Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has accused the UK Government of being intent on stopping direct support payments to farmers “just as quickly as they can get away with it”.
The SNP minister also claimed there was “not one scooby of a hint” as to the Conservatives’ plan in relation to agriculture policy post-Brexit.
And he insisted the Scottish Government would be able to continue to make payments to farmers and crofters without taking powers in the UK Agriculture Bill.
This legislation to reform farming after Brexit is currently being scrutinised by MPs.
Under the UK Government’s plans, by 2027 farmers will be rewarded for providing public goods, such as flood protection, instead of receiving EU subsidies based on land holdings.
Last week, Mr Ewing tabled amendments to the bill, but Scotland is not formally included in it in the way that Wales and Northern Ireland are.
Yesterday, appearing before the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, Mr Ewing was criticised by Scottish Tory MPs who condemned his government’s conduct around the issue.
Angus MP Kirstene Hair accused the Scottish Government of a “complete disregard for the rural community”.
She asked: “Do you think it’s responsible to reject the schedule in the bill, not bring forward your own bill and leave Scottish farmers in a situation where we are five months away from exit day and … there’s no clarity given on how the Scottish Government is going to provide support payments after that?
“Do you hand on heart believe that this is governing responsibly?”
Mr Ewing said there was nothing to prevent his government from introducing legislation, if it became necessary, to “make departures and changes” from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
But he added: “Until we know exactly what the situation is going to be, we cannot formulate the direct plan.
“One of the problems with the UK bill… is that it contains not one scooby of a hint of what the substantive policy in the UK is.
“The only one thing that is clear… is that Defra and perhaps the Treasury are intent on stopping direct payments (to farmers) just as quickly as they can get away with it.
“We do not need to take powers through this bill. We will be able to continue to make payments to our farmers and our crofters.”
Despite the current situation, Mr Ewing said he was seeking a “peace treaty” with UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove, “not a battle”.