SCOTGOV has confirmed its plans for the continuation and simplification of country's Common Agricultural Policy support schemes.

Under new regulations which will come into force on January 1, 2021, the greening scheme's three-crop rule gets the official heave, the overall inspection regime will be reined in, and the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme gets retained and restored to its 2018 levels, more or less granting the key lobbying asks of the National Farmers Union Scotland.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “We have worked closely with stakeholders and listened to the farming and crofting communities to simplify the schemes we administer to make sure they are as efficient and simple as possible. The Agriculture (Retained EU Law and Data) (Scotland) Bill gives us powers to continue CAP payments after Brexit, and make improvements that are tailored to suit Scotland’s unique agricultural and rural needs.

“The changes for inspections focus on improving compliance through support, enhanced guidance, better targeting, and reducing the volume of routine inspections. This will help alleviate any concerns businesses may have," said Mr Ewing.

“In these very uncertain times, we want to provide a sense of certainty to those farming and crofting in our most remote and fragile communities of rural Scotland and we are doing this by increasing the payment rates back to the levels seen in 2018. This will allow LFASS payments to compensate farmers for income foregone and for additional costs linked to natural constraints in order to encourage the use of agricultural land, thus contributing to the maintenance of the countryside as well as to the maintenance and promotion of sustainable farming systems.

“We continue to push for assurances that the UK Government will fully replace all lost EU funding so that we can provide assurance to the rural economies of Scotland,” added Mr Ewing.

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick responded: “This announcement from Scottish Government includes a lot of positive steps to provide certainty, stability and simplification in what will likely be a turbulent period after December 31.

“Since March, NFUS has published two policy documents: ‘Stability – The Platform for Change’ and ‘Less Favoured Areas – Delivering for Scotland’. The asks and priorities of both of these documents are clear to see in the announcement from the Scottish Government.

“NFUS has pushed for the removal of the three crop rule, a review of Ecological Focus Areas as well as a simplification of inspections processes, and we are glad to see all of these in this announcement," said Mr McCornick.

“It’s positive to see the Scottish Government recognise the importance of retaining LFASS to farmers and crofters in rural Scotland with the payment being retained at the 2018 rates from next year onward. This was a top priority of our LFA Committee in its recent policy document and we are glad to see Scottish Government has listened.”

Landowners' body Scottish Land and Estates also welcomed the planned changes to Scotland's farm support schemes, but stressed that they should be no more than a step on the way to a total redesign of the LFASS scheme in particular.

Policy adviser Eleanor Kay said: “We still need to examine the detail of regulations laid before parliament but at first glance, we are broadly supportive of the measures outlined by government

“The introduction of the BPS continuity regulation was expected and the changes to the greening scheme will be pleasing to most within the sector. In the near future, however, we would like to see the government look at the gap left by pausing the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme – a missing piece of the jigsaw which is limiting our ability to deliver for the environment.

“The amendments to LFASS are correct in the short-term, reversing the changes that were forced upon the sector as a result of not moving to the EU Areas of Natural Constraints system. However, we must quickly use the opportunity this 'fixing' of LFASS delivers to reassess what it is we want funding in our uplands to deliver for the farmers, society and the environment," said Ms Kay. "We must ensure that a suitable replacement policy is implemented which takes account of the unique situation of our uplands which have an important role in delivering multiple benefits.”