UK NEGOTIATORS must not make international trade commitments without first properly consulting the devolved nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, landowners representatives have warned.

Scottish Land and Estates has cautioned that obligations made to the World Trade Organisation could negatively impact future farming policy, and said it was vital there be 'agreed processes' for devolved administrations to make their views known to the UK Government, which will ultimately be responsible for ensuring that levels of public support do not distort trade.

SLE policy adviser Eleanor Kay said: “It is not just the outcomes of this legislative process that will shape agriculture in the future but also the decision-making processes that are established via the UK Agriculture Bill. Although many aspects of farming and land management are devolved, it is absolutely vital that this Bill considers the views and needs of Scottish agriculture.

“This is particularly important in relation to trade. Clauses within the Bill give the UK Government the power to ensure compliance with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules on public support and their ability to distort trade. This would include ceilings to apply on payments across the UK," said Ms Kay.

“Clarity is therefore needed on the potential for financial constraints for Scottish agricultural policy and any issues surrounding devolved competence. Whilst the UK Government is ultimately the signatory to WTO clauses, policy choices in Scotland could be constrained by decisions taken by a UK Secretary of State.

“The issue surrounding WTO Agreement on Agriculture is clearly one which needs resolving and we would like to see like to see greater transparency on the consultation process between the Secretary of State and devolved authorities to ensure that decisions are not forced upon them without due consideration of their impact. This should happen before the Bill becomes law and the creation of a potential problem at a later date.”