The Scottish Government’s Rural Affairs Minister has today backtracked on commitments to do ‘more’ to deliver for the rural economy in Scotland.
In a written response to North East MSP Mike Rumbles, the Minister outlined several initiatives that the Scottish Government ‘would have liked to do’ but blamed the European Commission for setting restrictions on enacting them.
However, in a written response today to Mr Rumbles, about whether they would deliver those initiatives once the UK left the EU in 2020, the Minister back-pedalled saying that it will depend on the UK Governments Brexit deal. This was despite admitting in the same paragraph that Scottish agriculture is already entirely devolved to the Scottish Government.
Mr Rumbles said: “It’s astounding that the Minister will leap from blaming the EU for Scottish Government incompetence to blaming the UK Government only a few days later. While at the same time he is happy to accept that agriculture is a fully devolved issue.
“It is now clear that the Scottish Government have no intention of delivering a system of agricultural payments that works to benefit Scotland. They are either bereft of any good ideas at all, or are intentionally undermining our rural economy to sow the seeds for Indyref2. Perhaps it’s both.
“It’s time for the Scottish Government to stop hiding behind the Brexit negotiations. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a new agricultural model that will work for the Scottish economy, but instead of grasping that opportunity with both hands, they are waving their hands in the air and crying wolf.”
Notes for editors:
- Relevant section from the Minister’s response to Mike Rumbles on 27th October 2016 (S5W-03324):
There was more the Scottish Government would have liked to do, for example we intended to limit eligibility to payment entitlements to the area of land held in 2013 or 2015 whichever was the lowest. This was to address concerns about landowners terminating leases and taking land back in hand to maximise their own allocation of payment entitlements. However, this was disallowed by the European Commission who argued it was incompatible with our proposal to widen access to New Entrants - another key priority. The Scottish Government pushed for and is using flexibilities in the Regulations to ensure our CAP package is targeted to reward genuinely active farmers and, through a suite of measures, helps address Scotland’s slipper farming issue.
- Witten Question 9 November 2016 (S5W-04104) : Index Heading: Enterprise & Environment:
Mike Rumbles: To ask the Scottish Government, further to the answer to question S5W-03324 by Fergus Ewing on 27 October 2016, whether it would implement the policies outlined in paragraphs three and four if agricultural subsidy rules were its responsibility.
Fergus Ewing: The Scottish Government has been calling for full engagement with the UK Government on the EU exit negotiations and process. Agriculture is fully devolved and we must retain our powers to manage it appropriately and set future policy. How we organise agricultural subsidies in a post-EU scenario will then depend very much on the type of deal the UK Government reaches with the EU, compliance with World Trade Organisation rules and consultation with our stakeholders. For the moment, however, we are already using the flexibilities we have within the current EU CAP rules to help address slipper farming.