A leading Tory MSP has hit out at NFU Scotland for failing to challenge the Scottish Government over the agriculture bill and warned that industry should be concerned over the legislation.

Finlay Carson, who convenes the rural affairs committee at Holyrood expressed disappointment over the bill which he said had been a chance to move away from common agriculture policies type of support and deliver a solution that is bespoke to Scotland.

He said: “A bespoke solution is what people have been asking for and all we’ve ended up with is CAP II. I am concerned the bill gives the government unlimited powers to do whatever it likes with how much or little of the budget it sees fit on policies that are not yet clear and have yet to be set out.

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“A framework bill is the right way to put policies in place, but if it had been accompanied and passed at the same time as the rural support plan, we’d be having a very different conversation.”

Mr Carson expressed frustration that no information around agricultural support has been published and criticised NFUS for ‘not lobbying the Scottish Government hard enough’.

He said: “NFUS were too close the government and were too accepting of the agriculture bill from day one and they didn’t challenge the Scottish Government.

Finlay Carson MSP, SF Editor John Sleigh and Rachael Hamilton MSPFinlay Carson MSP, SF Editor John Sleigh and Rachael Hamilton MSP

“They didn’t push it as far as it could go and didn’t push for any safeguards and now it opens us up to potential governments of the future who are not as aware of issues in rural Scotland.

“We could have a Labour government in Scotland in eighteen months’ time with the power to significantly change what the bill set out to do because the terms are so wide - it’s not focused enough.”

Mr Carson added that secondary legislation around agriculture should come forward ‘as a suite of instruments rather than just bits and bobs’ to allow scrutiny and determine what the consequences are and if it’s fit for purpose’.

The Borders MSP also warned industry should be concerned about agricultural policy and should not sit back now the bill has gone through stage three at Holyrood.

He said: “This should not be seen as job done – industry should not sit back and relax thinking everything will fall into place. It’s only now the work can start on the legislation that will affect grassroots farming practices.

“Industry has to aware of what the government’s intentions are and make sure the co-design works and not just a tick-box exercise, because when you look at what has happened with the carbon indexes, it’s been a nightmare.

“This was supposed to have been co-designed and it’s riddled with issues and rather than rethinking this, the Scottish Government have simply put in another load of policies to mitigate bad legislation.”

Responding to the criticism, NFUS President Martin Kennedy said: “An intense period of lobbying across all political parties in Scotland saw NFU Scotland secure the passing of an Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill that has food production front and centre. Not only is the Bill crucial to farmers, crofters, the wider supply chain, and rural communities, but having food production recognised in primary legislation is a significant lobbying achievement for NFU Scotland.

“This Bill has been three years in the making and we’ve worked tirelessly throughout for farmers and crofters across Scotland to ensure the platform for future support has the flexibility and scope to deliver what’s needed.

“The Highland Show saw NFU Scotland meet with many politicians to thank them for their engagement on the Bill but, most importantly, to continue to highlight what we want to see in the secondary legislation. A huge amount of work is already underway in relation to the policies and support that will put meat on the bones of the bill. All through that process, we are, have been, and continue to be part of that.

“We are getting on with the job in hand and will always work tirelessly and effectively with all politicians at a national and local level on behalf of our members to ensure they have a profitable and sustainable future.”

The Agriculture and Rural Communities Bill was passed in the Scottish Parliament earlier this month.