Rural and Environment
In the news: Scottish Agriculture
The Committee argues that Brexit presents an opportunity to address failings in the agriculture funding formula, which has led to Scottish farms and crofts receiving low levels of funding.
The report calls on the government to depart from an outdated method of allocating funding which has failed to reflect Scotland’s unique agricultural conditions and practices and introduce a new system where a nation’s proportion of Less Favoured land is a central criterion in determining how much funding it receives. It recommends that revising the funding formula would ensure that those farmers and crofters working in the most challenging environment receive the most support and lead to an increase in the proportion of the UK-wide agricultural funding allocated to Scotland.
The report also criticises the Government’s pilot seasonal agriculture scheme for not providing enough workers to address Scotland’s agricultural workforce crisis let alone enough for the whole of the UK. The Committee calls on the Government to increase the pilot to 10,000 workers and scrap application and visa interview fees to open the scheme to all motivated workers, not just those who can afford to apply.
Responding to the report, Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon said:
“I am pleased to see that the Select Committee has recognised that Scotland has historically lost out on much needed funds and agree with our long held position that a new, fair and transparent funding arrangement is required to meet the needs of each of the home nations.
“This is fundamental to the future funding of Scottish agriculture, which is why the uncertainty, created by the UK Government’s continued ambiguity around the future funding envelope Scotland will operate under in any post-Brexit environment, must urgently be addressed.
“We share the concerns of the committee and the industries who depend on non-UK citizens whose contribution is crucial to the rural economy. We therefore welcome the report’s recommendation that the £30,000 salary threshold be removed – not to do so will have a devastating impact on many of Scotland’s key sectors, including agriculture.
“Furthermore, the seasonal and temporary programmes proposed by the UK Government would prohibit longer-term settlement of migrants working in key sectors, including agriculture, and do not address Scotland’s economic, social or demographic challenges.
“This is further evidence to support the overwhelming case for Scotland to have the power to tailor its own migration policy in a way that will attract and retain people with the skills we need.
“Additionally, we have been clear that, we are not opposed to UK-wide frameworks in principle, where they are in the interest of Scotland. However, this must be done with respect for devolution and via agreement, not imposition.
“A no deal Brexit is by far the biggest threat to farming and to our food and drink sector. As I have repeatedly highlighted, Scotland’s farmers would be worse off under every scenario when compared to current trade arrangements, which is why the Scottish Government has argued for a further extension of Article 50 to facilitate a second EU referendum.”
Our Brexit transition plan, Stability and Simplicity, sets out the most detailed proposals of any UK administration with the key measure being a transition period of between three and five years that would provide time and space for the piloting and testing of activities likely to feature in any post Brexit landscape.