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Brexit: urgent action needed by UK and Scottish governments to get best outcome for agriculture

Scottish Land & Estates today called for urgent action by both the Scottish and UK Governments to avoid undermining the interests of Scottish agriculture and rural areas.

Scottish Land & Estates has raised the issue in a meeting this week with David Mundell, Secretary of State for Scotland.

The House of Commons is currently considering the EU Withdrawal Bill which includes the post Brexit re-allocation of legislative powers including those relating to agriculture and rural development.

At present, the Scottish Government has the power to make its own decisions relating to land use, farming and rural development. In practice, the frameworks within which these decisions are made are set at EU level with the Scottish Government having discretion about how to implement the EU legislation.

Under the Withdrawal Bill, instead of powers that reside in Brussels coming back to Scotland, the UK Government is going to take the powers from Brussels pending discussions about possible common policy frameworks within the UK.

David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Our governments need to work together urgently to resolve the issue of powers. If they do not, Scottish agriculture and land management could find itself disadvantaged.

“Both governments have a point. The UK government is taking a pragmatic approach in trying to provide a short-term mechanism for dealing with Brexit.  However, the Scottish Government also has very legitimate concern that the UK government is taking back control in devolved areas and Edinburgh is right to be fighting for Scottish interests.

“The lack of trust between the UK and Scottish governments is a problem that needs to be overcome.

“The Scottish Government appears not to trust the UK government’s assurances about the Withdrawal Bill. The UK Government needs to recognise how its own behaviour influences the view taken on these issues in Scotland and needs to build trust.  At the same time, a degree of compromise may be needed by the Scottish Government. There is a risk that the overarching objective of securing the best deal for agriculture could be overshadowed by the political priorities of both governments.

“There is likely to be merit in developing a UK-wide policy framework for agriculture and rural development, in the same way that we work cross-border in other areas, such as plant health.  However, any future policy needs to be developed jointly and cannot be imposed by Westminster. Any UK-wide framework must also respect devolution and allow Scotland the ability to shape its own policy and support regimes.

“Much more concrete proposals are needed and quickly. They would allow all interests to move on to discuss the merits of particular approaches towards creating the best arrangements for Scottish agriculture.”

 

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