SNP renews calls for repatriation of powers ahead of Michael Gove announcement that farming subsidies must be earned after Brexit
Farming - Image credit: Press Association
The SNP is renewing calls for powers over agriculture, fisheries and the rural economy to be repatriated to Scotland, as a result of an expected UK Government announcement of changes to agricultural subsidies after Brexit later today.
Farmers will only get taxpayer subsidies after Brexit if they do more to protect the environment, UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove will say.
In a major speech pledging a "green Brexit", the Environment Secretary will pledge to scrap the current EU policy which sees farmers claim funds based on the amount of land they own.
Gove will say that puts resources in the hands of the wealthy rather than those who work hard to protect the rural way of life.
“Leaving the EU gives us a once in a lifetime opportunity to reform how we care for our land, our rivers and our seas, how we recast our ambition for our country’s environment, and the planet.
“In short, it means delivering a Green Brexit," he will say in today’s speech.
“The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) rewards size of land-holding ahead of good environmental practice, puts resources in the hands of the already wealthy, and encourages patterns of land use which are wasteful of natural resources.”
The UK Government has promised to keep overall payments at the same level until 2022.
Gove will add that protecting the “human ecology” of Britain’s countryside is vital, where farming without subsidy is not possible.
“There are very good reasons why we should provide support for agriculture.
Seventy per cent of our land is farmed – beautiful landscape has not happened by accident but has been actively managed.
“Agriculture is an industry more susceptible to outside shocks and unpredictable events – whether it’s the weather or disease.
“So financial assistance and mechanisms which can smooth out the vicissitudes farmers face make sense."
Responding to the expected announcement, the SNP is calling for powers over agriculture, as well as fisheries and the rural economy, to be repatriated to Scotland after Brexit, citing fears that farming and fishing will be left without continued financial support from the UK Government beyond 2022.
SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson, who is a member of Holyrood’s Rural Economy committee, said: “This is an unambiguous Tory threat to continued agricultural support funding after 2022 – that is the stark post-Brexit reality which the UK Government is now proposing for our rural communities.
“Scottish farmers, like others across the UK, rely heavily on farming subsidies and their farm payments must be protected.
“Michael Gove’s empty rhetoric and false promises during the Brexit campaign have long since been exposed, and now he is backtracking on all the assurances he has ever made to Scotland.
“Powers over agriculture and fisheries must be repatriated to Scotland to enable a localised approach to these sectors and to put them and the wider natural environment at the heart of what we do.
“And it is vital that UK funding follows the powers to enable delivery.
“The Tory government has demonstrated that they cannot be trusted to champion Scottish farmers’ interests, and we cannot let them use Brexit as cover for a naked power grab that will leave Scotland’s farmers worse off.”
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing said: "As is becoming clearer by the day, Brexit is by far the biggest threat to rural Scotland and that is why we have always been clear that remaining within the EU – and the world’s largest single market – is the best option for our future.
"We have repeatedly made clear that Brexit should not be used as cover for a ‘power grab’, and that powers in areas such as agriculture, fisheries and environmental protection should return to Scotland – not Westminster.
"No one is suggesting we cut ourselves off from collaboration, but this must be done on the basis of respect for the devolved administrations.
"We are prepared to agree any UK-wide approach that is necessary on withdrawal from the EU, but this must be negotiated between the governments, not imposed by the UK Government.
"It is very concerning that the UK [Government] is threatening future agricultural support post-2022, without any consultation with the devolved administrations.
"Scottish farming is more reliant on CAP funds than the rest of the UK due to issues of remoteness and land abandonment, and any attempt to cut support will be strongly opposed by the Scottish Government.
"It is therefore vital that we have a balanced approach to future funding that reflects the importance of environmental as well as social and economic aspects, while promoting the high quality environment that is a foundation of our rural economy.
"The current CAP is not perfect, but the EU is already looking at CAP reform, so we have an opportunity to improve it.
"That is why we have already insisted that the UK must not disengage from the CAP reform process – as they have done."
The Scottish Government has repeatedly come under fire over CAP payments, with IT system problems meaning nearly five per cent of payments due to farmers were outstanding by the 30 June deadline.
This follows similar delays last year, where the Scottish Government received an extension the EU's payment deadline from the European Commission.