Farm leaders have called for greater clarity on future agricultural policy.
It follows the Agriculture (Retained EU Law and Data) (Scotland) Bill passing stage one following a debate in the Scottish Parliament. The bill ensures Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) schemes can continue beyond this year and gives Scottish ministers powers to simplify and improve these schemes.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said the bill provided a legal framework to continue with Cap schemes during a transition period to 2024, during which new schemes can be piloted.
“It is largely about process rather than policy, and it is vital that the Scottish Parliament comes together to agree it so that we have these powers in place for 2021,” said Mr Ewing.
NFU Scotland (NFUS) president Andrew McCornick welcomed the bill passing stage one and said it provided some stability for farmers.
However he added: “This bill does not set a clear policy direction for Scottish agriculture and NFUS is absolutely clear that a new policy-focused bill must also be introduced as soon as is reasonably possible.”
Landowners’ body Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) agreed and said a smooth transition to a new agricultural policy could only be achieved if the new policy ambitions were known.
SLE agriculture policy manager Eleanor Kay said: “What the industry needs right now is bold and ambitious leadership, setting a clear direction for agricultural policy which rewards and invests in farming and wider land management practices that benefits all.
“This bill will not be a long-term solution, and so we would like to see a sunset clause added to ensure there is an end date for these short-term measures. This will help focus minds on planning the long-term future of Scotland’s agriculture.”
Scottish Conservative shadow rural economy secretary Rachael Hamilton said that the bill failed to offer insight into how the Scottish Government plans to implement farm subsidy payments in future.
She said: “Farmers want to know what the future farm payment model will look like, and while this bill is necessary, the plans currently on the table provide no further detail on the direction of travel.
“Scotland is behind the curve on crafting a new agricultural policy; Fergus Ewing needs to pick up the pace.”