RESPONDING to the Westminster consultation on the future of farm and rural policy after Brexit, the National Farmers Union Scotland has said that it is vital that Scottish agriculture's unique needs are recognised during the development of a new UK framework.

While the Defra consultation document sets out future proposals for England, NFU Scotland has been developing its own thinking on a future agricultural policy for Scotland, which it continues to discuss in detail with both the Scottish Government and Westminster.

While the union shares the view that Brexit provides an opportunity to "move out of the shadow of the CAP", it has been at pains to emphasise Scottish farmers' distinctly different needs.

While most of the consultation is England-only; there are elements of the consultation which are of particular interest north of the Border – the future frameworks needed to facilitate intra-UK trade and future funding levels for Scottish farming.

NFUS director of policy, Jonnie Hall, said: “The current devolution settlement of policy and regulation to the constituent parts of the United Kingdom should be respected and maintained. That said, the UK’s various Governments, Parliaments and regulators should jointly take every step to retain and protect a single market access for food, agricultural commodities, live animals and plant and plant products throughout the UK.

“The task of establishing commonly agreed UK frameworks is hugely important to preserve the integrity of the internal UK market. These frameworks must be arrived at by mutual agreement between the UK Government and the devolved administrations, including the Scottish Government."

The policy frameworks to be covered, in whole or in part for 24 key areas, include pesticides, organic farming, fertilisers, animal health and traceability, food and feed safety, and food labelling – and with the Brexit clock ticking down, NFUS is keen to see progress made in these areas.

“And a clear statement on finance and future funding levels for agriculture and rural development in Scotland must be made," stressed Mr Hall. "Year on year, agricultural support consistently accounts for around two-thirds of the Total Income From Farming in Scotland. And for many farms and crofts in more disadvantaged areas, the reliance on support is significantly greater."

Earlier this year, NFUS welcomed the UK Government’s commitment to provide the same cash total in funds for farm support as is currently paid out under the CAP, until 2022 or the lifetime of the parliament. It noted, however, that questions remain on how this money will be delivered to Scotland after ‘EU exit day’ in 2019.

"In the longer term, with the development of new domestic agricultural policy, at least the same level of public investment in Scottish agriculture must be retained," said Mr Hall. "This budget must be ring-fenced to agriculture and rural support.

“Moving out of the shadow of the CAP, NFU Scotland’s proposals set out a bold approach to policy which, through a managed transition, will ensure that valuable support helps to make Scottish agriculture more productive, innovative and, above all, profitable, whilst delivering the wide range of public benefits that are increasingly expected of Scotland’s farmers and crofters.”

For in-depth news and views on Scottish agriculture, see this Friday’s issue of The Scottish Farmer or visit www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk