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REC hear from Minister and Cabinet Secretary on Agriculture and Fisheries

 

Last week the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee heard evidence from Mike Russell and Fergus Ewing on a range of issues related to the impact of Brexit on agriculture and fisheries.

 

Mike Russell MSP, Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s place in Europe, and Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity gave evidence to the REC committee on a range of issues related to the impact of Brexit on Agriculture and Fisheries.

 

Opening Remarks

Mike Russell highlighted the work the Scottish Government has been undertaking since the end of 2016 to seek a differentiated solution for Scotland in relation to leaving the EU.  He stressed that little progress was being made with this in terms of bringing the UK Government to the negotiating table.

 

Fergus Ewing outlined the disproportionate importance to Scotland’s economy of seafood and agriculture when compared to other parts of the UK, and thus that our markets in Europe for these products were vital.  He said that access to the single-market was “absolutely essential” for Scotland in this respect.  He further highlighted that to move forward with policy development work in Scotland, it was necessary to be clear about whether powers would be fully repatriated to Scotland (the SG’s preferred option), and stressed the point that they had received no answers to this question from Westminster.  

 

Main points of interest from REC Committee questions

In terms of Vision, he talked about the Vision for Agriculture work SGRPID had taken forward in the last year or more.  His own Vision was for a Scotland that traded on high quality products, that farming particularly in the uplands must continue, albeit he later talked about moving forward on the basis of integrated land use, that sustainability was important and the need to plant more trees – talking about the sheep and trees initiative. 

 

Mr Ewing also highlighted the four champions and their work now starting, plus Russell Griggs work on greening measures.

 

Mike Russell supported Mr Ewing’s comments on the difficulty with moving forward with policy-making saying without clarity on money, markets and labour it was almost impossible to proceed.  He outlined that in terms of relationship with UK in a post-Brexit world there were three options

 

-          Full devolution of agriculture with full freedom to design own approach

-          Transition Plan

-          UK Framework – either dictated by Westminster or developed in true partnership         

He highlighted that in his view he could not get UK Gov. to sensibly discuss the above. To further complicate matters, even if SG had an answer to the above, they would still need clarity on labour supply (freedom of movement issues) and terms of Trade (WTO or otherwise).  Described the complexity of the situation as like a 3-D game of chess within a rubix cube.

 

  • Future Markets – SG asked where new markets might come from.  Mr Russell was negative on this and said if people had ideas please send them to him.  Mr Ewing said the thought the markets open to Scotland already existed.  EU not an impediment to creating new non-EU markets and Scottish businesses already exporting worldwide where there was interest in our products.
  • Legislation (Great Repeal Bill) – main point was that even with Great Repeal Bill it will be a complex and time consuming business, and with General Election called that period now shortened by 6 weeks or so.
 

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