Holyrood committee criticises ‘unhelpful’ Whitehall
The UK Government has been criticised for its “unhelpful” response to a Scottish Parliament committee’s request for information on post-Brexit agriculture and fisheries policy.
The committee first wrote to UK rural affairs secretary Thérèse Coffey in November last year and again in March this year to invite her to give evidence on the matter.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) replied in July recommending the Scotland Office would be the “more appropriate” department to contact given these areas are devolved.
The committee then invited Scottish secretary Alister Jack to give evidence, but he declined and suggested the committee “revisit the possibility of inviting a Defra minister to attend”.
Committee convener Finlay Carson has described these responses as “unnecessary and unhelpful”.
He said: “Understanding the impact on Scottish policy and budget of wider UK changes to replace the CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] is key to our effective scrutiny of the Scottish Government’s proposed agriculture bill.
“Our committee members will be less than impressed that Defra said speak to the Scotland Office about giving evidence at Holyrood, only for the Scotland Office to say ‘no speak to Defra’.
“This sort of disjointed response from Whitehall is unnecessary and unhelpful.
“Our committee will consider its next steps shortly.”
The committee is currently holding on inquiry on the future of agricultural policy, with the Scottish Government expected to table its Agriculture Bill later this year.
It is largely focused on the new support framework for farmers and crofters.