Any powers over agriculture repatriated from Brussels after Brexit must go to Holyrood rather than Westminster, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister told NFU Scotland’s annual general meeting the move was “vital” to reflect the distinct interests of farming in Scotland after the UK leaves the European Union.
She was speaking a day after Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson told the same meeting it would be “foolhardy” for Scotland to design a completely separate regulatory regime to replace the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy system of farm support payments after Brexit.
Ms Sturgeon said an expert group would be set up to look at the Scottish Government’s approach to “greening”, or support for agricultural practices that benefit the environment, chaired by Professor Russel Griggs.
She said: “Brexit presents the biggest challenge to farming in Scotland in our generation. Agriculture is a more important part of Scotland’s economy than the UK because of our landscape and climate. So it’s important for the agriculture sector that Scotland has a strong say in the negotiations with the EU.
“It’s vital to ensuring that the settlement which is reached meets your needs and the Scottish Government will work with the industry to make the sector as sustainable and efficient as possible.
“This is why we have appointed Professor Russel Griggs to chair a group to review the Scottish Government’s approach to greening and make recommendations for a profitable, sustainable and environmentally friendly industry.
“In addition, it is also vital that any powers which are transferred from the European Union, at the time of Brexit, must go to the Scottish Parliament rather than to Westminster. It is the best way of ensuring that future decisions on farming reflect Scotland’s distinct priorities.”
Ms Sturgeon also confirmed funding of £16,000 to promote Scottish red meat at international food shows.
She said: “Now more than ever, it’s important that we look to the future and continue expanding the market for our quality produce. That’s why we will support additional work this year to promote our quality meat sector at trade fairs in Asia and North America.
“This will build on the work we’ve already done to boost our dairy brand, and it will help send the message that Scotland is open for business.”