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New direction for farming support anticipated by Scotland’s rural businesses

Direct support after Brexit which balances the needs of farming and forestry business with delivering for the environment is to be welcomed, Scottish Land & Estates has said.

The organisation, which represents land-based businesses across Scotland, said today’s speech by Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, provided a valuable insight into the direction of rural support after Brexit.

Scottish Land & Estates, which launched its ‘A new direction for Scottish land management’ policy paper in March, said Mr Gove’s address supported the organisation’s stance that the status quo for farming subsidies could not be continued.

David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Whilst Mr Gove’s speech was an opening contribution to the ongoing debate, it provided a useful insight into how the UK Government believes direct support will be structured post-Common Agricultural Policy.

“It is clear that the UK Government is pursuing a policy that will see the delivery of public goods, such as helping mitigate flooding, providing clean water, enhancing biodiversity or reducing carbon emissions, but this must be balanced alongside support for farming operations where this is still required and justified.

“This is a position we set out in March when we launched a policy paper on the future of support for land management, which recognises that regardless of whether we left the European or not, there was a need to reform how direct support was structured, especially when there are ever-increasing demands on the public purse.

“Farmers and land managers will be expected to demonstrate how they deliver these environmental benefits, and our second big “ask” alongside this new, clearly justified support is that the new system must be phased in to ensure there is no cliff-edge for our rural businesses. Before we change the current rules too radically, there is a challenge for Scottish agriculture to improve its profitability and therefore resilience, which has to be our top priority in the next five to ten years.

“We were pleased to see Mr Gove acknowledge that many regions of the UK will still need greater levels of support where farming is more difficult. In Scotland, 85% of our land is classified as ‘poor’ - the opposite of what exists in England. We also have a much greater forestry industry so it is important that the Scottish Government plays a significant role in developing the detail on this policy that works for Scotland’s unique needs.

“The future of support goes hand-in-hand with the development of a new trade structure. The two cannot be separated, and we need to ensure new opportunities are created for food producers and manufacturers and forestry businesses. This will be significant in terms of our domestic food security and we expect the devolved regions to contribute towards achieving a system that works domestically and internationally.”

 

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