The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) plays a critical role in Scottish agriculture and Scottish Land & Estates is fully involved in current debates—both in Scotland and at the European level—about its future evolution.
Scottish Land & Estates argues that while the CAP is vitally important to Scottish agriculture, it also needs to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances. Scottish Land & Estates wants to make the widest and most powerful case to explain why the EU should devote large amounts of public money to the CAP and argues that the CAP needs to focus on Food and Environmental Security.
The CAP should ensure the maintenance of Europe’s food production capacity. It should help to manage volatility and it should deal with imbalanced competitive structures in the food chain. But it should also support the delivery of environmental and social public goods. In short, we believe that we need the CAP to support sustainable food production and environmental management.
Now that the Draft regulations have been published we have a better idea of the shape of the next reform and it is clear that there are some positives for Scottish agriculture in these proposals and some negatives.
Despite the calls for greater simplicity, the Commission has brought forward a set of proposals that will result in a more complex system of direct payments. Yet this complexity may well work in Scotland’s favour because having a range of tools available – such as a basic payment scheme, coupled support, a small farmers’ scheme and payments for areas of natural handicap – potentially allows us to tailor support to the diversity of Scottish agriculture.
Moving from the historic approach to Single Farm Payment towards an area-based scheme presents Scottish agriculture with a major problem, but under the draft proposals we potentially have a range of tools that we can utilise to take some of the sting out of that process. It will be vital to ensure, however, that the tools are designed properly and implemented sensibly.
One of the crucially important issues for Scottish agriculture relates to the size of the rural development budget and, at present, it is far from clear that the abysmally low Scottish share of Pillar 2 funds will be rectified. Scottish Land & Estates wants to see the Scottish Government fighting for an enhanced Pillar 2 budget and for some form of transitional arrangement that would avoid a hiatus in support should the current reform be delayed.
Scottish Land & Estates’ Primary Industries policy group will be considering the draft regulations and developing a detailed policy position before working in the Scottish, UK and European policy arenas to influence the proposals as they progress.