The devolved nations and agricultural policy: Scotland

Friday, 4 December 2020

In much of our recent work, we have been focusing on how agricultural policy is developing in England. The proposed transition away from the CAP and BPS towards ELMS has given us some insights into how farmers can prepare for the upcoming changes in England, but what does this mean for levy payers in Wales and Scotland? Last week we released an update on how policy is shaping up in Wales. In this article, we take a look at how the future of Scottish agricultural policy may look beyond the departure from the EU CAP.

Overall, current Scottish policy is largely to maintain the status quo of the CAP, until at least 2024. During this transition period, the Scottish government are working on developing a new policy for the rural economy. In mid-2018 Scotland published a consultation document, seeking views on the issues faced during a transitory period, titled Stability and Simplicity. During the transition period, the Scottish government are looking to keep the current structure and level of payments the same. Remaining broadly aligned with the rules administered by the CAP, there will be potential for small changes to introduce practical simplifications and improve customer service.

Feeding into future policy decisions are also policy documents from the National Council of Rural Advisors and the Scottish Government’s Agricultural Champions, which both made numerous recommendations for the Scottish government. There are key themes that are emerging throughout these policy documents – such as enhancing the natural environment and improving the conversation with the general public. On top of this there is much discussion about improving the sustainability and profitability on Scottish farms, which according to the current policy documents, will require a step change in the way farmers approach running their farm businesses and more broadly land management.

On the back of these consultations, the Scottish parliament debated future agricultural policy in January 2019, and identified 6 key themes that future policy should be built around:

  • Sustainability
  • Simplicity
  • Profitability
  • Innovation
  • Inclusion
  • Productivity

During this debate, the Scottish Parliament agreed to ‘establish a stakeholder group involving representatives from producers, consumers and environmental organisations to help government thinking through challenges faced by farmers and crofters and how  policies might be adapted to help.’ This stakeholder group is currently delving through the evidence base and formulating recommendations based around the six key principles identified above. The group have been meeting throughout 2020 with a report of recommendations due out shortly – this will likely give a clearer indication on the future direction of Scottish Agricultural Policy.

The Scottish government have taken a slightly different approach to the other devolved nations, taking longer to develop/publish more concrete policy intentions, whilst maintaining the status quo in the meantime.  Whilst there will be no major changes in the short term, change is coming, and AHDB will be closely monitoring the situation and analysing the effects as and when information becomes available.

Tom Forshaw

Senior Analyst - Policy