Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has pledged to continue providing financial support to farmers and crofters.
Mr Ewing made the comments during his address to NFU Scotland’s (NFUS) virtual conference.
He failed to provide exact timings for when the Scottish Government will produce a blueprint for post-Brexit agricultural policy, to replace Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy (Cap), but said he hoped to introduce an Agriculture Bill to Holyrood during the next parliamentary session.
Mr Ewing said the government’s previously published Stability and Simplicty report outlined its plans to maintain current support schemes until 2024, while developing new policies.
“Our plan is to proceed with continuing to provide financial support to farmers beyond 2024 but with green strings attached,” said Mr Ewing.
These would comprise measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and boost the environment, however Mr Ewing said farmers would be given time to transition to a new system, as well as advice.
He said five farmer-led advisory groups, established by the Scottish Government in the past year, would help shape future policy.
The groups, which are tasked with developing recommendations on how to cut emissions and tackle climate change, are focused on five sectors – suckler beef, dairy, pigs, arable, and hill, upland and crofting.
The beef suckler group has already delivered its recommendations and Mr Ewing said he hoped to outline how they are being put into action next month.
“Scotland is proud of our world-leading climate change commitments and I am asking farmers and crofters to work with the Scottish Government to deliver the vision of a more sustainable future that we share,” said Mr Ewing.
“We have setablished the farmer-led groups to provide advice on developing new schemes and approaches to support low carbon and sustainable farming.”
Mr Ewing also announced his payment plans for the year ahead and said 2021 Basic Payment Scheme monies will be distributed via a loan scheme once more with the first tranche of payments due in September.
He also said the Government will be tabling amendments to a Members’ Bill, currently being taken forward, to increase the penalties for people whose dogs are caught worrying livestock. The penalties will increase to a maximum fine of £40,000, 12 months in prison, or both.
Mr Ewing also confirmed seasonal agricultural workers will be exempt from Covid-19 rules which require people entering the country to isolate in a quarantine hotel.