Two years too late

The NFU Scotland’s director of Policy Jonnie Hall, has slammed the Scottish government for continuing to drag their heels on publishing details on future farm support measures. Director of Policy Jonnie Hall described the announcement of the Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill as ‘two years too late’ and explained the Union had a blueprint for payments called Steps to Change which was launched at the Highland Show in 2021.

Whilst the Scottish government’s Bill has been widely seen as a step in the right direction, it has been heavily criticised for not providing greater clarity on farm subsidies from 2026 onwards. The Bill will now begin its progression through the Scottish Parliament, with an expectation that it will be adopted by Summer 2024.

Frustratingly, farming will have to wait until the secondary legislation which will follow the Bill, before any detailed scheme rules and payment rates will be thrashed out.

Jonnie Hall, Director of Policy, NFU Scotland said; “We welcome the publication of the Scottish Government’s Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill and what it will enable. While absolutely necessary, frustratingly this primary enabling legislation is also pretty bland - it lacks the obvious detail which farmers and crofters need now if they are to plan for and implement change. NFU Scotland members need the Scottish Government to use 2024 and 2025 as an effective, smooth transition for all agricultural businesses to hit the ground running from 2026.

“At first glance alone, it’s clear there are elements included in the Bill that we have advocated for from the outset. But there are also other sections that need real interrogation. We must, for example, have assurance of a multi-annual support framework. The legislation has to work for and with farmers and crofters if its goals are to stand any chance of success.

“Throughout Stages 1 to 3 of the Scottish Parliament’s legislative process, we will scrutinise the published Bill, draft appropriate amendments, liaise with the Scottish Government and the relevant Parliamentary Committee, and engage with MSPs and other stakeholders to ensure any necessary amendments are made or indeed other amendments rejected.

“Our priority right now is ensuring that the powers the Bill creates are capable of delivering a new agriculture support framework which puts agricultural activity and food production at the heart of Scottish Government policy.

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands Mairi Gougeon commented:

“Our vision is for Scotland to become a global leader in sustainable and regenerative agriculture. Introducing this new Bill to parliament is a significant milestone in reforming the support systems that will empower Scotland’s farmers and crofters to cut climate emissions and restore nature, helping us achieve that vision.

“I understand that the sector needs flexibility now and in the future to respond to the pressures and challenges that we will face. As we move forward our Bill will allow for adaptive support for farmers, crofters, and land managers in the near, medium, and long-term future. We will take the time necessary to develop the details of our policy with the people directly affected by it.

“As we continue to co-develop the measures for our four-tier support framework, we remain committed to supporting active farming and food production with direct payments now and have a phased approach for integrating new conditionality. Financial support is available right now to help farmers prepare for the changes that are coming - and today we are also launching a call to the sector to participate in interviews, surveys, and online and in-person workshops, over the coming months that will help shape future support and how it is delivered.

“Our Agricultural Reform Route Map provides a clear set of programme dates to explain when current schemes will transition or end and when more guidance, support, and information will be available. This will be updated and we will communicate with the agriculture sector to ensure everyone is fully prepared and supported for change.”

Farmers and crofters who want to get involved in the development of the future farm support rules can't take part in a new test scheme. Volunteers will be reimbursed with the amount varying by activity dependent on the time involved more information can be found here: