UNCERTAINTY caused by Brexit over Scotland’s farming subsidies and fishing quotas took a worrying turn for the worse yesterday.

It was known that Scotland’s farmers and fishers face an uncertain future after Brexit, but reports released in Edinburgh and Brussels yesterday will only add to the anxiety of communities and businesses across Scotland.

On agriculture, one of Scotland’s most respected constitutional experts, Professor Michael Keating, politics professor at both Aberdeen and Edinburgh universities and the director of the Centre on Constitutional Change, yesterday published a new study on how agriculture in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will be affected by Brexit.

His concerns are on how competencies in agriculture will be repatriated — agriculture is a devolved matter — and his conclusions are deeply worrying for Scotland’s farmers who depend on Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies to a much greater extent than English farmers.

Also yesterday, reports emerged in Brussels that the European Union is to refuse to negotiate on fishing quotas during the likely two-year transition period before any trading deals — if they can be negotiated prior to Brexit in March, 2019 — come fully into force.

On agriculture, Keating, investigated the challenges presented by UK policymaking being heavily influenced by the needs of agriculture in England, which are quite different from those in the devolved territories. In the light of this, Keating suggests, the question of subsidies after 2022 needs to be clarified by ministers.

Keating said: “Currently, agriculture is financed through the Common Agricultural Policy but the UK Government has guaranteed continuing support only up to the end of the current Parliament in 2022.

“After that, direct payments to farmers in England will be phased out.

“Policy for England, however, may not suit conditions in the devolved nations. Around half of farm incomes in England come from the CAP but in Scotland it is three quarters, in Wales it is 80 per cent and in Northern Ireland 87 per cent.

“In part this is caused by 85 per cent of farm land in Scotland being in ‘areas of natural constraint’ such as hill farms, in Wales this is 81 per cent and 70 per cent in Northern Ireland, compared with only 17 per cent of farm land in England.”

Michael Gove, the minister responsible for agriculture in England, has suggested capping payments for the wealthiest farmers after leaving the CAP. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland already do this within the CAP.

Keating said: “This flexibility has allowed the devolved governments to tailor agricultural policy to local needs, balancing economic with social, environmental and cultural conditions. We still do not know how much flexibility they will have after Brexit.

“The EU Withdrawal Bill currently before Parliament will take back devolved agricultural competences to Westminster, allowing some of them to be ‘released’ according to the needs of the Brexit settlement. Already there are discussions about what powers will be retained and what devolved. The danger is that a piecemeal approach will make it more difficult for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to forge coherent agricultural and rural development policies tailored to their own conditions.”

Meanwhile, plans to take back control of fishing quotas during any post-Brexit transition period, look likely to be dead in the water.

According to reports, Brussels is of the view that the UK will have to remain governed by the EU’s common fisheries policy (CFP).

UK Environment Secretary and Brexiteer Michael Gove has previously said this would not be the case.

Gerard van Balsfoort, the chair of the European Fisheries Alliance, the group lobbying on behalf of EU fishermen in Brexit negotiations, said he was confident the UK would not be successful in persuading the 27 member states to change their position over the coming months.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishing Federation, said it would be “absolutely unacceptable” for the UK to be kept in the CFP framework over a two-year transition period.

“The world will change on March 29. We will be out of CFP, the UK becomes a coastal state and will have complete sovereignty over who has access to our waters,” he said.

“Assumption of control does not mean complete rejection of negotiation, and a nine-month bridge covering the remainder of 2018 would be in order.”

Nothing changing for two years would be unacceptable, he added.