Ruth Davidson vows to protect needs of Scottish farmers post-Brexit

Ruth Davidson has told farmers she is 'pressing the case' on the need to respect Scotland's distinct needs after Brexit.

Ruth Davidson was speaking at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh
Ruth Davidson was speaking at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh

The Tory leader outlined her vision for the agricultural sector north of the border as she addressed the National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh.

She called for Scotland to retain its share of funding when the UK leaves the common agricultural policy, and for both the Scottish and UK governments to focus on policies that help farmers, including access to the EU labour market.

Ms Davidson’s comments follow a pledge from UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove that Scotland will receive “special treatment” to ensure farmers get the support they need after Brexit, with funding guaranteed until 2022.

Meanwhile the Scottish Government has launched its own consultation on agricultural subsidies.

Its proposals include a five-year transition period with the first two years largely continuing with EU rules.

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Ms Davidson said: “Along with Michael Gove, I have been pressing the case forcibly with UK Government ministers and officials in recent months on the need to respect Scotland’s distinct needs.

“The vast majority of land in Scotland has less favoured area status. In England it is only 15%.

“My case therefore has been that Scotland must retain our share of the funding pot, and that the unique circumstances of farming in Scotland must be recognised.”

A long-term funding system should be developed, Ms Davidson added, with the UK and Scottish Governments also focusing on policies that “just make it easier for agricultural businesses to get on”.

“Policies like an immigration system that delivers a seasonal workers scheme so we can still access labour from the EU and beyond,” she said.

“By reducing bureaucracy - for example, with fewer but better targeted inspections.

“By protecting the environment not via yet more time-consuming regulations, but by incentivising rural businesses through the support system.

“By simplifying administration so that, finally, IT is seen as a solution, not a headache for the farming community.”

Ms Davidson also stressed the importance of establishing common frameworks across the UK - an issue which formed part of the dispute between the UK and Scottish governments over the EU Withdrawal Bill.

The Tory leader said: “Scottish and UK Ministers all agree we will need UK wide frameworks to police our own internal market once we leave the EU - so, for example, we don’t end up with different and unnecessary rules and regulation.

“I don’t know any food and drink business in Scotland that wants to have to adhere to different rules on food labelling for example, north and south of the border.

“So while the political row carries on, I very much hope that the Scottish Government can see its way to getting those frameworks up and running.”