A MORE 'farmer-focused' approach will be taken to the delivery of support for farming and food production in Scotland as it exits the EU's Common Agricultural Policy during the transition period between 2021 and 2024.

Financial support will be maintained at the same basic level for farmers and crofters throughout this period, but the Scottish Government's simplification taskforce has now announced its recommendations on how best to regulate the delivery of this funding.

With 'simplicity, flexibility and consistency' as the new policy's watchwords, a number of improvements have been suggested including changes to online land mapping systems and appeals processing, in order to take a 'more proportional' approach to financial penalties when errors are found. The taskforce also suggested that capital grant rules should be standardised.

Rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing welcomed the taskforce's report: “This report sets out how we might move beyond the current regulatory approach to providing support to farmers and crofters.

“I am pleased that the taskforce has recognised the need to provide industry with more flexibility, simplicity and support in areas that farmers and crofters have repeatedly highlighted as needing improvement," he continued. "These recommendations have the potential to create a more farmer-focused approach, through a more proportionate approach to penalties and creating a better customer experience when applying for support.

“That is why we have already committed to improving land mapping with a new land parcel identification system and we have also taken steps to improve the appeals process,” he explained.

One member of the taskforce is NFU Scotland’s director of policy Jonnie Hall, who commented: “The headline recommendations identified in the report around mapping, single application forms, penalties, inspections, grant rates, appeals and communications chime completely with changes that NFU Scotland has been calling for over a number of years.

“The taskforce has looked at improvements to the current system of administering CAP payments, as well as regulatory requirements, whilst recognising the constraints to change rules that are based on the current EU regulatory landscape," he explained. “Whilst the taskforce has focussed on the period up to December 2020, a Bill introduced to the Scottish Parliament in November 2019 will provide Scottish Ministers with powers to amend or replace the retained EU law in Scotland relating to the CAP after the UK leaves the EU – almost certainly from January 2021."

The primary purpose of that 'Agriculture (Retained EU Law and Data) (Scotland) Bill' was the modification, simplification and improvement of the retained CAP during the transition period, before the enactment of longer-term legislation," explained Mr Hall.

"The Scottish Government must make full use of the forthcoming opportunity through this Bill to go further in simplifying and improving the operation of an array of schemes for the benefit of participants and administrators alike," he concluded.