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The Agriculture (Retained EU Law and Data) (Scotland) Bill – Why do we have it and what does it do?

21 November 2019

When we leave the European Union we will be in a position to amend the raft of areas of EU law that currently apply to Scottish agriculture, but this doesn’t just happen automatically.  Due to the significant volume of EU law currently applicable in the UK it was decided that we would bring all of this, including the Common Agricultural Policy, across into UK law on day 1.  In order to make changes the Scottish Minsters will need to change this retained law and for this reason, earlier this month the Agriculture (Retained EU Law and Data) (Scotland) Bill was introduced.  It effectively transfers a number of powers to Scottish Ministers to make changes in those of areas of agricultural law currently dealt with the EU.

Rather than tearing up the existing CAP system and starting from scratch, it has long been agreed that Scotland would retain the basic framework but use new powers to better adapt CAP for Scottish conditions.  This Bill gives Ministers these powers.

There are a number of areas where the Bill provides for Scotland to diverge from the current position, for instance post-Brexit Ministers will be able to make changes to the legislation on public intervention and private storage aid, make changes to the classifications for pig, beef and sheep carcasses, and amend the definition of ‘agricultural activity’.

It is unlikely that we will see radical changes being made however.  Ministers need to maintain a balance between developing a Scottish system tailored to our needs, and keeping our system sufficiently aligned with the EU to maximise the ease with which we can continue to trade with this important market.  We also need to be mindful that the world has evolved into a different place since we joined the EU over 40 years ago.  Many EU rules we have are heavily shaped by the need to comply with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, intended to level the trade playing field by limiting the ability of individual countries to impose trade distorting policies.  This means that whilst we will certainly have greater flexibility of regulation post-Brexit, radical change or a regression to a heavily production-based support system is unlikely.

The support system in Scotland is likely, as it will across the rest of the continent (indeed the world), to become increasingly focussed on the wider services provided by farmers and land, such as their role in the global challenge to reach ‘net zero emissions’.  This is likely to see further evolution away from a support system based on subsidisation of production and towards a more diverse range of actions and activities.  Scottish farmers are well placed to capitalise on this and support is currently available through the ILMP for an assessment of your farm and business.  This could include a review of how your business is already helping to deliver key environmental policies and advice about how this activity could be further developed – further information can be found here.

For more information about The Agriculture (Retained EU Law and Data) (Scotland) Bill take a look here.

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