SCOTTISH ministers have told Michael Gove that they will not consent to his so-called green Brexit Agriculture Bill over fears of a farm payment power grab.

The leading Brexiteer and Environment Secretary launched the UK Government’s proposed new legislation yesterday, with a promise to change the system under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), where subsidies are almost entirely dependent on the size of the farm.

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It’s part of his so-called ‘green Brexit’, where money will be given to farmers who do more for the “public good” and work more on “environmental land management”. That could involve work to improve air and water quality, boosting wildlife and habitats and tackling climate change.

But farmers are worried that it means a shift away from supporting food production, while Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said the legislation would ride roughshod over the devolved settlement and didn’t deliver on promises made to farmers.

Gove said the plans would help the UK “move towards a brighter future for farming”.

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“After nearly 50 years of being tied to burdensome and outdated EU rules, we have an opportunity to deliver a green Brexit,” he said.

“This bill will allow us to reward farmers who protect our environment, leaving the countryside in a cleaner, greener and healthier state for future generations.

“Critically, we will also provide the smooth and gradual transition that farmers and land managers need to plan ahead.”

The current system of subsidies, known as direct payments, will be phased out over seven years from 2021. The National Farmers Union (NFU) Scotland said there needed to be more detail about how the funds will be managed and how much Holyrood would be involved.

President Andrew McCormick said they would analyse the bill with a fine toothcomb: “In past discussions on overarching UK frameworks and the bill, we have been crystal clear that the interests of Scottish agriculture will be best served by Scotland setting its own future policy so that it respects and underpins the unique agricultural profile of Scotland and recognises how Scotland differs from the rest of the UK.

“We fully accept the need for commonly agreed frameworks to preserve the integrity of the UK internal market, recognising that the most important outlet for Scottish produce is within these shores.

“Preserving or enhancing future funding levels for Scottish agriculture remains a red line issue for NFU Scotland as we are clearly stepping away from previous funding arrangements determined by the CAP. We also want to be reassured that previous commitments on how Scotland’s share of the agricultural pot of funding will be determined will be delivered on.”

The Scottish Government are understood to be worried that the powers in Gove’s bill could see Scottish Parliament unable to continue to provide support for beef and sheep farmers, and could mean an end to the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme which provides support to farming businesses in remote areas.

Ewing called it a “missed opportunity”.

The National:

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing​

“The UK Government’s Agriculture Bill completely fails to meet the key tests of delivering on promises made to Scotland, respecting the devolved settlements, and righting long standing issues.

“It represents a missed opportunity for the UK Government to deliver on promises made during the referendum and since – namely that Scottish farmers would continue to receive at least the same level of funding as they currently do in the event of Brexit.”

“This Bill rides roughshod over the devolved settlement. For example, on compliance with WTO rules, the Bill could create sweeping unilateral powers that could constrain policy choices in Scotland. It is therefore of serious concern that the UK Government could impose unwanted policies and rules on Scottish farmers in areas of devolved competency.

“Unless and until the attempts to grab key powers that impact on farming and food production are addressed and revised, we are clear that we cannot and will not bring forward legislative consent motions for primary Brexit legislation, such as this, until the Sewel Convention is made operable again.”