Rural businesses in Scotland must not be disadvantaged when new post-Brexit arrangements come into force, Scottish Land & Estates has said.
The organisation, which represents land-based businesses, farmers and landowners across Scotland, has said that care will need to be taken to ensure that an overarching food, farming and environment policy framework – as currently exists with the EU – is created at a UK level.
Scottish Land & Estates - and the CLA in Wales – have today published their latest and final document in a series of Brexit related policy briefings.
As detailed within the briefing, the transition of CAP arrangements from the European to the devolved administrations – where farming policy currently resides – is not as simple as it may seem. It is the belief of Scottish Land & Estates that a UK framework will need to be created jointly by Scottish, Welsh and UK ministers to ensure that a fair and transparent funding system guarantees a level playing field between every region.
David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “We have consistently said that Brexit presents both opportunities and challenges for our rural sector and nowhere is this more apparent than in the very nature of our rural framework moving forward.
“On the face of it, many would expect a transition to a scenario where the devolved administrations simply take over the policy responsibilities that currently reside with the EU. At the moment, the CAP provides the policy consistency across the EU that allows trade while each nation or region is able to tailor implementation of the policy
“If we lose this overarching consistency, however, it could create real trade issues for Scottish rural businesses. We are not arguing for devolution to be rolled back; indeed, we want Scottish Ministers at the table, with their UK counterparts, arguing on behalf of our rural economies.
“However, there is a pressing need to ensure that whatever arrangements are put in place that they serve all parts of the UK equally. Each country has its own distinct challenges and opportunities and must be allowed to respond to these within an overarching policy framework. Without this, Scotland could be disadvantaged through unequal approaches to trade, support and regulation. A level playing field is vital.”
Mr Johnstone added that leaving the EU will undoubtedly give rise to discussions over the nature of direct support for sectors such as agriculture and forestry and that whilst reform may take place, Scotland needed to ensure its case is heard.
David Johnstone continued: “We have seen successive UK governments express a desire to reform agricultural support in ways that may not have Scottish farming, environment and communities in mind. It is therefore imperative both that the Scottish Ministers play an active role to ensure the best possible outcome for our rural businesses, and the UK Ministers take account of the needs of businesses in Scotland.”
“We currently believe that a fair funding settlement should include ring-fenced budgets so that farmers, foresters and landowners operate on a level playing field across the UK. The last thing any business needs, post-Brexit, is for internal trade barriers or distortions to be created in the functioning of the UK-wide system.
“The decision taken to leave the EU will change the relationship between the UK and the world but we also need to ensure it leads to greater co-operation internally between all parts of the UK.”
In the new briefing paper, Scottish Land & Estates and the CLA are asking Scottish and Welsh Ministers to prioritise the following steps over the next few months:
- Contribute to a food, farming and environment policy framework at the UK level
- Respect devolution within an overarching framework
- Develop a fair and transparent funding structure
- Enhance collaboration between government and industry
- Develop a strategic approach to the rural economy and land use