilience. “That is a central plank of the discussions we will be having with Westminster politicians and their officials in the weeks and months ahead.”
He further commented: “Mr Gove also recognised in his speech the importance of support to those living and working in our hills and uplands. “That is an issue we were able to raise with the minister when we met at the Highland Show, and we have extended an invite to the minister and his team to visit Scotland soon and view the unique and diverse agricultural systems found north of the border.”
The Scottish Government
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing, commented that Brexit is the “biggest” threat to rural Scotland, and that is why the Scottish Government wanted to remain within the EU, as it believed doing so was the best option for the future of Scotland.
Adding that decisions about agriculture should be left in the hands of the Scottish government, he explained:
“We have repeatedly made clear that Brexit should not be used as cover for a power grab, and that powers in areas such as agriculture, fisheries and environmental protection should return to Scotland – not Westminster.
“No one is suggesting we cut ourselves off from collaboration, but this must be done on the basis of respect for the devolved administrations.
We are prepared to agree any UK-wide approach that is necessary on withdrawal from the EU, but this must be negotiated between the governments, not imposed by the UK Government.”
He went on to say that it is “concerning” that the UK government is looking to change financial support within agriculture, without consulting the devolved governments, particularly Scotland, and added: “Scottish farming is more reliant on CAP funds than the rest of the UK due to issues of remoteness and land abandonment, and any attempt to cut support will be strongly opposed by the Scottish Government.”
He agreed that the current system does not always work well, but this period should be used as a time to improve it, concluding: “The current CAP is not perfect, but the EU is already looking at CAP reform, so we have an opportunity to improve it.
That is why we have already insisted that the UK should not disengage from the CAP reform process – but they did it regardless of right.” (The Scottish Farmer)