Skip to content

Agriculture and Rural Communities Bill passes in the Scottish Parliament

On Tuesday 18 June the Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill was passed by MSPs in Holyrood, with 115 votes for, 0 against, 0 abstentions and 14 did not vote.

With the old scheme being part of the European Union “subsidies” legislation, and once Brexit was initiated, it was conceived by our government that a new scheme would be required in order to provide financial support for rural development for farming.

Whereas before it was the EU who dangled the carrot (so to speak), the Scottish Government will now decide how to provide support and make payments. This Bill gives Scottish Ministers the powers to develop a new support framework to be able to deliver the additional funding and foundations in order to encourage growth in the sector.

Statements made by Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands, suggest that Holyrood were unable to provide detail on future budgets due to the lack of future agriculture funding guarantees from the UK Government from 2025. Many MSPs sought to push for an “indicative multi-year financial framework” on the effectiveness of the rural support plan, however, Ms Gougeon would not be persuaded, and the amendment put forward by Beatrice Wishart MSP was not supported. Minister Gougeon said:

“I have set out the difficulties of providing detail on future budgets. I make it clear that we have no guarantees from the United Kingdom Government as of next year. Prior allocations were made on an annual basis, and we no longer have the assurance of the multi-annual programme budgets that we had under the EU CAP. It will be for the incoming UK Government to provide future funding guarantees”

This will mean that farmers and rural communities are still very much in the dark about what funding will be made available for them to help them meet Net Zero targets, and to ensure food security for the country.

We do, though, have other positives to take away from this final Stage 3 debate. Ms Gougeon in response to the Scottish Greens amendment 38 - to decline any payments to businesses engaged in grouse shooting activities - stated that it would have detrimental long-term consequences if support for this sector was not given. The amendment was not supported in the chamber.

Fergus Ewing MSP confirmed his continued support by adding:

“I am a great supporter of the four Fs, which are, of course, farming, fishing, forestry and field sports. They are a staple of the rural economy in Scotland. They must remain so, and in our endeavours, we must provide all support to them for the excellent, invaluable work that they do”.

Deer and game farming were included in the definition of agricultural activities that may be supported, after amendments tabled by Tim Eagle, MSP.

The fact that no MSP’s voted against the legislation clearly shows that there was a void that needed to be filled, and this may be the best way in which to do it. What we would like to see now is proper collaboration with the agricultural sector and industry experts so that this legislation can be delivered effectively so that it achieves the purposes it sets out to achieve. It is vital that the investment in the sector is focussed in the right areas and in the right way so that growth is assured.

You can watch the Stage 3 proceedings in full here.

Become a member

Join the Countryside Alliance

We are the most effective campaigning organisation in the countryside.

  • life Protect our way of life
  • news Access our latest news
  • insurance Benefit from insurance cover
  • magazine Receive our magazine