THE possibility of regulatory differences from the rest of the UK is a “major concern” for Scotland’s farmers, MSPs have been told.

During an evidence session on the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill – which aims to “keep pace” with the EU on devolved regulatory matters – the Finance and Constitution Committee heard of the possible effects of not remaining aligned with the rest of the UK.

Jonathan Hall, director of policy at NFU Scotland, told MSPs there was a risk of “significant effects” on the UK market if standards were different in devolved nations.

Hall said his group favoured closer alignment. He continued: “If we don’t have those common frameworks across the United Kingdom, there’s a distinct possibility that we will start to see the integrity of the UK internal market being affected if we have a significant divergence in regulation across the United Kingdom.

“That is of significant concern to us.”

Hall said it would be complicated to “square the triangle” of the three political entities – the EU and the UK and Scottish governments – involved in the post-Brexit regulatory shift.

He added: “You have the EU, the EU institutions and the EU law that’s being transferred to the UK; then we have the UK Government and its environmental bill and other pieces of legislation suggesting that at some point it wants to depart from that EU legislation; and now we’ve got the Scottish Government’s proposals ... which is saying that it would like to essentially keep pace with the EU regulations.

“At the same time we want to ensure that we respect the devolution settlement and where flexibility and differentiation is appropriate, that’s allowed to continue.

“I think they are the key fundamentals that we’re wrestling with here.”

In July, the UK Government published proposals for an internal UK market, which Hall said would “drive a coach and horses” through the idea of commonly agreed frameworks because something created to a different standard in one part of the UK would have to be accepted in another part where standards were different.

Hall gave an example based on if the weedkiller glyphosate was banned in Scotland but not in England.

He said a grain farmer in Northumberland would have an advantage over one in Berwick who did not and the English produce could still be sold in Scotland.