A multi-annual funding commitment to support Scotland’s farmers and crofters will top the list of key asks when NFU Scotland addresses a Scottish Parliament committee today, Wednesday, December 13, on the Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill.

From 2026, a four-tiered funding framework will be in place with Tiers 1 and 2 providing ‘direct’ support to farmers and crofters. The Union will reiterate its unequivocal demand that at least 80 percent of the agriculture and rural economy budget should be allocated in Tiers 1 and 2 of the proposed new support framework. This is essential to avoid a cliff edge for active farming and crofting businesses.

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Scottish Government is on record as stating that it similarly wants to avoid a ‘cliff edge’ and that the ‘vast majority’ of funding will be allocated to Tiers 1 and 2. An announcement from the Scottish Government on funding is expected at NFU Scotland’s annual conference, AGM, and Dinner in Glasgow on 8 and 9 February 2024.

Since the Brexit vote in 2016, and discussions starting on Scotland’s future agricultural policy and funding arrangements away from Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy, NFU Scotland has produced six ‘Steps to Change’ documents, held three national roadshow tours, and held numerous webinars with almost 300 attending the most recent online event on the Bill.

Ahead of giving evidence to the Rural Affairs and Islands committee, director of policy Jonnie Hall told the Union’s annual Christmas Press Briefing: “It has been a frustratingly slow process but after years of tortuous progress, we are finally at the stage of putting primary legislation in place.

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“Had the Scottish Government adopted the principles embedded in our ‘Steps to Change’ documents, which are reflected in the new four-tiered support framework, then we could have started this journey years ago.

“The fundamental principle that a sustainable and profitable agricultural industry is absolutely key to Scotland’s ambitions remains front and centre and having the powers in place to deliver the right support is crucial. That is why this Bill is so important to farmers and crofters.

“The Bill has flexibility and scope to deliver for agricultural production, rural communities, climate, the environment, and nature restoration. And its five-year Rural Support Plan must be underpinned by a multiannual ringfenced funding commitment.

“But it is not the place for specific statutory targets or prescriptive outcomes. An adaptive and flexible approach to future agricultural policy will be essential for success.

“The Bill is clearly needed to create the necessary powers, but critically what matters most is how those powers are used via secondary legislation. This Bill will not fill the alarming policy void that farmers and crofters currently face, which is compounding the uncertainty already affecting so many. It is the secondary legislation yet to come that will determine whether active farming and crofting can do the heavy lifting on food, climate, and nature which Scottish agriculture is increasingly tasked with.

“That secondary legislation will provide the details farmers and crofters desperately need and the Scottish Government must speed up delivery of that information so that farmers and crofters can start planning ahead.”