Pack report delayed – but plans for interim action are imminent

THE report of the Pack Inquiry into future support for farming has been delayed until later in the year, Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead, announced yesterday.

However, inquiry chairman Brian Pack will make a number of short-term recommendations at the Royal Highland Show on 24 June, Lochhead said at Scotland's national sheep event, NSA Scotsheep 2010, at Blairdrummond near Stirling.

"I am happy to give Pack more time to finalise his findings and make the report as thorough as possible," said Lochhead. "I am committed to doing everything I can to ensure Scotland's farmers have a sustainable future and the Pack report will be fundamental."

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The delay was requested by Pack to enable him to take into account the European Commissions' deliberations on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy and ongoing research work commissioned by the inquiry team.

"The work of the inquiry is progressing well but publishing a final report in June – as originally envisaged – would not take into account all external factors," said Pack. "I am pleased that the extension has been granted."

The remit of the inquiry is to make recommendations to the Scottish Government on the form financial support to agriculture and rural development should take after the present support regime ends in 2002.

"The inquiry puts Scotland ahead of the game in preparing for a move away from historic based support," said Lochhead. "But we must not race too far ahead of the rest of Europe. There is interest from the EU in the inquiry and we want to influence the debate in Europe. The report will aid our position in negotiations to come."

Lochhead was last night poised to demand more Scottish influence in EU negotiations in a conference call with new UK environment minister, Caroline Spelman.

The previous government sidelined Scotland by refusing Scottish ministers a place in EU negotiations even when Scotland had the dominant interest.

"The mood music is more favourable and we have got off to a good start with the coalition Government," said Lochhead. "I hope Scotland will be given an enhanced role in meetings of the Council of Farm Ministers in areas where Scottish interests predominate, such as hill farming."