War of words over post-Brexit control of farming

The turf war over who controls Scotland's farming strategy and budget after the UK leaves the European Union has moved from the farming pages to the front pages.

Theresa May's visit to Edinburgh was dismissed as a wasted opportunity. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Theresa May's visit to Edinburgh was dismissed as a wasted opportunity. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

The move followed Prime Minister Theresa May’s declaration that her government’s overriding aim on agricultural policy was to make sure that what she termed the “very important single market of the United Kingdom” was not damaged, claiming that this market was far more important to Scotland than the EU.

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She said her ministers were in talks with the devolved administrations over which powers would be returned to them from Brussels – and which would remain with the central UK government.

However, last week’s meeting in Edinburgh to discuss the issues facing the farming and fishing industries were dismissed by three Scottish Government ministers as a wasted opportunity which yielded nothing.

Comments made in a front page interview with Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson which failed to deny that Westminster might seek to introduce a UK-wide farm policy only added fuel to the flames.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the remarks confirmed the UK government was planning not just a “power grab, but a cash grab too”, and called for clarification on whether the Scottish Government would get its “fair share” of the money saved from EU contributions.

And Scotland’s Liberal Democrat farming spokesman, Mike Rumbles, slammed what he viewed as Davidson’s suggestion that Holyrood could be denied the power set and fund farm policy, as agriculture was a wholly devolved issue.

He said: “Agriculture has been an established devolved power for some years and for Ruth Davidson to think that powers over Scottish agriculture should go anywhere other than to Scotland is bizarre.”