Scots farmers face another delay in policy development

Scottish farmers and crofters are facing a further delay to the introduction of a new support scheme, with Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon proposing a ‘hybrid system’ in 2025.

Ewan Pate
clock • 2 min read
Scots farmers face another delay in policy development

Scottish farmers and crofters are facing a further delay to the introduction of a new support scheme, with Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon proposing a hybrid system in 2025.

In a ministerial statement made in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 8), Ms Gougeon explained the four-tier scheme currently under discussion would potentially not be introduced until 2026.

Until then, the present system will be blended with enhanced conditionality of the Basic Payment Scheme, which will make up 50 per cent of support.

The 2020 Agricultural Act, which set the rules for a transition period, will have to be amended to allow for this extended period of changeover.

Crucially, Ms Gougeon did however confirm that the existing three-region model for payments would continue to be used at least over the next few years.

Explaining why she would not be introducing any new system which might emerge from the long-running Agricultural Reform Implementation Oversight Board (ARIOB), Ms Gougeon said: The climate and nature crisis we face means we cannot simply wait for implementation of these new powers.

Responding to the statement, Scottish Conservative MP Edward Mountain said: There is very little detail here. We need to see the full package. Will everyone qualify for payments?

The Cabinet Secretary replied that the 2025 scheme year would see all existing schemes rolled over and the enhanced conditionality measures would match suggestions made by the farmer-led groups which met in 2020 and early 2021.

The 2026 payment year would see more conditionality attached to payments and the possible introduction of the four-tier payment scheme currently being discussed in the consultation for the new Agriculture Bill.

The merging of the new and old schemes will continue after 2026, with the introduction of new elective and complementary schemes becoming more important.

NFU Scotland director of policy Jonnie Hall said: Scottish agriculture is facing some extreme challenges and the whole industry is seeking certainty and confidence.

In our opinion, the proposals offer little to suggest agricultural activity and production will be championed in a way that will continue to underpin the rural economy, rural communities and the food and drink sector as well as having a critical role in tackling climate and biodiversity issues.

What is missing is what farmers and crofters will be expected to do in the future if they are to unlock all the support likely to be available.

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