A consultation by the SNP Government on proposals for farming and rural support, should Scotland leave the EU, have been announced by Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP.
The proposals aim to provide stability, certainty and simplicity for farmers, crofters and land users, with the key measure of a transition period of between three and five years being one of the main recommendations of the Agriculture Champions.
At the same time, some measures will be streamlined and simplified, to free up resource and allow the pilot and test activities likely to feature in a future farming and rural support policy. Key changes proposed include a limit on payments, reduced inspections and penalties.
Launching the consultation, Mr Ewing said:
“As we are taken out of the EU, we must now decide how radical we wish to be, and importantly, how fast we wish to change. My priority in the short term is to provide people in rural businesses with as much security as possible and this paper sets out options to try and achieve this.
“I am proposing that support schemes for active farming, food production, environmental improvements, forestry and rural development fundamentally stay largely the same. However, where schemes and processes can usefully be simplified and streamlined, we should do so, particularly if that frees up resource to test new approaches and measures.
“I also want to hear views on the longer term direction of travel. All ideas and suggestions will be explored as part of the wider civic conversation around how best to sustain a vibrant and flourishing rural economy. With Brexit representing the biggest challenge to rural Scotland for a generation, people deserve security and stability, and that is what I am determined to provide.”
The National Farmers’ Union of Scotland has welcomed the consultation, with its President Andrew McCornick commenting:
“We welcome the Cabinet Secretary's call for views and see this as an important step in delivering the correct policy for Scottish farmers and crofters.
“Likewise, the Cabinet Secretary’s commitment to look at legislative simplification and addressing the disproportionate mapping, inspection and penalty process will be music to the ears of farmers and crofters and mirrors our own priorities.
"At an economic level, future policy must recognise that agriculture already supports more than 75,000 businesses in the food and drinks industry. With food and drink our leading manufacturing sector, and ambitions for growth in the years ahead, policy developments must recognise that profitable and productive farmers and crofters are at the heart of this Scottish success story.”
The consultation Support for Agricultur and Rural Economy Post Brexit Transition runs until 07 September, as part of the civic conversation being held this summer which also involves activity by the National Council on Rural Advisors to seek views on its more far-reaching recommendations to support growth in the rural economy.